Perfect Weaning Recipes for Busy Mums

When you start to wean your baby, the last thing you want to do is prep separate meals for the whole family.

The best kinds of meals are going to be ones that you can batch cook, and have plenty leftover to make up baby sized portions and that freeze easily!

When I started weaning Olivia, I still suffered with anxiety and had a particular fear around her choking. So baby led weaning didn’t work out for us very well at first. Instead, I prepped lots of (pescetarian) meals for her and blended them up.

These are my top meals (and quick recipes) that I used a lot while weaning Olivia onto solid food!

  1. FISH PIE
  2. BOLOGNESE
  3. LASAGNE
  4. PASTA BAKE
  5. LEEK AND POTATO SOUP

Fish Pie

Ingredients:

  • Frozen White Fish Fillets x 6
  • Frozen Haddock Fillets x 4
  • Peas
  • Plain Flour (25g)
  • Butter (25g)
  • Milk (1 pint)
  • Cheese
  • Baking Potatoes x 3
  • Chives
  • Black Pepper
  • Parsley
  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
  2. Chop the potatoes and place them in a pan. Add boiling water to bring the potatoes to the boil and keep them on a medium heat. Stir regularly.
  3. In another pan, add the butter and flour. As the butter melts, whisk the butter and flour together to make a roux.
  4. Add a little milk at a time, whisking the roux into the milk. Whisk out any lumps and continue until you have used all of the milk to create the sauce. Do not let the sauce settle for too long.
  5. Sear the haddock and white fish fillets in a frying pan and remove the skin from the back of the fillets.
  6. Add cheese to the sauce and continue stirring. Add as much as you want for however cheesy you want your sauce to be!
  7. Add the fish and 2 cups full of garden peas to the sauce and stir regularly.
  8. Now add your herbs to the sauce. If you’re using ready chopped herbs, you need a pinch of black pepper, about a teaspoon of parsley, and a teaspoon and a half of chives.
  9. By now your potatoes should be soft enough to mash. Drain the water, and mash them using a splash of milk and a dash of butter.
  10. Pour the sauce, fish and peas into an oven dish.
  11. Gently scoop out the mash and spread it over the saucy layer into the oven dish. Use a fork to spread the mash so that it covers the dish evenly.
  12. Add more cheese to the top and put it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned.

This can easily make 6 portions, and is very easy to blend thanks to the sauce!

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients:

  • Mince / Quorn Mince (500g)
  • Chopped Tomatoes (2 tins)
  • Carrots
  • Brown Onion
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Cheese
  • Spaghetti
  • Tomato Puree
  • Black Pepper
  • Basil
  1. Put a little bit of oil in the bottom of your slow cooker and turn the heat onto low.
  2. Peel and chop the onion and add that to the slow cooker.
  3. Crush the garlic and add to the slow cooker.
  4. Add the mince/quorn mince and chopped tomatoes.
  5. Stir the pot thoroughly.
  6. Peel and chop the carrots and add to the slow cooker.
  7. Add some tomato puree and stir the pot again.
  8. Add your herbs and stir again.
  9. Now you can leave your pot and come back to it later. I don’t tend to leave it more than 4 hours, even on a low heat, without stirring!
  10. About 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner, boil enough spaghetti for all of you. Then drain once cooked.
  11. Grate your cheese (cheddar or parmesan).
  12. Plate up and garnish with your cheese on top! The leftovers can be blended up for baby to enjoy with you, and are easy to freeze.

Lasagne

Ingredients:

