Cooking for Kids : The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook

In Australia the recommendation for when babies are to start solids is to start purees at 4 months and solid foods at 6 months. How to do this though can be a minefield, especially for first time parents like us. For some though, when to transition to a full “solid” diet can be the most difficult part. As an example, I was recently involved in a market research group where some of the parents where still feeding their one year olds pureed foods out of “pouches” bought from the supermarket for the majority of meals. For me though, while I started by pushing banana through a sieve and finely processing sweet potato for Adventure Girl, I soon realised that this wasn’t the direction we wanted to take. Simply, and honestly, I was too lazy to do it all myself, didn’t want to use pouches and wondered if there was another way. In my  research for alternatives, I came across the practice of Baby Led Weaning which encourages not feeding your children purees and instead, holding off until your child is 6 months and at that stage introducing solid food. I’m no expert but this has been the best thing for us as a family and this is the direction we’ve taken with Dash as well.

One of the greatest concerns with this form of feeding is choking. The best advice I ever read on this was from Baby Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. It said that the gagging reflex is entirely natural and something a parent doesn’t need to be concerned about. The trick is to know when it’s gagging and when it’s choking. To do this it’s simple: count to three. When your child is eating (yes, you really should be there with them!) if they start to gag/choke count to three, if they’re still doing it after the count of three THEN you intervene (watch this video from St John’s ambulance for more details on what to do if they choke). If they sort it out themselves, good work kid! And good work parent… I reckon it’s more stressful for us sometimes than them – I don’t think I’ll ever stop counting 1..2…3 if I see a child gagging.

9781408807569The premise of baby led weaning is that, from a young age, they and you eat the same things – not adults eating purees but kids getting to eat real food that hasn’t been processed already for them. The book that has helped us the most is The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. The recipes and knowledge within it enabled us to have the confidence to make this step and enjoy it. I’ve loaned it out to a few friends and each of them has gone on to purchase their own copy. It’s a great resource and one of our regularly used cookbooks. I can remember the first time I made the courgette [zucchini] polpettes and how Mr Incredible exclaimed that he couldn’t believe they were in a baby cookbook. The flavour, especially with the lemon zest and garlic, was great. We make them with quinoa rather than breadcrumbs but otherwise leave the recipe as it stands and I include it below as an encouraging “taster” for you to try, especially if you have young kids.

Courgette Polpettes [aka zucchini balls)

River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, by Nikki Duffy

Author notes: These vegetarian ”meatballs” are inspired by a wonderful recipe from Italian food writer Ursula Ferrigno. Her original uses aubergines, but I really like this fresh-tasting zucchini version. You can easily double the quantities but you’ll probably need to cook the zucchini in batches.

Freezer-friendly: freeze the uncooked polpette. Defrost before baking.

For babies: these make nice finger food and will introduce your baby to lots of different flavours.

For grown-ups and older children: try adding a few toasted pine nuts to the mix.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 500g zucchini, finely diced
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 generous tbsp grated parmesan, pecorino or other well-flavoured hard cheese
  • 1/2 ball of buffalo mozzarella (60-70g), diced
  • 50g breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Oil a baking tray or line with a non-stick silicone liner.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the zucchini for about 10 minutes, until tender and golden. Set aside to cool a little, then combine them with all the other ingredients to make a thick, sticky mixture. Season if you like (remember that the cheeses already contain salt).
  3. Take walnut-sized blobs of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden.
  4. Serve hot, warm or cold, on their own or with pita bread and a tomato salad or sauce.
  5. Makes about 12.

 

Finally, a gluten free bread we can make at home

Almond and Chia BreadPrevious to Mr Incredible being diagnosed with a wheat allergy we made all our bread at home. We often still do for the kids and I but I lost a lot of drive to do this after diagnoses. Firstly, he couldn’t eat it and he ate a lot of it. Secondly, for those who love bread, the smell of a good loaf baking that you can’t eat can be classified as torture. Instead, we’ve been purchasing Ancient Grain’s Oat or Breakfast breads, really great alternatives for the wheat free (no additives, wheat free, tastes great and good textures) but expensive… really expensive (between $8-10 a loaf and as I said, Mr Incredible loves his bread).

