Spinach Puffs Recipe

OK so when you give this to your little ones to eat, you’d better have the hoover ready. My husband seemed to delight in sharing a video with me of the mess she had made as I commuted home, and then realised that he was the only one around to handle the clean up. He was later seen wafting our beloved child in the garden, shortly followed by her high chair in a bid to de-flake.

After getting lots of inspiration from the thoughtfully compiled set of Ella’s Kitchen recipe books – it suddenly dawned on me whilst going through The Big Baking Book aka The Yellow One of the series – that combining puff pastry and yummy fillings would solve the two issues I’ve been having with sending Adelyn off to the childminder’s with her packed lunch; 1) homemade and 2) easy-to-feed-herself portioned food.

I get mildly anxious about ensuring Adelyn gets enough iron in her diet so this recipe has been somewhat of a Godsend given her reluctance to eat bolognese (like seriously, how can anyone fail to enjoy spaghetti bolognese??) The Big Baking Book helpfully reassures me that “spinach is rich in iron and calcium, making it perfect for superhero-style bones and brains.”

And look at these crispy beauts! Note: I made a change to the original recipe and made my puffs smaller.

Ingredients:

150g spinach

125g ricotta cheese

50g Parmesan, grated

Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

250g ready-made puff pastry (I use ready rolled)

1 egg, beaten for glazing

Sesame seeds (I only had black at home!)

  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line your baking sheet with parchment.
  • In a sizeable saucepan (must have a lid too), pop your spinach in and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and heat the spinach gently for 5 minutes till wilted. Tip the spinach into a sieve or colander and press out the juice as you don’t want soggy filling! Then roughly chop.
  • Drain off any liquid from the tub of ricotta and place in a large bowl along with the Parmesan and nutmeg. Mix together. Then add the chopped spinach and mix till evenly combined.
  • Assuming you’ve bought the ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry as I do, roll it out and leave on the parchment. Cut in half widthways and lengthways and then quarter those rectangles too so you have 16 rectangles.
  • Divide the filling amongst 8 of the rectangles and you’ll have something that looks like this:

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  • Brush the edges lightly with the beaten egg. Cover with the remaining 8 rectangles and press the edges down with a fork or finger.
  • Carefully place your puffs on to the prepared baking sheet. Cut a little cross in the top of the pastry and then glaze with the remaining egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 20-25minutes until wonderfully puffed up and golden!
  • Delicious served warm (but can be eaten cold). Store in an airtight container for up to 24 hours.

 

Banana Muffins Recipe (no sugar!)

Adelyn loves bananas. One of her words is “Na-Na”, complete with frantic arm waving and searching the room for her beloved yellow fruit. Sometimes I overdo it on the banana-buying and end up with some that are just begging to be muffined – and though Adelyn is now over a year old, I’m still hesitant to give her foods with added sugar in them.

With this recipe, the sultanas and bananas should give enough of a sweet hit, plus bonus points for the extra goodness you’ll get into your little one.

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125g self-raising flour

1/2tsp baking powder

1tsp ground cinnamon

75g sultanas

50g unsalted butter, melted

2tsp vanilla essence

1 medium egg, beaten

1tbsp milk

2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

Optional: 1tbsp honey or agave syrup (only if little one is over a year old, honey is NOT recommended below this age)

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan oven) and lightly greased a muffin tin (when it comes to baking for baby, I don’t bother with cases)
  • Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sultanas in a bowl. Then add the melted butter, vanilla essence, egg and milk – mix well. Add a little more milk if the mix seems too thick.
  • Add the honey/agave if using.
  • Fold in the mashed bananas and mix.
  • Spoon the mix evenly into the 12 muffin holes and bake for 20-25mins, till golden on top and a skewer comes out cleanly.

 

Sweetcorn Fritters

Agh. The dreaded day has landed upon us; my once wonderful eater has turned into a right fusspot for the best part of the past week.

Foods she once devoured she now reacts to as though I was giving her cat food (squawking and scrunchy faces and spitting food back out ensue). 

One thing I’ve found though, is that finger foods will find their way into her mouth more often than not so I figured – how do I make her favourite foods into more of a readily held meal?

Solution: combine them in egg, milk and flour to make Fritters. Voila! My greedy eater is (kind of) back:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 10ml milk
  • 1 already-roasted sweet potato, flesh scooped out
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 100g courgette, grated
  • 2tbsp sweetcorn
  • 50g cheddar cheese 

You’ll need to have a sweet potato already baked and ready to be used so wash, stab with a fork a bit and bake in an oven for 40-60mins (depending on size) with a bit of foil on the rack underneath to catch any juice.

Then you can get the batter ready…

  • In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly. Mix in the flour and then the milk to form a thick batter. 
  • Cut open the baked sweet potato and scoop the squishyness out and into the batter. 
  • Add the spring onions, courgette, sweetcorn and cheese. Mix well. 
  • Heat up a non-stick frying pan with a light drizzle of oil for good measure over a medium heat.
  • Using a table spoon, plop heaped tablespoons of the batter into the pan so that they form nice even rounds and fry for 2-3mins each side till a lovely golden brown.
  • Note – they’re not the driest fritters on account of the veggies in the mix! 