  • Mince / Quorn Mince (500g)
  • Chopped Tomatoes (2 tins)
  • Aubergine x 1
  • Courgette x 2
  • Brown Onion
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Cheese
  • Lasagne Sheets
  • Tomato Puree
  • Black Pepper
  • Basil
  • Easy Mix Béchamel Sauce / Ready Made White Lasagne Sauce
  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
  2. If you need to prepare your Béchamel sauce, do that now.
  3. Put a little bit of oil into a frying pan and turn the heat onto low.
  4. Peel and chop the onion and add that to the pan. Stir until the onion starts to go transparent.
  5. Crush the garlic and add to the pan.
  6. Brown the mince/quorn mince and then add chopped tomatoes and stir.
  7. Stir the pot thoroughly.
  8. Chop the aubergine and courgettes and add to the mixture.
  9. Add some tomato puree and your herbs and stir again.
  10. Leave the pan to simmer while you pre-boil your lasagne sheets.
  11. Lay as many lasagne sheets as required on the bottom of your oven dish, then pour about half of your lasagne on top.
  12. Pour some of your Béchamel / White Lasagne Sauce over the lasagne.
  13. Repeat no. 11
  14. Top off your lasagne with more lasagne sheets, and the rest of your Béchamel / White Lasagne Sauce.
  15. Grate your cheese (cheddar or parmesan) and sprinkle it over the top of your lasagne.
  16. Cook for 30 minutes or until the cheese has all melted and begins to brown.
  17. Plate up – the leftovers can be blended up for baby to enjoy with you, or for you to have on another rainy day.

Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

  • Fusilli Pasta
  • Chopped Tomatoes (1 tin)
  • Tinned Tuna Chunks
  • Cheese
  • Tomato Puree
  • Garlic Puree
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Sweetcorn
  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.
  2. Boil enough pasta to fill your oven dish when cooked. Remember that pasta doubles in size when cooked, so don’t do too much!
  3. Drain your pasta and put it back in the pan. Add your tomatoes, tuna and sweetcorn. Depending on how much pasta you’re making, you may need more than 1 tin of chopped tomatoes.
  4. Stir the pot and add your purees.
  5. Grate some cheese. Add about half to your pot and continue stirring.
  6. Now add your herbs and stir thoroughly before you pour the pasta into an oven dish.
  7. If you’re not making baby a portion, add some crunched up crisps to the top of the pasta to make it nice and crunchy once baked. If you are making a baby portion, it’s probably best to just sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Plate it up and blend/keep the rest for baby! Pasta is a great weaning food because it’s soft and easy for little ones to pick up with their hands.

Leek and Potato Soup

This one is one of my all time favourite recipes, so I’ve blogged it before! Check it out here.

This one is also great fun for babies because

  1. it’s already blended
  2. they get to munch on bread and butter with it

What are your favourite weaning recipes for your tots? Have you used any of these ones before?

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7 Top Tips for Shopping with Food Allergies

My son was 5 months old when we finally established that the reason for his slow weight gain, reflux, explosive nappies, wheezing and general discomfort was CMPA – Cows’ Milk Protein Allergy.

As we were just about to  embark on weaning we had to learn to shop for allergies pretty quickly, and by this point my maternity pay had stopped so we had to do it on a budget. One stroll down the “free from” aisle in any supermarket will tell you that allergy shopping can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, so here are my top tips for allergy shopping:

1. Plan meals around things that don’t usually contain your allergen(s)

It might seem obvious but sometimes its hard to see past ‘replacement’ items and look at what is already available to you. For us there are a lot of things that are fine to eat without changing anything. Pasta, noodles, rice, bread and potatoes are usually all dairy free as are fresh fruit and veg and meats. for people with a gluten allergy there is still rice, potatoes and rice noodles before you have to start looking at ‘free from’ alternatives.

2.  Search for vegan recipes rather than “dairy free” or “egg free”

Veganism is growing in popularity fast, there are a huge amount of vegan recipes out there that you can make as they are or add whatever you like. Dairy free and egg free are a little more niche when it comes to cooking blogs and videos. Having a good selection of meal ideas is going to make your planning and shopping easier and cheaper.

3. Swerve the free from aisle and look at value products.

My favourite example is garlic bread. In Tesco they sell a free from garlic baguette for £2.50 and an Everyday Value garlic baguette for 35p. Both are dairy free. Asda’s own brand mince pies are 89p and vegan so dairy and egg free and Lidl ‘Simply’ white loaf is the unicorn of breads – it is dairy free like most bread but also contains no soya flour. **Correct at the date of my last shop in each supermarket**

4. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS read the label.

Sometimes they sneak milk products into the funniest of places, like the sliced sandwich chicken in ASDA or Bernard Matthews Turkey slices with added milk proteins. Even if you’ve had something before, check again because recipes change.