I’ve been looking everywhere for a good loaf recipe but have been turned off by xantham gum and quinoa/coconut flour loaves that didn’t resemble the cravings of my hubby’s dreams. In fact, when I told Mr Incredible that I’d found a great recipe his first comment was “it’s not with quinoa flour is it?”. Thankfully, it wasn’t and finally, thank God, we’ve discovered this loaf (huzzah for amazing social media pages!). Not only is it easy to make, has ingredients we stock in our pantry already and tastes great (none of the awful texture in most GF breads), it’s also highly adaptable. Here come home made Olive and Rosemary or Fig and Walnut or Fruit loaves! Oh, and the only “kitchen equipment” you need is a bowl, a whisk, measuring implements and an oven… awesome.

Almond and Chia Bread

By Tania Hubbard of www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds (soaked in 30 mL of water)
  • 30mL water (this is used to soak the chia seeds (do this whilst preparing the dry mix))
  • 3/4 cups arrowroot or tapioca (remember to sift this to remove any lumps)
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb (baking soda) (sifted with the starch to remove any lumps)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or use lemon juice if you cannot have vinegar)
  • 3 eggs (usually no larger than 60 gram eggs)
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. preheat oven to 175C
  2. soak chia seeds in water whilst preparing the dry mix in a bowl. Stir to make sure the seeds are in the water
  3. sift arrowroot and bi-carb (baking soda) into bowl
  4. add almond meal and salt and mix well
  5. use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients to help break up lumps and distribute ingredients evenly
  6. add eggs, soaked chia seeds and apple cider vinegar
  7. combine everything well until there are no lumps (about 1 minute of whisking)
  8. don’t be tempted to add any liquid – this mix is meant to be thick
  9. pour mix into a baking tin lined with non-stick baking paper or a silicon bread mold lightly oiled with olive oil
  10. bake for 25-30 minutes until the bread is firm (single loaf) to the touch and bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean. The top will be golden in colour and firm to the touch.
  11. Remove bread from the oven and turn out onto a cooking rack.
  12. Adjust cooking time to 45-50 minutes if cooking a double mix (larger loaf)

COOKING NOTES:

  • This is a small loaf – a single mix – it won’t rise and rise like traditional bread so you need to use a small baking mold to “force” the rise – I purchased a single size loaf tin once I was happy with the recipe but previous to that used a pyrex dish lined with baking paper. If you don’t the bread won’t rise very well. You’ll end up with more of a focaccia loaf… which might be nice for a change anyway!
  • BIG LOAF: you will need to double the mix and bake in a loaf tin or 20 cm or smaller cake tin (lined with non stick baking paper)
  • Missing buns and rolls? Make the recipe in a muffin tin for individual GF buns.

For more information, check out the recipe on Tania’s page and read the comments for information on freezing etc: http://www.glutenfreegrainfree.com.au/gluten-free-almond-chia-seed-bread/

Vanilla butter cake with berries

photoI love it when you have the ingredients in your cupboard to make a cake (and a darn good one at that) to take around to a friend’s place in the evening, or when you’re asked to bring a dessert. My friend had an attempted break-in yesterday, so while her hubby is away this evening we’re going to have a girl’s night… and that means cake! It also means a cake that ignores my usual preference for eating low-sugar foods. My stock standard cake is based on Maggie Beer’s Fresh Raspberry Cake with Sangiovese Verjuice Syrup. I made her version once before and ever since have left out some of the more expensive ingredients, like the fresh raspberries and the Sangiovese Verjuice syrup – the cake is good enough without it, and as what is now baking in my oven proves, a versatile base to either leave without the addition of fruit or to add whatever’s on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cup plain flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn sea salt
  • 1/4 tspn baking soda
  • 250 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tspn pure vanilla extract (this is a key ingredient and a good paste will make the cake – I do splurge on this ingredient and have a jar of Heilala Vanilla Paste in my cupboard – it’s always been worth it) 
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (unless you have buttermilk in the fridge, don’t worry about buying this specially, just mix up 1/2 cup of milk with 1/2 tbs of lemon juice and let it sit for 5 minutes to get the same result as buttermilk)
  • 2 cups frozen/fresh fruit of choice – blueberries/raspberries/strawberries/mixed etc. 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease the sides of a 20cm cake tin with butter and line the bottom with baking paper.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg completely before adding the next.
  4. Incorporate the dry ingredients and the buttermilk/milk and lemon mixture, alternating between each, in two additions. Fold in the frozen fruit (or leave it out entirely) and pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees and a further 20 at 140 degrees… I know that’s a little odd but that’s how I’ve got it to work!