Baby Food Recipe: Chicken and Chickpea Curry


The concept of giving our little one her first taste of curry raised a bunch of questions; mostly around should you give curry to a baby and what happens to their poop.

As I tentatively tried out this recipe on Adelyn, I found that she seemed to really enjoy the creamy and new flavour (I guess it’s like chicken korma), and we didn’t notice any discernible difference in her poop haha…I opted for a mild curry powder from the supermarket as a gentle introduction to the flavour.

Adelyn will have to get used to a bit of spice anyway so that she can fully appreciate the delicious Malaysian cuisine she’ll be growing up with – and we don’t plan on raising a spice-adverse bubba.

And guess what? Babies love flavour! Don’t forget that a lot of the time it’s a whole new experience for them, every time you offer a taste of something new.

Knowing that this recipe is packed with Vitamin A & C (sweet potatoes) fibre and folate (chickpeas) and protein (chicken) too means you can be reassured that it’s also good for the little ones too.

This recipe should make enough for 4 generous portions.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken thighs, diced
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 shallots, diced
  • 1-2cm nubbin of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1tsp mild curry powder
  • 200ml coconut milk (TIP: use a big can and save the other half to add to porridge!)
  • 200ml water
  • 1x 210g can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • Generous handful of spinach, washed and finely chopped.

Lightly fry the chicken and shallots in a saucepan, then add the sweet potato. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, then add the trio of flavour – garlic, ginger and curry powder to the pan and stir well to coat evenly.

Add the coconut milk and the water and bring up to the boil. Then pop in the chick peas, reduce heat slightly and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken has cooked fully and the potato is tender.

Add the spinach towards the end of your cooking time.

Blitz to the consistency your baby likes (above was half blended and half mashed). Goes great with some steamed cauliflower or pitta bread as finger food!

Freezes well.

Enjoy! Kx

Baby Weaning Recipe: Creamy Chicken & Courgette

I’m going to be honest here and say I’m not finding it easy to balance all of the different responsibilities I have now, in y’know, life.

Mum. Wife. Daughter. Colleague. My time to just be in my own head to blog has been minimised to “if and when Adelyn naps at the weekend and I’m not catching up on sleep” (i.e. not all that often).

There’s a pressure I’m putting on myself to give both Adelyn and Work my full energy as I’m invariably in the presence of one or the other, so it involves lots of rushing around and many attempts to ensure efficiency.

I just woke up from a 1.5 morning nap of my own (she’s still going) and was stunned to see how much brighter my complexion looks just thanks to getting some more damn sleep. Ahhh…

And yet – I am still diligent about making food for Adelyn. Even though at the grand age of 1 she can eat what we eat, just a bit more smooshed up, I’m still preparing meals for the week for her so that I know she’s got home-cooked lushness even when I’m working.

This meal came about as a result of having a bunch of odds and ends in the kitchen, brought together in a moreish garlicky white sauce. It did involve a few pots and pans to have things on the go at the same time but the end result is both nutritious and comforting – Adelyn couldn’t get enough!

Ingredients:

1 potato, peeled and cubed

1 chicken thigh, skinless & boneless

1 courgette, washed and finely grated

2 florets of broccoli

1 small clove of garlic

1 tbsp sweetcorn, chopped

15g butter

15g plain flour

350ml milk

  • Preheat the grill and put a saucepan of water on to boil.
  • Lightly oil a roasting tray then grill your chicken thigh for about 12 minutes, turning over halfway through.
  • Put the potatoes and broccoli into the saucepan and boil for 10mins till soft, then drain and leave to cool slightly.
  • Get a small saucepan and just lightly stir-fry the grated courgette for a couple of minutes, so that it’s softened slightly.
  • To make the white sauce (and I might have my suggested amounts a bit off above as I tend to make this by eye, so I do apologise and will update once I get a better handle on the amounts!) get another sauce on a medium heat and melt your butter in it. Add the flour gradually, stirring all the while. It’ll “honeycomb” – i.e. bubble slightly and resemble honeycomb. Take it off the heat so that you can then better control the viscosity as you gradually add the milk to the pan – keep stirring to minimise it clumping too much. You should end up with a mixture of the consistency of decent custard.
  • Finely grate the clove of garlic straight into the mix, along with your chopped sweetcorn, then pop back onto a medium heat to thicken a bit more so you have a creamy, thick texture going on. Season with a little black pepper if you feel so inclined.
  • Now to combine everything. Lightly mash the potatoes and broccoli mix, then add the courgette. Pour in the white sauce and give it a stir to combine. Tear the chicken into fine strips with your fingers and just break or chop into little pieces.
  • Then it’s up to you if you need to blitz it to a puree, blend it to a chunkier consistency (as in the photo above) or leave as is if your bubba has taken to chewing!

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