Apricot and Apple Oaties Recipe

These crumby little bites are perfectly sized snack for little ones, full of nutrition and home-baked so you know there are no weird preservatives in there.

They’ve gone down a treat whenever I’ve offered them at play dates. Think of them as a healthy version of a flapjack, only no way near as sweet. Admittedly these are maybe not sweet enough for the adult palate but watch your kid get crumbs EVERYWHERE as they get their nibble on with these.

I’ve been using a porridge oat mix that Tescos have recently brought out which combines oatmeal, oat bran and wheat bran, but using oatmeal will also do nicely. Oat bran on its own lends an especially crumby and almost malty taste – try and see what suits your family.

Apricots are a great source of Vitamin A (for healthy cell growth and immune system), fibre (keeping things *ahem* moving) and potassium (maintains blood pressure). Their natural sweetness combined with that of the apple mean you can bake without having to add sugar.

I make a bigger batch of Apricot Purée than necessary as a teaspoon goes really nicely in porridge for the little ones. I like to think of it as jam that hasn’t been made out of refined sugar so is therefore safe.

Ingredients:

150g oatmeal, oatbran and wheat bran mix

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp coconut oil, warmed to liquid form for ease of mixing

3 tbsp water

1 apple, peeled and grated

For the apricot purée 

100g dried apricots*

200ml boiling water

  • Start by making the apricot purée – pop the apricots into a small saucepan, add the boiled water and bring back to the boil. Lower to a simmer for about 7 mins and then take off the heat. Leave to cool a little before pureeing in a blender (you can make the oaty mix whilst it cools down)
  • Preheat your oven to 200C and lightly oil a brownie tin or something of a similar size.
  • Combine the oaty mix with the bicarbonate of soda and give it a little stir. Add the coconut oil and the grated apple and stir.
  • Purée the apricots (if you haven’t already) and add approx 120g of the purée to the mix (pot up the rest of it and keep it in the fridge). Add the water a tablespoon at a time till you have a nicely formed mixture that holds together. Just leave it to rest for a minute or two.
  • Pop the mixture into the prepared brownie tin and gently coax outwards to cover the tin. You’ll have a thin layer that should nicely spread out.
  • Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden on top and coming away from the edge of the pan.
  • Leave to cool before cutting into little squares – my brownie tin is square so I go for 5×5.
  • Keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

* For my own peace of mind I use organic and naturally dried apricots; these are darker in colour as a result of not being treated with sulphur dioxide.

 

Warming Pot of Butternut Squash Chilli for the Family

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Christmas is coming, the Lee Family are getting fat. Sometimes, you just want to know that you have something virtuous but stonkingly yummy waiting for you, and I think this is one of those warming dishes that can be as naughty or nice as you like.

My instinct is to carb load and then add cheese on top (see later) so I wanted to try out cooking up something that would, at it’s heart, be healthy, one-pot and easily modified to suit the needs of the family, and act as a great base for Christmas dinner leftovers.

This dish is a Butternut Squash Chilli recipe, with a decent portion taken out of the main pot before you add the spices for the grown-ups and then cooked separately to include a cooked chicken thigh so that the little one gets a good dose of all important protein.

Serves 2-3 famished grown ups, and 2-3 portions for a hungry baby

Base Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

Half of a decent-sized Butternut Squash, deseeded and cut into 2cm cubes (freeze the other half)

1 Red and 1 Yellow Pepper, deseeded and diced

1 courgette (or more if it’s teeny), diced

1 Onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2x Tinned Tomatoes

1/2 a can of sweetcorn

400g red kidney beans

2 handfuls of Spinach, chopped roughly

250ml low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock

Additions for Baby:

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1 chicken thigh, boneless and skinless, sliced in half so that you have two thinner fillets

Finishing Touches for Grown-Ups:

Pinch of dried chilli (or more, to taste)

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp of cocoa powder

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Fry the onions, peppers and garlic till softened for a few minutes.

Add the courgette and sweetcorn, and cook till the courgette softens for another few minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, beans and the stock then mix well. Allow to boil and then lower to a simmer for 15- 20 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer for another few minutes till wilted.

