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Weaning: Cook ahead tricks, recipes and tips

Weaning: Cook ahead tricks, recipes and tips
Jodi Harris

Now that baby’s weaning is well underway, you are ready to start planning their meals so you can do a bit of batch cook and stock the freezer.  This blog is all about making your life easier in the kitchen, because having a crawling baby makes it busy enough!

Get all that chopping done in one go. 
Prepping ahead is the easiest way to get ahead in the kitchen both for your meals and your baby’s. So here is an idea, when making soup or casseroles for the family, make a base with onions, garlic, celery, courgette, carrots and a few herbs (Parsley is a favourite of mine but you can also use basil or rosemary, or a combination!) and reserve three good handfuls. Chop them up in your Béaba BabyCook ® and cook them gently in the rice basket until soft and fragrant. Add a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and transfer to your Béaba Multiportion ® for freezing.  Next time you need a quick purée, all you need to do is defrost a cube or two, mix with some steamed sweet potato, or a little wholemeal pasta, a little cheese, and…lunch is ready in a flash!

Another version of these gently fried veg includes tomato passata and aubergines, in which case just blend the veg above in your Béaba BabyCook ®, transfer to a casserole where you’ve heated a good glug of olive oil and fry until very soft but not brown. About 10minutes. Add a bay leaf, 500ml of passata and a finely grated aubergine (you can also chop it in the Babycook ®). Cook for 30min until the sauce has thickened and it is starting to taste nice and sweet.

You can also use this veggie-loaded tomato sauce recipe.

Make the most of your freezer…and use the space efficiently! 

Freezing is a great way of preserving food as it stops the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms, although it does not kill them and that’s why it is important to cool your food down quickly and freeze it as soon as you can to avoid bacteria growing before you put your food in the freezer.

Freeze sauces like the ones above in small portions to make small pasta meals or risottos. You can also use larger pots for family meals. Whatever you do ensure that you:

a) LABEL everything because once frozen most meals looks the same!
b) USE CONTAINERS WITH A LID because if the food is in contact with air, oxidation of nutrients will occur reducing the levels of vitamins and minerals. Lids are important too so you can stack up the containers to save space and
c) KEEP A LIST on your phone on what’s in the depths of your freezer – it can take the stress out of dinner when you are out and about and avoids food getting forgotten at the bottom of the freezer for months.

And here are some ideas to use the lovely sauces in your freezer to get dinner on the table presto!

Baked beans: just defrost your tomato and veg sauce, heat up until bubbling, add enough canned borlotti beans to feed the family and a good pinch of cumin and paprika. Simmer for 10min. Serve with wholemeal bread or a gorgeously fluffy baked potato.

Quick bolognaise: fry the mince in a little olive oil and when browned all over add your defrosted tomato sauce and whatever herbs you fancy. Serve with wholemeal pasta or quinoa. And a little Parmesan, of course!

Shepherds pie: couldn’t be easier, just proceed as per the bolognaise recipe above but add a tablespoon of flour (GF if required) to thicken the sauce and a good handful of finely chopped mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes until the mushrooms are well cooked and soft. Transfer to a baking dish (I like the glass ones as you can freeze a pie, defrost and reheat in the same tray) and top with mashed sweet potato (See below) or a mix of potatoes and other roots steamed in the Béaba BabyCook ® and mashed with a little milk and butter or olive oil and garlic if you prefer.

Chicken curry: defrost your sauce and fry pieces (bite size or minced depending of the age of our baby) of chicken thigh until brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and discard the fat from the pan. Heat up to sauce and add ground cumin, coriander, grated ginger and fresh/dried turmeric. Chili powder is an option as your little one grows. About ¼ tsp per adult. Fry for two minutes and then add the chicken back to the pan. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and serve with plenty of chopped coriander and brown rice or quinoa.

Sweet potatoes with (almost) everything 
And now that we are talking about sweet potatoes. I must admit I love these bright orange tubers and not just because they taste fantastic and are great in soups, and purées like SWEET POTATO AND GINGER PURÉE, simply roasted, as chips or veggie crisps and…even for breakfast with a good layer of savoury feta and some pomegranate seeds.

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene which is a great antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A 1 necessary for eye development 2 especially important for those on vegetarian diets as the main sources of vitamin A are animal products.

And they are a great source of fibre too, let’s not forget that babies need some fibre in their diet to keep those little tummies in check and fibre doesn’t get any tastier than sweet potatoes. So, to get ahead in the kitchen, next time you have the oven on, throw in a few well-scrubbed but unpeeled sweet potatoes (after rubbing them with a little oil and pricking them with a fork here and there) and bake them at 180C until super soft (approx. 45min depending on size). Once cold, scoop out the flesh and freeze it in your Béaba Multiportion ® for quick additions to soups, hummus and risottos.

