Pecan and date spelt breakfast muffins



I’ve been looking for healthier breakfast muffin recipes because, who doesn’t love cake for breakfast, especially children. And if it’s lower sugar then you’re good to go.

Helping with the Organic Trade Board’s  Wake up to Organic campaign has made me want to come up with some new ideas for breakfast. On 15th of June all over the UK independent retailers will dish up a free organic breakfast to their customers and passers by. The idea is to show easy it is to make the switch to organic. Follow us on twitter to keep up with the campaign

Gluten free

I haven’t tried this recipe with gluten free flour but I am sure it will work – you can also use gluten free oats. I am going to try to make them with buckwheat flour and will report on how well it works.

Dairy free

This recipe is dairy free but if you want to use butter instead of coconut oil or milk instead of dairy free alternatives to milk.


These muffins have no refined sugar in them – though they do have maple syrup which as a syrup is classified as sugar. I will be trying this recipe without maple syrup as I think they can easily be made without – 30ml contains about 15g of sugar which is equal to about 1.3g of sugar per muffin, the dates contribute 7g of sugar, the bananas provide just under 1.8g sugar per muffin, the coconut milk provides less than a gram. So in total each muffin has about 2 teaspoons of sugar which sounds like a lot but most shop bought muffins will be bigger portion sizes and contain 4-5 teaspoons of sugar, and they also won’t be in natural fruit form – which of course include lots of micronutrients, from vitamin B6 in the dates, to potassium in bananas. Under the latest Scientific Advisory Committee guidance this is equivalent to just over 1 teaspoon of refined sugars.

We do have some sugar in our diet in our family and I want to reduce it. Have you found that children don’t notice any changes to what you feed them, if you don’t mention it and also make those changes gradually. In between work, parenting, and walking the dog I don’t have much time to experiment in the kitchen so I need tried and tested recipes that work, like this one. These make a great treat breakfast and of course can be put in lunch boxes too.

Pecan and date spelt breakfast muffins

Vegan, soy free

Makes 12 muffins
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes

You will need…

240g white spelt flour (or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
130g dates chopped
190ml coconut milk or almond milk or other diary free milk.
2 small to medium bananas mashed (about 180g)
30ml of maple syrup
30g chia seeds
30g pumpkin seeds
50g pecans chopped
30g oats
60ml coconut oil melted
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
Medium carrot finely grated (about 80g)
pinch of salt

How to…

  • Preheat your oven to 190˚C/gas mark 5/350°F.
  • Put the mashed banana in a big bowl with the carrots, milk, maple syrup, vinegar and vanilla extract  and melted coconut oil, mix well.
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, mixed spice and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Gently fold in the seeds, nuts, dates and oats.
  • Don’t over mix as this helps keep the muffins fluffy.
  • Place the mixture in 12 muffin tins.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. You can test with a skewer and if it comes out with mixture on it bake for a few more minutes.
  • Cool on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes or so.
  • Serve with some chopped fruit and/or a cup of milk.


Dairy free salmon, broccoli and pasta bake

I came up with this recipe as my eldest daughter has gone off salmon. Usually I just cook whole salmon. I buy Wild Alaskan as that’s the most sustainable and healthy salmon you can get.* However, wild salmon extrudes white albumin when cooked at a high temperature for too long. I must have been doing one of these things as the albumin, I think was what was putting her off.  This dish will appeal to children as it makes the salmon part of a pasta dish. If you’re not avoiding dairy or gluten then just use butter, milk, and normal pasta – though I tend to buy spelt as it has a lower gluten content.


This recipe makes enough for one adult and 2 children (based on children having about 50-60g of fish and adult having about 100g).

Allergen free
This recipe was made without dairy or gluten. Though if you don’t need to avoid dairy – then you can use milk and butter. And of course use conventional wheat flour and breadcrumbs too.