Don’t just check the ingredients though, the allergy advice below can be important. A lot of products in Sainsbury’s and ASDA have the phrase “not suitable for milk allergy sufferers due to manufacturing methods”. This basically means that there is a very high chance of cross contamination with milk products.

5. Get your chocolate fix on the cheap

There are free from chocolate options available but normal dark chocolate is often dairy free and a fraction of the cost. Instant hot chocolate powders contain milk but Cadbury Drinking Chocolate has a dairy free recipe (it says may contain traces which can be fine in some families) so pop some of that in a cup of oat milk and have a creamy hot chocolate.  Bourbon biscuits, for the most part, are also dairy free but that can vary massively from brand to brand so check the packet!

6. Shop around

Alternative milks are perhaps one of the unavoidable free from products. We like oat milk best of all and that can come with a pretty hefty price tag. ASDA is usually the cheapest for fortified Oatly and Morrisons for Oatly Barista when we can get to one. Sometimes they come up on offer on Amazon or  other online retailers so its worth checking around from time to time and stocking up when you find your milk at a good price. Recently, Alpro Hazelnut milk was on 3 for £3 so I stocked up on that for myself and let my son keep drinking our more pricey oat milk stash.

7. Find other allergy families

The best source of information, recipes and bargain tip offs is other people with allergies. I’m in several Facebook support groups and when there’s an offer on they always let us know. They will share their experiences with certain products and let us know if they are worth buying or whether to give them a miss.  I also have some local friends whose children have allergies and it can be much easier to have lunch dates with them because their food will either be safe to share or they will understand the importance of the children not sharing.

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15 Minute Vegetable Rice

The beauty of this is that you can make it suit you and your family. You can add or take away bits depending on what you have in your cupboards and what you like to eat. We regularly eat it as a whole meal but it can be a tasty side dish (or just make  it to save some pennies on take away rice when your order a curry).

Before we get to the nitty gritty let me just say this; I HATE recipes. They always have some obscure thing that isn’t sat in your cupboards or one ingredient that’s crazy expensive and occasionally require you to have a very large piece of equipment that can only be used to do one very specific task. So, this isn’t a recipe as such – it’s an idea. A beautiful, lazy dinner idea that you can feel great about. 
 
 
You will need:
  • A chopping board
  • A knife
  • A saucepan with a lid
  • A hob
  • Running water 
  • Maybe a cheese grater
  • A measuring jug (and yes, you can use a baby bottle to measure, no judgement)
  • Kitchen scales or cup measures
  • Sieve or muslin
  • Rice (I recommend basmati but long grain is fine)
  • Assorted vegetables 
  • Herbs and spices of your choosing
  • Stock cube 
 
 
You can put any vegetables you like in this, if they have a longer cooking time like most root veg then grate them and if they’re fast cooking then chopping is fine. I like to buy onions, cabbage and carrots, prep them and freeze them so they can just be grabbed from the freezer and thrown into dishes like this. 
The only bit of measuring you need to do is with the rice – 70-80g per person and then twice as much water (140ml – 160ml). Brown rice or long grain rice may need a little extra so check your packet or just add about a quarter again. If you don’t have scales you can do it by volume using the 1:2 ratio. 
 
  1. Bring your water to the boil with your stock, herbs and spices and a handful of each of your chosen veg – we like turmeric, mixed herbs, veggie stock, onion, carrot, cabbage and peas. Love the lid on so you don’t lose too much water.
  2. Rinse your rice! This stops it going stodgy and clumpy. Pop it in the sieve or a muslin and run cold water through it until it’s basically clear.
  3. Add your rice to the boiling water and veg and STIR ONCE. Don’t be tempted to keep stirring.
  4. Pop the lid on and bring it to the boil again.
  5. Once it’s boiling turn it down to a simmer and stand back for 12 minutes. Just leave it. Don’t take the lid off, don’t stir it.  
  6. Once your 12 minutes are up take it off the heat, get a fork and  shift a bit of rice to the side. If you still have water in there pop the lid on and  simmer it in one minute intervals until the water is gone.  You probably won’t need to unless you’re making rice for 6 people though. 
  7. Fluff it up with a fork and serve! 
 
