All the Veggies Bolognese with Sprinkled Walnuts

Nothing screams a winning family dinner more than a really flavoursome Spaghetti Bolognese. Although, in my house growing up it was all about the minced beef and decent sprinkling of grated cheese (with a little veg mixed in)! These days we like to do things a little differently. The Bolognese sauce is packed full of any veggies you basically have in the fridge. This version includes carrots, zucchini, red pepper and half a head of cauliflower. The cauliflower is important for the minced texture of the sauce and soaks in the other flavours.

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Crucially though, a good Bolognese really comes down to how long you let it simmer. The Bolognese sauce needs to simmer for at least an hour to soak up all the flavours and it’s often even better reheated the next day or from the freezer stash! Make it in bulk so you can freeze portions and use for quick midweek meals.

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Some of you may question the walnut sprinkles but I can’t exaggerate enough how much they add to this vegan dish – a good crunch, the perfect balance in flavour and some good quality fats and plant-based protein! I put loads on mine, the kiddies choose how much goes on their own plates, sometimes it’s a lot, sometimes it’s just a sprinkle.

Lastly, make sure you blitz everything together at the end, this gives the texture of a Bolognese and makes it much more appealing to the kiddies (and adults!).

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Vegan All the Veggies Bolognese with Sprinkled Walnuts

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chopped chilli (if you / your family likes the heat)
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 1/2 zucchini chopped
  • 1 large carrot peeled and chopped
  • half a small cauliflower head chopped
  • Good squirt tomato paste
  • 2 x 400ml tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup veggie stock
  • Pink salt and pepper as desired
  • Add more water if the Bolognese starts to dry out
  • 1/2 cup walnuts chopped (chop small for children, particularly those under 3)

Method

  1. In a large frying pan, sauté the onion on a medium heat for 5 minutes / until soften.
  2. Add the herbs, garlic and chilli and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the pepper through to cauliflower, stir and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the tomato paste, tinned tomatoes and veggie stock, stir and season as desired.
  5. Bring to the boil and once boiling reduce the heat to simmering. Allow the Bolognese sauce to simmer for an hour, keep coming back to it every 15 minutes or so to give it a stir and check the fluids. If it’s drying out add a little water/ stock.
  6. Once ready blitz in a blender for 20 seconds (ish), so it still retains the texture of a Bolognese but all the large pieces are gone.
  7. Serve on a bed of your favourite spaghetti with a good sprinkling of chopped walnuts.

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Vegan Banana, Carrot and Raisin Bread

You cannot beat a super moist and flavoursome banana bread. This recipe is definitely up there with the best of them, it is vegan and can be made nut free too.

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I’ve got into making this banana bread recently since my eldest started school. It ticks all the boxes in terms of an afterschool snack – filling, healthy, tasty, portable and allergy friendly. Great for mums too with their afternoon cuppa!

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Made with spelt flour and autumn spices; cinnamon and ginger, it’s really warming and has a very subtle zing in amongst the sweetness of the banana, date syrup and raisins.

It’s very easy to make too, no need for a fancy mixer, just a mixing bowl and wooden spoon. Then the steps are simple – a bowl with dry ingredients – a bowl with wet ingredients – mix everything together – pour into loaf tin – bake!

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One more thing – in an ideal world use bananas covered in brown spots… but yellow ones will do if that’s all you have in… don’t use green, you’d lose that gorgeous banana taste!

Enjoy x

Vegan Banana, Carrot and Raisin Bread

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 large banana mushed and 1 banana sliced lengthways for decoration
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
  • 1/2 cup date syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 large carrot grated

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170oC / 350oF and oil a loaf tin (I use coconut oil).
  2. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour through to desiccated coconut).
  3. In a separate mixing bowl mix together all the wet ingredients (mushed banana through to non-dairy milk).
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  5. Fold in the grated carrot and raisins.
  6. Pour the batter into a loaf tin and place the two banana slices on top. Bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes.
  7. Allow the loaf tin to cool slightly before transferring to a bread board and slicing. Banana bread doesn’t last more than a few days so freeze half the loaf for the following week if desired.