You will need…
2 wild* (or if you can’t find wild then organically farmed) salmon fillets (about 200g)
1 carrot chopped
1/2 an onion whole
a few peppercorns
40g vegan unhydrogenated olive oil spread
40g gluten free flour**
400ml coconut milk drink***
100g fresh or frozen peas
200g broccoli broken into small florets
150g gluten free pasta shapes
Handful of gluten free breadcrumbs

How to…

Put the fish fillets in a heavy bottomed pan and cover with the coconut milk.
Add the chopped vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat and put the lid on so the fish is poached in the milk and the flavours of the fish and vegetables infuse the milk.
Strain the milk and dispose of the vegetables.
Put the fish fillets to one side.
Cook the pasta.
Steam the broccoli and peas.
Pre-heat the oven to about 190°c / 160°c in a fan oven or gas mark 5.

Now make the Roux…
Melt the 40g of vegan spread in a pan.
Add the flour and combine and keep stirring, for a few minutes to cook the flour through.
Now start to add the milk from the fish infusion a little a time, combining with the paste completely before adding a little more.
It takes time and care, and if you get interrupted then it’s best to take the pan off the heat as if the sauce sticks to the bottom of the pan you can end up with a lumpy sauce (though if you do end up with a lumpy sauce you can pass it through a sieve).
Once it’s completely combined, keep stirring until it’s just about to start to boil. If you want to add a bit of flavour add a teaspoon of French mustard and 30g or so of cheese.

Bring it all together…
Rinse through the pasta with cold water so it doesn’t stick together.
Flake the fish carefully by hand ensuring there are no bones remaining.
Scatter the pasta, peas, broccoli and salmon carefully and evenly in a shallow dish, and pour the sauce over it.
Top with the breadcrumbs.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

And the verdict? It was a winner, of course.

*Farmed salmon are not sustainable, they are kept in cages in the sea at high stocking density, see this article from Channel 4 on Hugh’s Fish Fight for more information. If you’re buying wild salmon too, buy from sustainable stocks as some are becoming depleted. Retailers have to label which part of the world the fish comes from, so you can check it on the Marine Conservation Society’s database.

**I used Dove’s farm gluten free flour though am sure that others would work just as well.

***This is not the coconut milk in cans but the milk alternative drink which is sold in cartons and has a thinner consistency.

Vegetarian spag bol recipe

I can’t remember when I started making this dish but it’s one of those midweek family meals that’s developed and changed over time. The best time of year to eat it is the Summer or early Autumn when courgettes, peppers and celery are all in season – that way you get 8 different vegetables into the dish. From what I’ve seen, kids really seem to like puy lentils – maybe because they aren’t soggy and they retain their firm structure – as long as they aren’t over-cooked. So it makes a good alternative to meat spaghetti bolognese. I’m not keen on pasta, so I usually a bowl of the puy lentil bolognese just by itself. If you have any raw tomatoes that have gone a bit too soft to eat in a salad, then you can chop them and add them along with the chopped tomatoes. veggie spag bol

You will need… 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika (optional) 1 teaspoon mixed herbs 1-2 garlic cloves 1 medium onion 1 medium carrot A celery stick 150g  mushrooms 1 courgette 1 pepper 400g Carton of chopped tomatoes* tablespoon tomato puree 100g puy lentils Handful of fresh basil How to… Wash and top and tail (where need be) the veg and dice. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Rinse the puy lentils and add to the boiling water. Cook for about 20 minutes until soft enough to eat but not too soft. Drain and put to one side. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sweat until softened and translucent. Add the courgette, pepper and mushrooms stir and cook for a few minutes. Add the smoked paprika and mixed herbs and cook for a few more minutes. Then put the puy lentils in and stir. Pour in the chopped tomatoes (and raw ones if you’re using them) and stir well. Add the tomato puree. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is reducing nicely (this intensify’s the flavour). You don’t want to cook it for too long though otherwise the vegetables begin to loose their colour. Add chopped basil a minute or two before you take it off the heat. Serve with pasta and parmesan. dished up veggie spag bol
Allergens You can obviously make this dish dairy free by not including the parmesan and/or egg free or gluten free by using gluten free/egg free pasta. *When I made this dish today, I used an extra 200g of chopped tomatoes that I had left over from another dish. If it looks like you need more tomatoes or liquid, just add a bit more or if you don’t have any more, just rinse out your chopped tomato carton with a little water and pour it into the pan. Or you could use 1 or two raw tomatoes.