Home-made stock 
Home-made stock or bone broth is dead easy to make and packed with nutrients including glutamine to support gut health and since having a mature and healthy gut can help prevent food sensitivities and allergies in babies, it is definitely worth the effort.

Just ensure you use organic bones and that you add a good squeeze of lemon juice to the pot to help release the nutrients. Simmer for as long as you can and once cooled, drain and freeze. Little portions are great to add a burst flavour to stews, soups, curries and tagines.

And veggie stock is a fab idea too, just blitz all sorts of veggies in your Béaba Babycook ®, including onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, courgettes and whatever odd ends you’ve got in the fridge, and transfer to a casserole, cover with water, add a bay leaf and some herbs and simmer for 45mins. Strain and once cool, freeze in small, medium or even large containers to suit your cooking!

Finger foods for weaning and beyond 
As your baby grows or if you are following the baby-led weaning method, he will start enjoying feeding himself pretty soon, so finger foods make a great lunch or addition to his dinner.

Prep your fresh finger foods too
Wash and chop broccoli, carrots, mini corn cobs, cucumber, quartered cherry tomatoes on the day of the week you have more time, then store them in an airtight container (important to prevent oxidation) and keep in the fridge to use during the rest of the week.

Burgers, patties and cakes 
There is nothing easier than to whip up a batch (or two as the kids grow up and develop and appetite to match!) of fish, turkey or veggie patties for dinner. A few fresh ingredients, a few bits from the cupboard and 15mn later, dinner is ready!

When talking patties, here are a few tricks:

Always add one veggie: sweet potato to your fish cakes, aubergine to your meat balls and spinach to your turkey bites. Not only adds to the nutrition kudos of the patties but counts as one portion of veg. Adding a veg also helps with texture by adding moisture.

First of all, ditch the white breadcrumbs. Make your own wholemeal breadcrumbs with the Béaba BabyCook ® and reduce the gluten by adding oats, seeds and even ground almonds to the blender. I like adding ground flax and chia seeds for a good helping of fibre and omega 3.

When making your fish cakes or burgers it always helps to put the fish already cut in cubes in the freezer for 30min, that way it doesn’t start cooking while blending. I use a mix of white and oily fish – for a good combination of omega 3 and flavour.

And…bring on the veggie protein! It is a good idea to get your kids to try beans and pulses from an early age because they are a fantastic source of lean protein and are high in fibre. It is seriously easy to make bean patties and have them in the freezer for a quick falafel-style dinner. Just add hummus, chopped tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers and avocado and serve with wholemeal pitta bread.

For freezing, I quickly harden the patties on a baking tray lined with parchment or a silicone mat. After 45min-1hr, or as soon as they are hard to the touch, I transfer them to a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. And I label the box, including the number of patties so I can keep track of how many I’ve got left.

Here are a few ideas for patties: lamb koftas, tofu and cashew burgers, butterbean burgers, sweetcorn and pea fritters, turkey bites, gyoza, Mexican corn cakes and mussel fritters.
Saturday breakfast: pancakes for baby and…the freezer too! 

Weekends are the perfect time to make a batch of fluffy pancakes. Here is my favourite recipe:  Banana and buckwheat pancakes
I blend 2 eggs (for protein), 250ml of milk (non-dairy is fine) and a ripe banana for sweetness in my Babycook ® until smooth.
Then I transfer the mix to a large glass measuring jar and add enough of the following ingredients for the batter reaches a custard-like consistence
2 cups (give or take) wholemeal flour (for fibre and B vitamins)
2-3 tbps ground fax seeds (for omega3)
a touch of  buckwheat flour (depends on how much wheat flour you’ve already used) to reduce the gluten load.
½ tsp bicarb and ½ tsp baking powder
I let the batter rest for 30min and then add 2 tbsp of fat, I prefer organic melted butter or coconut oil.
I fry my pancakes gently, in a little butter or coconut oil and serve them with blueberries or pomegranate for a perfectly balanced breakfast.
For 9-24 month old children it can be fun to make mini-pancakes so they can feed themselves.

These pancakes are totally delicious and a doddle to make but what I really love about them is that older kids can get involved in the making and cooking and that you get to freeze some in between sheets of parchment for a speedy week-day breakfast. Just remember to defrost them overnight in the fridge and reheat in a low oven (100C) for 15min until warm and super soft.

A little baking on Sundays…. 
Muffins both sweet and savoury are great for snacks and breakfast. And they are not just good for little ones, older children and adults will love them too. So get a large batch ready on Sunday and enjoy with all the family. Here is one of our favourites – BLUEBERRY CORNMEAL MUFFINS

Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/