Thursday, 20 August 2015

RECIPE: #InstaWeanTeamChallenge - Frozen Yoghurt & Strawberry Fingers

Despite repeated attempts, Little Dude has never really taken to strawberries. He tends to give them an exploratory lick then looks mightily disgusted and chucks them on the floor. The Very Hungry Caterpillar week has given me an opportunity to try serving them in a different way... and it worked!
Since giving him these he's actually eaten TWO chopped, uncooked strawberries. Perhaps the penny is starting to drop on just how yummy they are (they're my favourite fruit too)

60g porridge oats
20g chopped walnuts
A few generous spoonfuls of natural yoghurt
Splash of whole milk
5 medium strawberries
Optional - additional sweetner such as honey, dates, or sugar
1. Chop the walnuts and add to a bowl along with the oats (keep a few walnuts back for decoration). Pour in enough milk to make a thick porridge mixture but keep it fairly dry. 
Note - Adding a spoonful of honey, some chopped dates, or a little sugar at this stage would sweeten the fingers up a little as they come out fairly savoury. We liked them that way though :)
2. Press the oat mixture onto a lined baking tray then cook at Gas 5 for 5-8 minutes.
3. Set the oat base aside to cool
4. Once cooled, spread a thick layer of yoghurt on to the oat base
5. Decorate with chopped strawberries (I made ours into heart shapes) and walnuts.
6. Put the baking tray into the freezer for 2-3 hours until the fingers have set hard
7. Slice the fingers then return to the freezer, remove each one a few minutes before serving.

Thanks to Ezpz who provided the Happy Mats we used for this week's challenge.

Check out what the rest of the team made by visiting our Facebook Page

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

RECIPE: #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Date & Butternut Squash Tagine

Last week I made my Healthy Lunchbox Snack (Date & Walnut Cereal Bars) using dates so for this week's challenge I wanted to do something completely different. My sister bought me a tagine a couple of years ago and I hadn't used it for a while so I decided to dust it off to make a Moroccan-inspired dish this week. I originally planned to use lamb but the supermarket only had full lamb shoulders which intimidated me a bit so I went with a vegetarian version instead. Fear not, carnivores, it's still a hearty, satisfying dish :)

4 chopped Medjool dates
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tin cherry tomatoes
4-5 chopped walnuts
250g frozen butternut squash (cutting this stuff is my pet hate so I bought a lazy version!)
100g sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cinnamon
A squeeze of runny honey

1. Defrost the frozen mushrooms and butternut squash (I poured boiled water over mine and left for 5 minutes or so until it was soft).
2. Slice the onion and dates, lay in the bottom of the tagine
3. Add the butternut squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, spices, sesame seeds, garlic and honey. Stir well.
4. Add a splash of water to loosen the mixture slightly
5. Bake in the oven as Gas 4 for 1 hour.
6. Eat chocolate while it cooks - optional but highly recommended! :)

I served ours with wholemeal giant cous cous and a sprinkle of sesame seeds and chopped walnuts on top. Delish!
Note - The NHS guidance is that honey should only be given over the age of one. I'm not sure if this changes if the honey is cooked but personally I always err on the side of caution and would skip it for younger babies.

Don't forget to check out what the rest of the team have made for Date Week by visiting our Facebook Page 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

RECIPE: #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Walnut and Date Cereal Bars

Anyone who follows my Instagram feed will know I'm a big fan of putting lunchboxes together. Filling them with varied, healthy food can be a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to snacks. This week I decided to make something I've tried before but not perfected: homemade cereal bars. I totally revamped my recipe and was really pleased with how these turned out - they are soft, sweet fingers of pure deliciousness!

To make these...