5 minute oriental chicken soup


This is probably our favourite dish at the moment. With the light evenings the girls have been going to bed late so we have less time in the evening. This soup is perfect, because it literally takes 5 minutes to cook (and 5 minutes tops to prepare) is healthy and delicious.

I haven’t had time recently to make my own stock. I buy organic free range stock cubes, firstly because I know organic free range farming has higher animal welfare standards compared to factory farming as the chickens have access to outdoors and are kept in a lower stocking density (less chickens per square metre). Also organic farmers are not per permitted to use antibiotics. Finally under organic standards, additives such as MSG are not permitted for use. So organic is a label you can trust.

You can use a very low salt stock cube, I don’t, because I don’t eat processed foods and don’t add salt to my food, so I know i don’t have much added salt in my diet.

I often make this dish it on a day when I am making chicken stirfry for the girls, so i can use the same ingredients for both meals. Usually I just have tat soi (my favourite Chinese greens at the moment), mushrooms and sometimes purple spouting broccoli, it all depends on what I have in the fridge. Anyway, experiment and see what flavours work for you. I sometimes have a few sliced chillies on top, if you like hot food you can add it to the stock, but this makes it all too spicy for me as it infuses the whole soup. My husband has noodles in his soup but I prefer it without.

I have made a version of this with Wild Alaskan salmon which I will post soon, and will try to make it with tofu too as that will work well.

You will need…

Serves 2

2 organic skinless chicken breasts (about 200g in total)

1 organic chicken stock cube or 600ml homemade chicken stock

200g of pak choi or tat soi Washed and sliced

2-3 garlic cloves sliced

A thumbnail chunk of ginger peeled and sliced

Handful of chestnut mushrooms sliced

Half a pepper sliced (optional)

2-4 spring onions (optional)

Free range egg noodles (optional)

How to…

Bring the stock to the boil in a pan.

Add the ginger, garlic and chicken breasts whole to the stock.

The chicken needs to cook for 5 minutes and not much more otherwise it starts to toughen up.

Add the noodles to the pan and put the lid on.

A minute later add purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions and/or mushrooms.

A minute before the end add the tat soi or pak choi.

Put the lid on and allow to steam.

Divide the soup between bowls.

Slice the chicken (check that its cooked through) and arrange on top of the soup.

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with a dash of soy sauce.

What’s for lunch: mackerel with puy lentils and beetroot

Mackerel, puy lentils and beetroot

“What’s for lunch” is a series of recipes and ideas for lunches that you can share with your baby or toddler (though you don’t have to have a baby or toddler to make these dishes).

This makes a nice, easy and very nutritious lunch. The puy lentils and beetroot salad works well with feta cheese or goats cheese sprinkled on top (though those flavours are probably too strong for a little one) it makes a good packed lunch, or picnic salad.

Mackerel has just come back into season (its out of season February to May) so it’s something we have quite often now. The girls love it. I get them filleted, and then carefully check for bones before cooking (usually with tweezers) and also when I flake it for my youngest daughter after cooking.

You will need…

2-4 fillets of mackerel (if you buy 4 you will have enough left overs to make fishcakes)
100g puy lentils
4-6 bulbs of beetroot
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
A handful of salad leaves

How to…

Preheat your oven to about 200°c, gas mark 5.
Scrub about 4-5 beetroot bulbs and top and tail them and put on roasting tray.
Drizzle with olive oil and roast for between 45 minutes to an hour depending on size, until they are soft (if you haven’t got so much time then half them before roasting).
Allow to cool and then peel, cut into chucks and put to one side.

