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Us and the kids

About this blog

Mealtimes can be quite a challenge in our house. First up, I have to cater for myself, who could stand to lose a few pounds (or even stone), and Hubby, who is thin as a rake with an annoyingly fast metabolism and is prone to headaches if his blood sugar drops too low. Then there's Dearest Son, aged nearly five, who sees eating as a chore rather than a pleasure, unless of course it's junk food with zero nutritional value. Add to the mix Darling Daughter, who is six months old and getting started with weaning, and you can probably see how hard it can be to cook a meal that the whole family can (and will) eat.

I'm sure there must be other families out there facing a similar challenge, which is why I decided to start blogging a few of my favourite recipes and hacks, in the hope that other mummies (and daddies) may find them useful.

Review: Lunchbox Cheeses

Reviews Posted on Thu, August 18, 2016 22:53:53

Everyone in our family loves cheese, and individually wrapped cheese portions are a staple of Dearest Son’s lunchbox, as well as making a regular appearance at snack time, in picnics (for the adults as well as the kids), and on Darling Daughter’s highchair tray (and smeared on her clothes, on us, on the floor etc…) There are many brands out there, and we’ve probably tried most of them, generally going by what’s on offer at Tesco’s that week. Here’s a review of our favourites.

Mini Babybel

Normal price: £1.85 for 6 portions; £2.74 for 12 portions
Salt content per 100g: varies (1.6-1.8g)
Pros: One of Dearest Son’s favourites. Available in several varieties (including a low fat version).
Cons: Quite rubbery and artificial tasting. Lots of wrapping, which generally ends up all over the floor. Expensive when they’re not on offer.
Verdict: 6/10

Tesco Goodness Mild Cheddar Sticks
Normal price: £1 for 6 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Cheap. Easy shape for baby to hold. Also available in a low fat version.
Cons: A little bland tasting.
Verdict: 8/10

Tesco Goodness Dinosaur Shapes
Normal price: £1 for 5 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun shape; popular with Dearest Son’s friends when they come for lunch.
Cons: Dearest Son seems to prefer the more conventional shapes; it’s also awkward for Darling Daughter to hold.
Verdict: 7/10

Cathedral City Chedds Nibbles
Normal price: £1.50 for 6 bags
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun to eat. A bit more flavour than some other cheeses. Often on offer.
Cons: A bit fiddly to eat; no good for Baby-Led Weaning.
Verdict: 7/10

Cathedral City Chedds Towers
Normal price: £1.50 for 9 portions
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Good flavour. Perfect size and shape for Darling Daughter to hold. Good value as you get more portions per pack.
Cons: A bit small.
Verdict: 8/10

Cathedral City Chedds Shapes

Normal price: £1.50 for 5 bags
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Fun. Good flavour.
Cons: Draws lunchtime/snack-time out as kids end up playing with them before eating them. Too fiddly for Baby-Led Weaning.
Verdict: 7/10

Cheestrings
Normal price: £1.50 for 4; £2.75 for 8
Salt content per 100g: 1.9g
Pros: Some of Dearest Son’t friends seem to enjoy the novelty value of peeling it and playing with it. Often on offer. Available in different varieties.
Cons: Dearest Son tends to be drawn in by the use of film characters etc on the packaging, and will ask me to buy them, but then doesn’t actually like the taste much. They’re rubbery and tasteless.
Verdict: 3/10

Our favourite
Cathedral City Mini Mature
Normal price: £1.65 for 6
Salt content per 100g: 1.8g
Pros: Flavoursome and creamy. When cut in half, it makes two perfectly-sized fingers for Darling Daughter to hold. Both adults and kids in our family like it.
Cons: Expensive when not on offer. Some kids might prefer a milder flavour.
Verdict: 9/10



Spaghetti

Tips and hacks Posted on Thu, August 18, 2016 21:35:05

As I get to grips with baby-led weaning, I’m finding that some meals are easier than others to share with a baby. For example, the chicken goujons and sweet potato chips in my last recipe are pretty easy to give to Darling Daughter in a way that she can grasp them and self-feed; however, if I were to try this with a plate of spaghetti bolognese, it would likely result in a lot of mess and a frustrated baby.

Often, however, a little creativity is all that’s needed to provide Darling Daughter with food that she can manage, that is not too dissimilar from what the rest of us are eating, and that takes little to no extra effort to prepare. For example, penne or fusilli pasta shapes are easy for a six-month-old to hold, soft enough for her to eat with her toothless gums, and can easily be chucked in with the pan of spaghetti to cook at the same time. (I use wholemeal spaghetti and pasta for improved nutritional value.)