 

‘Pinch Pinch’ Cream Cheese Sandwich & Salady Bits

This whole dish is gluten free, lactose free and egg free. I generally would serve salady bits and sandwiches from 9 months but serve earlier if you feel comfortable doing so (chopping things up appropriately).

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The name of this dish is inspired by the Peppa Pig episode where Peppa and George pretend to be crabs pinching their fingers and thumb together, walking sideways and shouting ‘pinch pinch’. This is our ‘go to’ impression of a crab.

It’s nice to make lunch into a fun animal or smiley face now and again 👍🏼. This sandwich contains lactose free cream cheese (as I’m lactose intolerant) on gluten free bread. I used a cookie cutter to make the circle and used the cream cheese to glue the other elements to the sandwich or plate. Mollie (3 years old) loves the extra effort put in to make lunch fun, I genuinely think she eats more too as a result! Alfie (16 months) is none the wiser!

The crab is made up of:

  • legs – king prawns
  • arms – red pepper and plum tomatoes
  • eyes – cucumber, black olives and cream cheese
  • mouth – red pepper

Served on @boboandboo bamboo dinnerware which we love!

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Salmon and Kale Burgers

Perfect for the BBQ this summer, these easy salmon and kale burgers sneak some super nutrients onto your kids plate! I would serve from 7 months but suitable from the get go if baby led weaning.

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The whole family had these on the BBQ and my little man just loves them! Great for baby led weaning as they are easy to hold and chew (particularly compared with a salmon fillet).

They are also very easy to make, I just chuck it all in a blender. My kiddies aren’t big kale eaters unless it is in things like this, smoothies or ice pops so it’s a good way to get some into their diet. I’m happy in the knowledge that they are getting all the mega benefits from this super dark green veggie even if they aren’t appreciating the kale on its own yet! Kale is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, it is loaded with so many vitamins, minerals, antioxidents and phytonutrients to help our littleones thrive – I love to get it in where I can.

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My kids enjoy them served with a selection of boiled and roasted veggies. They aren’t keen on too much mixing so we like to have all the veggies clearly recognisable! I’m happy to go with this if they are… served on our gorgeous Bumkins Baby suction plate in the photo above.

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Salmon and Kale Burgers

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients (made about 14 burgers)

  • 6 organic salmon fillets
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • approximately 2 cups of chopped kale
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 1 tsp dried dill

Method

  1. boil the kale for 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out all the excess water
  2. add to a blender along with all the other ingredients and blend until well mixed
  3. form into little patties with your hands
  4. heat some coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan and gently fry on each side for a couple of minutes (can also bake in the oven on 180oC / 360oF for around 10 mins)
  5. serve immediately or eat cold later

 

Easy & Dairy Free Chicken Casserole

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This is a firm family favourite, hubby approved and kid approved, and so easy to make. There are very few ingredients and it is great for allergy kids as it is dairy free, nut free, gluten free and egg free. I would serve from 9 months, finely chopping the chicken and using low salt stock, although if baby led weaning you can serve earlier.

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Easy and Dairy Free Chicken Casserole

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 12 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp gluten free flour of choice
  • 400ml chicken stock (low salt if under 12 months)
  • ~2 cups quartered button mushrooms (or more if you are big on mushrooms)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Good palmful of fresh chopped tarragon
  • Salt and pepper as desired
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot powder mixed with a little cold water (can use cornflour)

Method

  1. If you have a bit of time sauté the onion in a pan over a medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes then stir in the garlic and flour for a further minute before putting into the slow cooker. If not, just put this straight into the slow cooker raw. Add the chicken thighs to the slow cooker too.
  2. Stir so chicken and onion are coated with a little flour then add the stock, mushrooms and coconut milk. Cook on high for approximately 2 hours.
  3. Stir and add the tarragon, seasoning and arrowroot and water mix for thickening. Cook for a further 45 minutes. Adjust these timings to suit your slow cooker and make sure the chicken is cooked through before serving.
  4. Serve with mashed potatoes and green veg (we make our mash with coconut oil / coconut milk to keep it dairy free but go butter if that floats your boat)

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Top 10 Tips to Successful & Healthy Weaning!