Baked the mackerel on a tray in the oven with the beetroot for about 15 minutes (or grill it).
Rinse puy lentils then cook in boiling water for about 20-30 minutes, until just soft.
Then rinse through with cold water.
Put the lentils in a bowl with the beetroot scattered on top.
I had some leftover rocket too so added that – usually I would add more, baby spinach, parsley or basil could work just as well.
Make a dressing with about 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Put in a jar and shake to mix well and then drizzle some over the lentil salad on your plate (it might be a strong flavour for your little one though you could try putting a little on their plate to mix in with the lentils, keep the rest of the dressing in the fridge.

I had a leftover roast potatoes from Sunday lunch so warmed them through for my daughter. You could give a slice of bread, some pasta shapes or other root to give a mixture of high fibre and low fibre carbs.


Nutrition bits

So you probably already know that mackerel is a fatty fish so is a good source of omega 3 fats. Overall this meal provides high amounts of protein, fibre, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12 and iodine. It provides lots of other nutrients too numerous to list.

What’s for lunch*: “Best ever spag bol” with chicken livers


I dithered  over posting this recipe, as I know people have a bit of an “ewww” reaction to liver. But logically, if you’re happy to eat a chicken’s legs why not it’s liver?

I made it last week for lunch, it’s really tasty and nutritious and the babster loved it, I gave a little taster bowl to my eldest daughter (who’s 7) and she didn’t like it, I can’t really expect her to as I’ve never gave her chicken liver, so it’s not a flavour she’s used to (the dish isn’t overly liver tasting anyway – if that makes sense). Forcing children to eat food is a very bad idea,  getting them to try a little bit of everything is the ideal.

Anyway, please keep an open mind and try it, it’s Jack Monroe’s  spaghetti bolognese recipe posted her blog last week,  – it’s adapted from a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s  latest cookbook. I didn’t include was the chilli (for obvious reasons) or the spinach because it’s not in season at the moment so is flown in from Spain. I used organic chicken livers and I slightly adapted it by not using chilli for obvious reasons or frozen spinach – because I didn’t have any.



1 carrot peeled top and tailed and sliced
1 onion sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic crushed
1tbsp olive oil
200g chicken livers

1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
1 tsp fennel seeds
390g carton of chopped tomatoes,
1 tbsp vinegar – red wine or white wine
100g red lentils
100g spaghetti

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and add the  onion, carrot and garlic.
Add the vinegar, herbs and fennel. Rinse the livers and toss them in too.
Fry everything together on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes until the veg softens and the livers are sealed.
Carefully put the veg and livers into a blender with the chopped tomatoes, and blend until fairly smooth.
Pour the contents of the blender back in the pan on a medium heat, and add 200ml water, and stir well.
Rinse the lentils well and add to the pan.
Add a little more water if the sauce starts to dry out

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spaghetti to cook.

The bolognese mixture should take about 15-20 minutes to cook – the lentils should be soft.
Drain the pasta, toss the sauce through,and top with cheese to serve.

Portion sizes

These portion sizes are based on Caroline Walker Trusts Chew guidance for the first year of life and 1-4 year olds.

7-9 months : 60g bolognese to 50g pasta plus about 20g of vegetables as finger food (for this age range you can blend the bolognese and pasta together with a little of baby’s usual milk)
10-12 months : 80g bolognese to 50g pasta plus 30g vegetables as finger food (for this age range you can blend/chop the pasta to make it easier to eat)
1-4 years : 90g bolognese to 80g pasta plus 40g vegetables

Nutrition bits

Based on the above portion sizes for a 10 month old ,this dish would provide about a quarter of their daily recommended intake for iron and magnesium, 3 times their recommended Vitamin A , nearly half their recommended Vitamin B1 intake, three quarters of their Vitamin b2 intake, just under a third of their recommend B3, half their recommended B6, all their recommended folate and vitamin B12 intakes.

Dairy, egg and gluten free

If you can easily exclude these allergens if you use pasta made from rice and/or quinoa – these pastas are usually egg free too, but check the label just in case.
*What’s for lunch is a series of posts with lunch ideas and recipes for you to share with your baby and/or toddler.  Sharing the same food is all part of the social aspect of mealtimes and you’re children learn about food and eating from eating you…

What’s for lunch: Sardine fishcakes

Sardine fishcakes


I am going to try and post some ideas for quick, easy and cheap meals to share with your baby and/or toddler at lunchtime in a series (if I manage to come up with enough ideas) called “What’s for lunch”.