Many pasta sauces are quite high in salt and sugar, and even my homemade bolognese sauce contains salty stock cubes and a little sugar – it’s what gives us the flavour my family likes, and the quantities of sugar and salt are not excessive for adults and older children, but might be a little high for a just-weaning baby. Plus, can you imagine the mess as a baby tries to self-feed it!

My solution at this early stage of weaning is what I like to call “deconstructed macaroni cheese”: a couple of pasta shapes, a couple of pieces of cheddar and a couple of cucumber sticks. Simple, easy to eat and a good mixture of foods for Darling Daughter to try.



Home-made chicken goujons with sweet potato chips

Recipes Posted on Thu, August 18, 2016 20:38:27

This recipe is always a favourite in our house. As it contains no artificial nasties or added salt, even Darling Daughter at six months old can have some cut-up bits of goujon, with a couple of the chips and some carrot sticks and broccoli.

Ingredients (serves 2 adults, a 4-year-old and a baby)

6 chicken mini breast fillets
1-2 slices wholemeal or 50/50 bread, depending on thickness
1 egg
1-2 tbsp flour
3 sweet potatoes
A little sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter or buttery margarine
Veg, to serve

Method

1) Preheat the oven to high (200 C).
2) Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chips approx. 1.5cm thick.
3) Par-boil the chips for 5 minutes or so, until they yield slightly to a fork but are still hard in the middle.
4) Meanwhile, break up the bread into a food processor and whizz it into crumbs. Put the crumbs on a plate or in a wide bowl, and lightly beat the egg in another wide dish.
5) Drain the chips, return to the pan, and shake them for a minute over a high heat to dry them and roughen up the surface (this will help them to crisp up nicely in the oven).
6) Grease a large baking tray with a little oil, and spread the chips on it in a single layer, leaving room for the chicken. (If your tray is too small, grease a second tray for the chicken.)
7) Dust the chicken mini fillets all over with flour – this will help the egg to stick. Then dunk them one at a time in the egg, coating well, then in the breadcrumbs, pressing them onto it all over. (Be prepared for your fingers to end up well coated too!) Place the breaded chicken on the baking tray.
8) Put the butter in a microwaveable jug, bowl or mug, and microwave until melted (20 secs should do it). Drizzle the melted butter all over the chicken and chips.
9) Oven bake for around 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the chips are crisp and slightly browned.
10) When nearly ready, boil or steam some veg of your choice (we used broccoli, carrot batons and runner beans last time we had this).

Our rating: 9.5/10 (see my ratings post for how I arrived at this score). I took half a mark off because it contains a little more fat than many of the meals I cook, although it’s still not horrendously fatty!

Tips

Herbs, garlic or lemon zest could all be added to the breadcrumbs for extra flavour.

This recipe also works well with boneless fish fillets (cod, salmon or whatever – we often use river cobbler as a cheaper alternative to cod). You can either bread them whole, or cut into ‘fish fingers’ for the kids.

Normal potatoes can also be substituted for sweet potatoes, although then it’s one less towards five-a-day!



Recipe ratings explained

Introduction Posted on Thu, August 18, 2016 19:26:08

I’ll give all the recipes on this blog a rating out of 10. This rating reflects the things that I consider to be important in a family-friendly meal, such as healthiness, convenience, and of course whether everyone enjoys it.

To come up with the mark out of 10, I score the recipe one point for satisfying each of the following criteria. For example, a fish and chips takeaway would score 6/10, because it’s easy and everyone likes it, but it’s not at all healthy!

Here are the criteria:

1) It takes less than 20 minutes to prepare (not including time in the oven when I can be getting on with other things);
2) It contains at least 3 of 5-a-day (when served with any suggested accompaniments)
3) It doesn’t contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, sugar or salt;
4) I don’t have to cook something separate for either of the kids;
5) It doesn’t give anyone indigestion;
6) Hubby and I both like it;
7) Dearest Son eats at least half of his portion;
8) Dearest Son doesn’t have a meltdown while eating it;
9) Darling Daughter can eat at least some of it;
10) Darling Daughter makes it through the entire mealtime without screaming.

A score of at least 8/10 means the meal was generally a success, at least in our house, and worth posting here for others to try!