5 Medjool dates (I used organic ones)
70g walnuts
25g sultanas
70g porridge oats
15g dessicated coconut
1 beaten egg
Coconut oil or unsalted butter for greasing the baking tray

1. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and grease very lightly with coconut oil.
2. Finely blend the nuts then tip them into a large glass bowl. Add the sultanas, coconut, and porridge oats then stir.
3. Blend the dates into a sticky paste - throw in a handful or two of oats if they start to gum up the blender like mine did.
4. Put the dates into the bowl then using a thumb and forefinger, rub them into the oat mixture as if you were making crumble. Continue until the dates are distributed evenly into the mixture.
5. Stir in the beaten egg.
6. Press the mixture onto the baking tray in a rectangular shape about 2-3cm thick.
7. Bake for 15 minutes at Gas 5, ensuring the egg is cooked.
8. While still warm, slice into finger shapes with a sharp knife. I used a pizza cutter which was the perfect tool for the job.
9. When cooled, peel the cereal bars carefully off the greaseproof paper. I will keep mine for a few days in a sealed Tupperware container... if they last that long!

Don't forget to check out what the rest of the InstaWeanTeam are making this week by visiting our Facebook Page


Monday, 27 July 2015

RECIPE - #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Mango and Coconut 'Nicecream'

Little Dude has never been a huge fan of mango (or any fruit that is obviously fruit, for that matter) so for me, this challenge was about finding a clever way to sneak it into him! I'm still a bit obsessed with the banana and berry ice cream my buddy Meg made a few weeks ago so I decided to try making my own variation. This recipe is so easy it barely qualifies as cooking :)

1 ripe banana
1/2 ripe mango
Handful dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt

1. Chop the banana up into slices and put into a freezer bag
2. Slice the mango in half, chop into chunks and add to the bag with the banana.
3. Put the bag into the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours. Remove from the freezer and set aside for 15 minutes before you want to make the 'nicecream' (smirk)
4. Put the (now slightly softened) fruit and the yoghurt into the blender. Blast it until the mixture is smooth and creamy. I do this in bursts because my blender objects to frozen things.
5. Add the coconut and blend again briefly to mix.
6. Serve. I sprinkled a few chia seeds and some more coconut onto ours but some finely chopped nuts, chocolate shavings or slivers of fresh mango would also be ideal.

This week's challenge comes to you sponsored by the fabulous Ezpz, makers of the Happy Mat and Happy Bowl. See my review of these products if you're interested in buying them.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Healthy eating out and about...

Little Dude and I went shopping today. My plan to make a quick dash to get him some new shoes turned into a casual jaunt round a dozen shops and before I knew it, it was 11.30. I'd packed some snacks - raisins and a Nom Nom Kids smoothie pouch filled with kiwi, banana and apple - but nothing substantial enough for lunch. The smoothie was still half frozen at that point anyway - excellent planning Mama!
Usually when we eat out I pack a full homemade lunch box to take with us. Quite honestly, kids menus at most cafes and pubs make me cringe; the majority of them don't seem to extend beyond fish fingers, chicken nuggets, and burgers. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to serve the odd thing like this in moderation (white chocolate buttons are a particular weakness for both of us!) but I'd much prefer to do it when I can read the packet myself and check out the salt content, amongst other things.
L tends to nap after lunch so I figured it was worth braving it and ordering a couple of things for us to share, rather than let him fall asleep on the way home and go to bed with an empty tum. Mama needed coffee so we headed to Starbucks and I picked a cheese and ham toastie and a chicken salad. The food selection was obviously aimed at adults but both of these seemed suitable enough for the pair of us. I figured Little Dude would be all about the carbs but he surprised me by merrily munching through a handful of sugar snap peas and bravely sampling a huge slice of lime. It's just a shame I didn't capture the faces he pulled on camera - he went back for several tastes though so must have liked it!
This got me thinking... where else can I find decent children's menus? I generally really enjoy putting a lunchbox together for him but it'd also be handy to have more places that I can visit on a whim without stressing about what there is for him to eat. I'd love to hear from other Mamas about their favourite places to take little ones for decent, healthy food. Let me know your recommendations here or on the BLWMamaUK Facebook page and I'll put a list together for us all to share.

Monday, 13 July 2015

RECIPE: #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Olive and Roasted Veg Vol-Au-Vents

This week’s #InstaWeanTeam Olive Challenge comes to you 70s style. I’ve never tried vol-au-vents before so fancied giving them a go and they were surprisingly easy to make. These were perfect for both Little Dude and my vegetarian friend who joined us for a BBQ (the carnivores also had homemade paprika burgers, swoon!). 