Weaning tips

My little man is 13 months old so I think I can officially say we are over the weaning stage… While he does enjoy throwing food on the floor, I’m really happy with the variety of food that he eats. Thankfully, both of my children have been a dream to wean, this definitely has a lot to do with genetics but I also like to think that the way they have been weaned has played a role too.

Weaning can be an absolute minefield so I’ve put together my top 10 super tips on weaning based on my own experience. Fingers crossed this helps some of you!

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1 – Don’t focus on HOW your baby is weaned, focus on WHAT they are being weaned on; the key thing here is not to feel pressured to go with a certain style of weaning. I know baby led and puree babies that are fussy eaters and I know baby led and puree babies that are a dream. Some say the baby must be baby led as it helps develop the pincer grip or the baby must be fed only purees or they’ll choke… honestly it doesn’t matter in these early months, follow your baby and go with your gut.

2 – There is no rush; I would try and wait until 6 months to wean if you can. Babies’ digestive systems are still so underdeveloped, even if they swallow the food well they can have a tough time digesting it through the stomach and the intestine. Milk is their key source of nutrition at this age.

3 – Give whole vegetables as first foods; baby rice is traditionally recommended as a first food but this is in fact difficult to digest, lacks nutrients and can be fairly processed. I gave sweet potato, avocado, broccoli, peas, butternut squash, cauliflower, carrot etc. in the first few weeks of weaning.

4 – Be mindful of digestion; During the first few months of weaning your baby may have stomach pains learning to digest these new foods. If this is keeping them up in the night or causing them lots of upset take a step back, maybe give a bit less or milder vegetables for a few weeks. Processing chunks of food (even if chewed and swallowed well) can be difficult for their underdeveloped guts. You can also mix purees with a little bit of milk at first to make the food more appealing and easier to swallow.

5 – Use good quality oils; I recommend blending purees with a little cold pressed coconut oil, this is full of good fats and helps your littleone digest fat soluble vitamins found in the vegetables and other foods you are pureeing. If roasting finger food, use extra virgin olive oil, this is relatively stable at high temperatures (vs. say sunflower oil) and provides good fats, vitamins and minerals.

6 – Don’t be afraid to offer finger food; When you and the baby are ready offer finger food with each meal, they are much better at chewing and swallowing then you think! They probably won’t eat a lot of it to begin with but practice makes perfect! I found banana, sweet potato chips, homemade jellies (fruit and good quality gelatine), soft broccoli, asparagus and omelette good options.

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7 – Don’t be afraid to serve food containing nuts; this tip comes with a big fat warning that if you are unsure of allergies in your child or there is a family history do seek professional advice before offering nuts. Both of my children have shown no sign of allergies to nuts and there is no family history. As a result, I offered almond butters and milks from around 8 months and have been introducing other nut butters and milks, like cashew, from then. There is mixed opinion on when to introduce nuts but some new advice is saying that introducing earlier helps your child avoid developing an allergy.

8 – Avoid refined sugar completely until 12 months; babies have no idea what a ‘treat’ is, if you feed them pure whole foods up to 12 months they will be absolutely none the wiser and, more importantly, they will learn to love the good quality food they are being given. You are doing them a massive favour! After 12 month’s old and throughout childhood I would let them have refined sugar in moderation. Refined sugar is a treat.

9 – Limit processed food; diet is fundamentally the most impactful factor you can control in influencing your baby’s health. Giving your child good quality whole foods and plenty of good quality fluids is ultimately protecting their health. We are responsible for building a healthy ecosystem in their guts, building healthy cells in their bones, muscles and bloodstream and influencing their food preferences for life. Limiting processed food is essential in making this happen.

10 – Enjoy it; if you are relaxed and enjoying meal times your baby is too. Take time over them, eat together if you can and talk about the food you are eating. Meal times should be fun!

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