This cake is delicious with double cream and a cup of tea! Then again, what isn’t 😉

Flavour Gold: marinated stir-fry chicken with vegetables

I was searching the www for some new recipes and came along this one from Slender Kitchen. It’s for a slow cooked honey garlic chicken that I looked at and thought “elements of that would make a really nice marinade for a stir-fry”… so, I made a few changes and it appeared on our plates this evening in its updated form. The “flavour gold” title was given by Mr Incredible after his first taste… high praise as he’s not backward about being forward when the flavours aren’t to his taste! When probed for his reasons behind the name he said that “it was all there, sweet, salty, a bit of spice – YUM”. Adventure Girl also loved the meal – a bit of a treat for her as I wouldn’t usually give her something this high in salt (the tamari/soy is quite salty). Additionally, it’s not friendly for children under 1 due to the honey.

This fed two hungry adults plus a child and had enough left over for another meal to go in the freezer.  

Ingredients

  • 500 grams chicken (I used sliced organic chicken breast)
  • 4 finely diced garlic cloves
  • 2cm finely diced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup tamari (or light soy sauce, however, I prefer tamari though due to the lower salt content)
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes (add more according to taste)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetables of preference (I used a frozen organic stir-fry mix with some added veg as it had been a long day)

Method

  1. Place all ingredients excepting vegetables and chicken in a medium sized bowl. Whisk these together and when combined add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I prepared this earlier in the day and had it sitting in the fridge for 4 hours until it was time for dinner)
  2. Prepare vegetables (i.e. defrost or wash and cut ready for cooking)
  3. Heat a wok / frying pan and add 2 tsp of coconut oil.
  4. Stir fry chicken and marinade (the sauce will thicken with the cooking)
  5. When the chicken is mostly cooked, add the prepared vegetables
  6. Enjoy!

Serve with rice / quinoa / cous cous.

Obesity in Australia and the implications for our family

Last night after delivering a cake to a friend who’s just started the HSC (this is the NSW version of a student ranking exam for university entry) we picked up a pizza as a treat (Adventure Girl had already eaten a much healthier dinner!) and sat down to watch some TV. Ironically, the show we turned on was ABC’s 4 Corners episode on Obesity in Australia, Fat Chance. It was horrifying to hear and see that 70% of adults and 1 in 4 children in Australia are obese. One of the people interviewed, Deb Slorach, made a comment that is still ringing in my ears. In talking about her children and family’s eating habits she said how her children were brought up on junk food and she “look[s] back now and like that’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I think you know I set them up to fail you know and I hate that you know it… it hurts me that I’ve actually done this to my kids.”.

It was at this point in the program that Mr Incredible reached over and said “thank you for taking care of us”. Wow. What a wake up call and encouragement to make sure that take-a-way and processed food remains a treat, even after days that are full. We were thankful for the reminder that it should only be a treat and that bad habits are easy to form and even easier to pass on to our children. I admire Deb and the others who are reversing obesity in their lives with very hard work. I also admire the many who are intentional at stopping this trend and being responsible for what they eat and what they feed to their families.

Lunchtime Staple: Stir-fried veg with cheesy egg

I don’t know about you but by lunchtime I just want a meal I can easily make and know I’ll enjoy. One that Adventure Girl won’t fuss over and is full of veg in case I don’t have the energy to make a really nutritious dinner. My stir-fried veg with cheesy egg fits the bill and is really flexible depending upon what I’ve got available.

The beauty about this dish is that I can pre-chop the veg while Adventure Girl is occupied/sleeping earlier in the day and cook it one-handed with her on my hip.

This is what I do for Adventure Girl and me:

Dice some/all of the following:

  • ½ Tomato
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2 leaves Kale/Silverbeet
  • 1 large Mushroom
  • 1 small sprig Spring onions
  • Carrot (frozen and pre-diced)
  • Peas (frozen)
  • (As said though, this is really flexible depending upon what you’ve got available so use what you’ve got!)

On a medium heat add these to a fry pan with some olive oil or coconut oil (if using coconut oil, buy extra virgin cold pressed organic unrefined coconut oil) and stir-fry them until they reach your preferred level of crunchiness. I cook mine until the zucchini is slightly golden. While these are cooking, chop up some tasty cheese and mix this with 2 eggs. Add this to the pan and cook until the egg is fully cooked.

I then dish it all up on the one plate, separate it in to hers and mine and add salt and pepper to what I’m eating.

Enjoy! It takes about 10 minutes all up + eating time