Evidence shows us that children are influenced by what their parents eat and drink, this makes sense (science often tells us what we already know). So it follows that parents can have a positive or negative effect on what they’re children eat depending on their own diet. Eating  together also helps babies to learn that mealtimes are social times.

This recipe uses  breadcrumbs – don’t to throw unused loaves away, instead cut off the crusts and put them into the food processor to make breadcrumbs which you can freeze for ages.

I think fishcakes are easier for babies to handle and eat about 10 months (depending on baby’s food handling skills it may be slightly earlier than this).

Nutrition bits

This recipe uses leftover mashed potato and includes tinned sardines which are a great source of omega 3’s, protein, iron, zinc calcium and vitamin D . Also, as they are lower down the food chain, compared to tuna and marlin, they have lower levels of mercury compared to those bigger fish.

An interesting thing happens to mashed potato when it’s left to cool. Its starch structure changes in a way that lowers its GI so that energy is released more slowly into the bloodstream. Potatoes usually have a high GI (as much as 88) and research shows that it can be lowered a GI of 56 if it is allowed to cool.


You will need…

160g Mashed potato (see portion sizes below to work out what you need)
120g Tin of sardines in olive oil drained*
Chopped parsley (if you have some in – otherwise don’t worry)
1 egg beaten (use milk if your baby has an egg allergy)
Plain flour

Vegetables to serve

How to…

Drain the sardines and mash them well with a fork – no need to remove the bones as they are small and soft.
Mix the sardines with the potatoes and chopped parsley if you are using it.
Form  into 4 small cakes for babies (I made two – see photo – which were a little too big).
Put the frying pan on a medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil.**

Once you’ve got the shape and size you want dip the cakes in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs.
Fry the cakes for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Portion sizes

The portion sizes I use are from the  CHEW! guidance which is based on recommended intakes for energy and nutrients. They are meant as a guide so don’t worry if you’re baby doesn’t eat all their food that they won’t get enough nutrients.

For 10-12month baby : 40g sardines (about 1 fillet) to 60g potato plus 30g vegetables

1-4 year olds : 50g sardines to 80g potatoes plus 40g vegetables

And for you – there should be about 60g of sardines so mix with about 100g of potatoes and serve with two 80g portions of vegetables.

For babies 7-9 months

For younger babies (7-8 months) I would recommend using the ingredients (without making the fishcakes for baby), pureeing, mixing with baby’s usual milk and serving with the vegetables as finger food.  If your baby is able to eat their meal as whole food well – for my baby this is around 10 months – but your’s may be able to do this younger, then make the fish cakes rather than puree. Based on my experience, younger babies are not able to feed themselves well enough in this way, so are not able to get enough protein, iron, to meet their dietary needs. Portion sizes for this age group are 30g sardines to 50g potato and 20g vegetables.


If your baby has an egg allergy then dip in milk rather than egg to bind the breadcrumbs
If your baby has a gluten intolerance or allergy, dust in gluten free flour and use breadcrumbs from gluten free bread. You can try just dusting in flour too however the fishcakes don’t hold together so well and can be a bit too squidgy.

Postscript added 21 November 2013

Make extra of these and you can take them with you for days out – in a lunchbox – remember to keep them chilled though. I have tried freezing fishcakes before, but have found it doesn’t work well.

*Someone asked me whether they could use sardines in tomato sauce. And I dont see why not for adults but, having looked at the ingredients list, the sardines I have seen in tomato sauce have salt added, so aren’t a good option for babies, or really children, ideally.

**Ideally the fishcakes can be baked at 200°c/ 400°f/gas mark 6 on an oiled baking try for 10 minutes (turning once) – baking is healthier than frying but I didn’t have time to wait for the oven to heat up.