The beauty of this is that you can make it suit you and your family. You can add or take away bits depending on what you have in your cupboards and what you like to eat. We regularly eat it as a whole meal but it can be a tasty side dish (or just make  it to save some pennies on take away rice when your order a curry). Sometime we fry up some cooking bacon with courgette and have that with it and some times we fry the rice up with eggs.  I love having this versatile dish under my belt and best of all? It looks like I’ve made an effort when I reeeeally haven’t. 

Pictured:  curried vegetable rice with tortilla chips – beef stock, curry powder, mixed herbs, onion and carrot

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The ups and downs of baby led weaning

I began giving her finger foods like cucumber sticks and avocado wedges to munch on, but every time she coughed I was convinced she was choking. My partner must have been sick of my overreacting, but I didn’t see it as that at the time. There was nothing melodramatic, I really thought she wasn’t breathing when she clearly was.

Our weaning journey began what feels like a million years ago, but it was actually only 10 months ago.

My experience of weaning Olivia may have been very different to others’ experiences, but I think that some of the worries and concerns would be the same as any other mum starting to wean their little monster!

At four and a half months old, Olivia was so interested in everyone’s food. She was rolling and pulling herself along the floor, and could sit up all by herself. She also had a habit of putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, and trying ever so hard to pinch my food and eat it, so her hand eye coordination was good enough for weaning too. But I didn’t feel ready.

My baby was giving me all of the signs to say that she was ready to wean, and so the day before she was 5 months old, she had her first rusk. I watched her like a hawk, terrified that she would choke on a bit of it, but she was absolutely fine and she loved it.

That was the beginning, and it started relatively well. I began giving her finger foods like cucumber sticks and avocado wedges to munch on, but every time she coughed I was convinced she was choking. My partner must have been sick of my overreacting, but I didn’t see it as that at the time. There was nothing melodramatic, I really thought she wasn’t breathing when she clearly was.

She was fast approaching six months old, the recommended age for weaning babies, and so pressure from my health visitor was increasing to let her try a variety of foods herself, and I said yes and went along with it. Every mealtime was emotionally traumatic for me. Every mealtime I ended up in tears and snatched the food away from Olivia, throwing it out and replacing it with milk. It was so hard to be sure that she wasn’t choking and that she was fine. Around that time I was re-diagnosed with depression and anxiety having spent two months thinking everything had gone away by itself, and that explained my irrational fear of the little one coughing at mealtimes, but it’s also a common feeling for new, first time mums to feel so worried about choking. I attended all of the save a baby’s life and baby weaning workshops at the local health centres, but it didn’t prepare me for how hard it would be not to assume the worst and overreact at the slightest spluttering.

It didn’t help being told that it was normal and that every new mum gets paranoid, because personally I don’t believe that it’s true. Why are people on the outside so quick to paint as wide a brushstroke as possible to say what is normal? What is normal for me isn’t normal for somebody else. My obsessive anxiety over feeding my daughter was not normal for me, and once I stopped trying to be normal and follow the advice of other mums, my own maternal instinct was allowed to kick in.

I convinced the health visitor that baby led weaning was too hard for me, listening to my partner who didn’t want to see me and our baby crying our eyes out at every meal. I was able to finally speak for myself and access support, not unhelpful advice that clearly wasn’t working for me. She helped me work out a proper feeding schedule, phasing in a ready-brek breakfast, a pureed lunch and a pureed dinner, healthy vegetarian options incorporating different flavours and textures. Choosing not to continue with baby led weaning didn’t mean that Olivia wasn’t going to experience different foods, or that she wasn’t going to learn how to eat (as my partner kept reminding me).

As my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened, we fell back into baby led weaning as if she’d been doing it all along. She took food off my plate, she had fruit and vegetable finger foods, and we switched to toast for breakfast for her to feed herself.

She’s now 15 months old, loves her food, and has absolutely no problems navigating lumps and bumps in her meals. Most foods she feeds herself, some are still semi-mashed up and spoon-fed. Looking back on the first 2/3 months of weaning, it seems silly and unnecessary that I worried so much. I desperately wanted to be able to do something right, after having a ton of trouble breastfeeding I think I wanted to compensate.

There was nothing to compensate for. She was fed, happy, healthy, loved and looked after. Who cares how we do it, as long that’s what we do?

It may take time to find your groove, but it’s there, and everything does click into place in the end.