I am treading with trepidation into baby food territory. I swore I would spare my blog from our messy journey, but recent conversations have compelled me to do so.
Food and eating come up in every conversation I have with a new parent. At first, it was 'are you going the purée or baby-led-weaning (BLW) way?', and 'when is the right time to start weaning?', then what to eat, and how to eat it: 'what do you make?', 'what do you buy?' and 'when should we introduce cutlery? '. Most of all, parents seek inspiration for fresh, quick dinners, having got stuck in a rut with the usual suspects (pasta, fish fingers, beans...).
I have no answers, but like every parent I have a story to tell, and am using this first post on the subject to share with you how we (try to) feed our child.
Evangelical weaning books were hard to avoid at first. Late nights on Amazon led to a stack of books on my bedside table professing to know just how your child should eat. After some dithering, and a fair dose of confusion, we decided on a combination method: part BLW, part purée. My instinct told me he'd be fine feeding himself, and BLW would make it fun, but I was eager to fill his tummy. Taking advice from both camps meant he could experiment with handling and chewing on solid food, and take in a fair amount on the spoon to satisfy his hunger (alongside milk). Despite the odd phase of pickiness and loss of appetite, it worked. Check out Catherine Phipp's Word of Mouth article here to read more about BLW.
Now 17 months 0ld, he has the biggest drawer in the freezer, which I rely on for at least 80% of his main meals. Nearly every dinner starts with a pot-luck rustle and grab, followed by a steamer filled with carb boiling in the bottom (rice/potatoes/pasta) and veg (broccoli, beans, diced squash etc.) steaming on top, cooked for 10 minutes or so. Along with slicing fruit to go with Greek yogurt for his pud, prep never takes longer than 10-15 minutes. Couscous and peas is the extra-speedy option.
MY ESSENTIAL KIT
Silicone muffin tray, for freezing toddler-sized portions of sauces
Medium-size resealable plastic food bags
TYPICAL FREEZER DRAWER CONTENTS
MADE (batch cooked, or left over from family meals)
Chicken goujons (posh name for fingers)
Sweet potato fritters
Chicken and apricot/squash curry
Cauliflower and potato curry
Greek lamb and carrot stew
Basic tomato sauce
Lentil and tomato soup
Spiced fruit purée
Meatballs (pork and beef)
Mini corn on the cob
Soft wholemeal rolls
I am obsessed about the high sugar and salt levels in our popular cereals, to the point where I will spend 20 minutes scrutinizing the back of cereal packets in the supermarket (to my husband's chagrin). Determined to find something healthy (C won't eat porridge, sadly), I came across Rude Health. Jackpot. Corn flakes made only of toasted corn! And Wheetabix isn't exactly pure wheat, but it's the best of the worst supermarket cereals as far as I can tell, though do correct me if I'm wrong.
Whether C has lunch at home or out and about, it's usually simple fare: a sandwich, grated cheese and apple toastie, frittata, leftovers from the night before, or pitta and dips, and some pieces of fruit, dried or fresh.
I should add that C usually eats fruit and yogurt for dessert, but at weekends I might make a rice pudding, or some apple-oaty muffins. As I write, he's demolishing a bowl of Greek yogurt mixed with mashed banana and a tsp of cashew nut butter. Not a pretty dish, but great for hungry tums.
Here are a few simple recipes:
MIXED VEGETABLE FRITTATA - Nutritious, economical finger food.
Boil 4 new potatoes until tender (you can do this in advance/use leftovers). Beat 4 eggs, and season with black pepper. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil with a knob of unsalted butter in a frying pan, add a small chopped onion/spring onion with half a diced red pepper and half a diced courgette. Cook until soft (5-10 minutes). Throw in the cooked potatoes, chopped, heat through, add a cup full of frozen petits pois, and stir over a medium heat for a minute or two. Stop stirring, pour over the eggs, and turn on your grill. Grate over some Cheddar/Parmesan, and after 5 minutes on the hob over a low heat, transfer to the grill to cook the top. Leave to cool, then turn out and slice into 8-12 pieces. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
SWEET POTATO FRITTERS - Freezable, healthy finger food.
Roast 2 sweet potatoes for 1 hour at 170C fan (you can do this the day before).
Dig out the flesh from the skins once cool, and mix in a bowl with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp plain flour, 3 finely chopped spring onions, 1 beaten egg, and 2-3 tbsp whole milk to loosen the mixture. Add a handful of tinned/fresh sweetcorn if you have some to hand. Melt a small knob of unsalted butter/1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan. Cook for 5 mins each side, then set aside to cool on a paper towel. Serve immediately, keep in the fridge for a day or two, or freeze until needed.
FISH/CHICKEN GOUJONS - Prepare these one evening, stock the freezer, and you have almost instant homemade fish/chicken fingers when time is short. They take 20 minutes to prepare.
Two boneless and skinless cod/coley/pollack fillets or two chicken thighs/breasts.
Slice the fish/meat into thin finger-long strips. Prepare, on three separate plates:
2 tbsp plain flour
2 beaten eggs
150g breadcrumbs, mixed with 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley, a pinch of black pepper, and a heaped tbsp of Parmesan
Piece by piece, dip the fish/meat into the flour, shake off the excess, dip in the egg, then cover with the breadcrumb mixture. Set aside on a plate. Pop the plate in the freezer, then when they are nearly frozen solid, remove them and pop them into freezer bags. They can be cooked straight from frozen, in a frying pan with a little olive oil (5-8 minutes each side).
Please share your own mealtime solutions and feeding stories.