I used shop bought pastry which has a little salt in it but making my own would've been way too time consuming. This recipe made 4 vol-au-vonts plus a bunch of different size rectangular 'slices' for our guests.

1 Sheet Puff Pastry
5 Black Olives, Sliced
3 Vine Tomatoes
1/2 Courgette
1/2 Red Onion
1 Yellow Pepper
1/2 Tsp Mixed Herbs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Beaten Egg

1. Lay out the pastry and use a cookie cutter to make an even number of pastry circles.
2. Take half of the circles and use a smaller cutter to remove the middle, leaving a pastry ring.
3. Brush the edge of the pastry circles with beaten egg, lay the pastry rings on top. Brush the top again with beaten egg.
4. Put them pastry in the oven on a lightly floured baking tray, cook for 25-30 mins on Gas 7 until golden and risen (check them regularly!). Once cooked, set them aside to cool. If the inside has risen, carefully pull it out leaving a pastry case with a hole in the middle.
5. Chop the vegetables into small chunks then lay out on a baking tray. Sprinkle herbs on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
6. Cook the veggies (except the olives) at Gas Mark 5 for around 30 mins.
7. Chop the olives and add to the cooked veggies, mix well.
8. Carefully spoon the cooked veg into the pastry cases. 

These can be eaten cold or blasted until the grill to heat them up just before serving. Delish!

Don't forget to check out what the whole team made for olive week by checking our InstaWeanTeam Facebook Page

PRODUCT REVIEW - Ezpz Happy Mat & Happy Bowl

Ezpz have a pretty straighforward mission statement: To take the mess and stress out of mealtimes. Founder Lindsey Lourain is a Mama of two boys and, being the proud owner of a very grubby little man myself, someone I am now eternally grateful to!

First, the technical bits - Ezpz placemats are:
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwave safe 
  • BPA, PVC, phthalate and lead free (I had to look up phthalate but didn't like the sound of it when I did)
  • Made from FDA approved silicone
  • Suction to the table
  • Can be stacked and carried together
  • Can be drawn on with dry wipe marker  
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my parcel from Ezpz; the mats are much more substantial than I'd expected with a thick, chunky base. The bowls have stiff sides that don't yield to little fingers (ours was excitedly prodded and poked by both myself and Little Dude!). The divided plate on the Happy Mat has three good sized sections which are more than enough to satisfy a hungry toddler. I have a tendency to over-cater so I like this gentle nudge towards portion control.

We have an Ikea Antilop high chair and the Happy Bowl fits quite neatly onto the tray, while the Happy Mat hangs over the sides a little. This doesn't bother me though - the more coverage the better in my opinion. Having said that, Ezpz have noted the seemingly universal popularity of the Antilop and I believe are working on a mat specifically to fit this particular highchair. Personally, I think the 'suction' element would be better described as 'sliproof' but semantics aside, it definitely works. Obviously it can still be peeled off the table by a determined toddler but there is definitely less chance of the meal being upended than with a traditional bowl or plate.

We used our mat and bowl for some very messy meals - overnight oats, pasta bolognese and yoghurt to name a few. So far, it's done a grand job. Often, I find that tomatoes and berries can permanently stain my tableware but so far it hasn't happened with the Ezpz mats. The absolute best feature is that the built-in placemat allows me to let Little Dude do his own thing with a spoon (he's all about spoon practice at the moment) then just lift up the mess and tip it into the bin or rinse it under the tap. This really saves me a lot of time in chasing squished bits of food round the highchair tray while L tries to catch them first and throw them over the side!

In terms of downsides, there is very little to call out. The Ezpz logo has indented lettering which can be a bit fiddly to clean if food gets stuck in there, but that's about it. I have a titchy microwave so I haven't tried heating food up directly in them yet (I guess other people might have the same problem), but again, that doesn't cause me any real issues.

So - overall, I think these are a fab product and they've already become a staple part of mealtimes in our house. Ezpz ship internationally from their website currently but are also working on setting up distributor in the UK - keep an eye on their website for details. Happy eating!

Note - technical details are taken from ezpz's own website/literature.