At this point you then take out about 4-5 ladle scoops of the mix to pop into a small saucepan – this will become your Baby mix.

To the main pot – this is when you add the flavour and spice to make it palatable for grown-ups! Add the chilli, cumin, cayenne and cocoa powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper and voila – finished. By all means, if you have leftovers from your Christmas meal, they’d make a tasty addition to the chilli.

I served this with a sprinkling of Tabasco, garlic bread, avocado and cheese on top.

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Baby Mix: (as seen in the photo at the top)

Pop the small saucepan containing the Baby mix back onto a low-to-medium heat and add the 1/4 tsp cumin. It might seem a little strange to put a relatively strong tasting spice into baby food but babies apparently enjoy strong flavours – I can attest that Adelyn usually noms this down with gusto.

Add the chicken too and allow to cook for another 10 minutes. I like to just place this on top of the mix, slightly submerged. Once it’s cooked, I can then easily scoop the chicken out and chop it up finely (if your baby is on Stage 3 weaning/can deal with texture/lumps). If your baby prefers a smoother texture, blitz the lot up and serve up a portion.

Freezes well, just defrost and heat gently to eat.


Kx

Christmas Rocky Road

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An early Christmas present for you, my dear friends and readers 🙂

Fancy a treat that looks and tastes wonderfully Christmassy – WITHOUT resorting to OD-ing on weird Christmas spices (cinnamon and cloves, I’m glaring at you)? AND literally just involves stirring and leaving?

I’d seen this in Nigella Lawson’s Christmas book (and show) ages ago and pooh-poohed the very idea as overly sweet and sickly.

I guess something about being a mum now, and one who can be relied on to turn to sweet things to prop me up on those days, that I finally thought that it was time to try the recipe for a recent family gathering we had at home. Ooh they went down a treat and turned out to be rather moreish.

The Amaretti adds a nutty lightness, which when combined with the Brazil nuts gives a lovely crunch that contrasts the sumptuous softness of the marshmallows – and a little cheeky zing of a glacé cherry to perk it all up a bit. Oh – AND IT’S SURROUNDED BY CHOCOLATE.

I took the liberty of modifying the recipe slightly to conform with the weight of the packets to be found in the shops.

Go nuts with your display as your decorate the finished piece, it’s a lot of fun and I look forward to making this with Adelyn next year!

EQUIPMENT:

A foil tray (Nigella suggests a 236mm x 296mm / 9¼ x 12 inches disposable type)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 150g butter
  • 4tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g amaretti biscuits
  • 150g brazil nuts (shelled)
  • 150g red glacé cherries, halved
  • 125g mini marshmallows
  • 1tbsp icing sugar, to dust
  1. Fit a bowl over a saucepan of water, bring water to the boil and then allow to simmer as you break up the chocolate into the bowl. Pop the butter and golden syrup into the chocolate and allow it to melt together gently, stirring every so often to help it along.
  2. Use a rolling pin and give the Amaretti biscuits a good bashing to break them up into bite sized pieces. Repeat with the Brazil Nuts. Try not to whack it too hard as you’ll probably break the bag and then have a mess…if you’re worried, put them into a bigger ziplock type bag and have at them. A good mix of chunks and rubble will do very nicely.
  3. In a nice big bowl, empty out the nuts and Amaretti, the glacé cherries and the mini-marshmallows, then lovingly coat it all in the melty chocolate.
  4. Tip it all into the foil tray, pushing into the edges and flatten it out as best as you can. It’ll look unsurprisingly “rocky”.
  5. Pop into the fridge for a couple of hours, until firm enough to cut into chunks.
  6. Tip it out and then cut into however many blocks as you like. I managed about 25 pieces.
  7. Display as you wish, might I suggested stacked on a cake stand, and dust the icing sugar through a sieve to give your Rocky Road an instantly White Christmas.

If you have any leftovers (or are needing to hide some away), they’ll keep nicely in the fridge for a week. You can also freeze them, just defrost them in the fridge overnight to eat them again.

 

Autumnal Apple & Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa

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A few weeks into Adelyn’s weaning, I got bored of making Baby Rice + fruit puree, Baby Porridge + fruit puree, or sometimes just – wait for it – fruit puree.

Breakfast has become far less of a chore now that she’s happily into textures and can pretty much eat what we’re eating and vice versa. This happens to be a recipe that is actually intended for babies but also makes for a delicious and virtuous addition to one’s porridge (I’ll share my Power Porridge recipe another time).

Here you have the tangy sweetness of the apple, the soft nuttiness of the quinoa, and don’t you just love the vividly purple colour that the blueberries lend it? Babies are almost always captivated by strong colours, so if your little one is anything like mine and needs to something to keep their attention to sit still and eat – you could be on to a winner with this one.

You can rest assured that Quinoa is good for baby (and you!) as it’s low-allergenic, high in protein (so all very vegan friendly too), and is a great source of fibre and those good carbohydrates that your little one needs to fuel their growth and relentless energy.

The addition of chia seeds also helps to up the protein and fibre content, as well as good ol’ Omega-3s – SO important for healthy brain development amongst other things.

Looks pretty, tastes good, and the whole family can enjoy – what are you waiting for?!

Portions:  this should yield about 4 baby portions

Ingredients:

50g white quinoa, rinsed and drained (just as a precaution to rinse off any bitterness)

250ml water

Generous handful of blueberries, washed

2-3 eating apples (I favour Royal Gala), peeled and diced

1 tbsp chia seeds

  • Pop the rinsed quinoa into a small saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer uncovered over a low-to-medium heat for 10 minutes. By this time it should be well on it’s way to absorbing the liquid.
  • Add the apples, give it a good stir and cook away for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the blueberries and the chia seeds, mix well and cook for a final 5 minutes. I add the berries and chia seeds at the end as I don’t want to cook the goodness out of them!
  • By this time, the liquid should be absorbed and the berries will have begun to release their colour. If you’re serving this for a weaning baby, a good blitz to puree it all together will do nicely. If your baby is old enough to handle lumps, a little mushing with a fork or a masher will give you the consistency as in the photo above.

Storage Note: this freezes really well, just allow to defrost before reheating.

Tips: also goes nicely with a dollop of Greek yogurt. It’s also lovely to eat slightly chilled, say in the summertime or if your baby is that hungry and can’t wait for it to be heated up (this has totally happened several times). I’ve also been known to substitute the apples for pears.

Courgette, Spinach & Cheese Muffins

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I’m a big fan of finger foods, especially ones that are quick to make and packed full of nutrition – courgette, carrots and spinach with the added hit of cheese for that moreishness…oooh these’ll be a hit in your household too if my family are anything to go by!

Adelyn literally bounces and makes strained squealing sounds when she sees me coming with these. Just like her Papa.

Remember – babies under 1 years old shouldn’t have salt added to their food as their kidneys aren’t mature enough to process it efficiently so there’s no need to season this. The cheese contains enough savoury flavour to satisfy even an adult’s palate.

INGREDIENTS

225g self-raising flour

1tsp baking powder

1 carrot – peeled and grated

1 small courgette – washed and grated

80g mature cheddar, grated

2 handfuls of spinach, chopped

1 egg, beaten

45g unsalted butter, melted

120ml milk

  • Preheat your oven to 180C (fan) and lightly grease a muffin tray with butter or oil. You can use muffin cases if you like.
  • Pop your dry ingredients into a big bowl – so your flour, baking powder, cheese, carrot, courgette and spinach – and mix together.
  • Then add your wet ingredients one at a time, mixing after each addition – so the egg, butter and then the milk. You should have a thick and pleasingly colourful batter.
  • Pop a generous tablespoon of the mixture into your prepared muffin tray – you should have enough for 12.
  • Bake for 20-25mins, until golden brown on top and your chosen poking testing implement comes out clean (toothpick, uncooked spaghetti, actual poker tester thing etc.)
  • Leave them to cool slightly, if you can bear the wait.

FREEZING TIP: These freeze well in an airtight container or baggy. You can warm them up in the oven from frozen for 15mins (or leave to defrost) to enjoy all over again.

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Adelyn using two hands to devour hers – a sign of enjoyment!