Mushroom and red lentil pasta for #meatfreeMonday

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I made this last night at 11pm, when I realised my daughter needed lunch for the Childminders today. It’s easy peasy, one of those pasta sauces you throw together at the last minute, not sure whether it’s going to work and it does, as long as the little person likes mushrooms…

I’ve stopped eating meat since the beginning of January, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, and it’s great. While I am not stopping the rest of the family from eating meat, I am not cooking it! So am looking for more vegetarian recipes that include high quality protein like lentils, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds, and eggs, that also appeal to the kids.


Mushroom and red lentil pasta
You will need…

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, top and tailed peeled and grated
50g red lentils, rinsed
about 6 mushrooms sliced (have more if you want_
Teaspoon of dried oregano (or mixed herbs)
Carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
100g water

How to…

  • Heat the oil in a pan
    Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened
    Add the dried herbs and mushrooms.
    Stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
    Add the lentils and stir well.
    Add the tinned tomatoes and about 100g water.
    Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is nice and rich and the lentils cooked through.

You can make this dish gluten free, using gluten free pasta and it’s vegan if you don’t have the cheese.

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Cheap eats January #9: Minestrone soup

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Easy to make, tasty to eat. Children love having pasta in soup too.

 

You will need…

2 medium onions (red are best but white are fine if that’s what you’ve got) halved and sliced
2 medium carrots, top and tailed, peeled and sliced
1 stick celery sliced
600ml of vegetable or chicken stock*
100g dried borlotti beans soaked overnight and boiled for about an hour and a half
Carton of chopped tomatoes**
100-150g savoy cabbage shredded
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of pasta (gluten free if need be)

 
How to…

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook until soft and onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and tomatoes, stir well.
Pour in the stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the pasta and the beans and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Serve topped with grated parmesan or cheddar and crusty bread.

*Ideally use low salt stock or home made
*If tomatoes are in season, use 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped.

Cost

This soup costs £2.43 to make and serves 4-6 people. If you use organic bacon then it costs £4.58 to make.

Nutrition

A quarter of this soup for an adult will provide good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin C and some calcium, and magnesium an, iron and zinc, as well as selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6

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

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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.

 

Ingredients

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…

Meatballs and pasta

This is the recipe daughter number 1 made in the Kids Kitchen at the Abergavenny Food Festival last year.

It doesn’t take long to make a batch of meatballs, and if you freeze some of them, they defrost quickly for midweek meals.

I have sometimes bought organic meatballs, but it’s so much cheaper to make your own. And I have noticed that some of the non-organic meatballs have water added as well as salt and additives – so not only are you paying more for someone else to make your meatballs but you’re also paying for water (and a slightly lower protein content).

My youngest is about 8 months in this photo. You can just about see that I made the meatballs into longer sausage shapes for her to hold and eat. Younger babies haven’t yet learnt to hold things using pincer grasp so if you are going to serve as a finger food you need to make them long enough for them to grasp and have enough meat on the end to eat too. I tried this a couple of times but found a lot of the meat got wasted/not eaten so it was easier to put in with the pasta and sauce. I do usually give some of the pasta as finger food as she enjoys eating it this way, and the 7 year old does too now.

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Sometimes if I am using a batch of meatballs from the freezer I  just chop them up with the pasta for baby, for spoon-feeding along with some veggie’s as a finger food. If you are pureeing rather than chopping food (for younger babies) and you don’t have an older child you might just like to stick with spaghetti bolognese rather than going to the bother of making meatballs.

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You will need…

…for the meatballs
500g organic (ideally lean) beef or lamb mince
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil (but if you don’t have any fresh herbs use a tablespoon of dried mixed herbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan

… how to make the meatballs
Mix all the ingredients together (except the olive oil which is for frying) and shape into small balls, the size of cherry tomatoes. The recipe from Kid’s Kitchen gives details of how to steam cook the meatballs, which is healthier. But I have to admit to shallow frying in a the olive oil. turning regularly to brown all over (don’t over-brown them though).

Use what you need and freeze the rest between parchment/grease proof paper in airtight containers. They’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of days and in the freezer for a couple of months.

…for the tomato sauce
tablespoon of olive oil
1 garlic clove finely chopped
handful of fresh basil, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon of dried mixed herbs if that’s all you have in)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
tablespoon of tomato puree

Heat the olive oil, add the garlic clove and before it starts turning brown add the dried herbs (if using) and chopped and pureed tomatoes, stir and simmer for 10 minutes, add the meatballs 5 minutes before serving along with the fresh herbs (if using). Serve with pasta and a little fresh parmesan.

In the Summer I sometimes make the tomato sauce with garlic, onion and red pepper, adding the tomatoes after they have softened.

Portion sizes

These portion sizes are a guide to help you know roughly how much to give. I don’t weigh out portion sizes for every meal. But by weighing portion sizes out a few times I’ve learnt to estimate portion sizes by sight:

7-9 months: 30g meatballs to 70g tomato sauce and 20g vegetables as finger food
10-12 months: 40g meatballs to 80g tomato sauce and 30g vegetables as finger food
1-4 years: 50g meatballs to 100g tomato sauce and 1 x 40g portions of vegetables

Nutrition bits

You can use either lamb or beef mince. Opt for British, ideally organic. Whilst lamb and beef is usually grassfed, buying organic ensures that the animal is grassfed as it’s integral to the legal organic standards.

Meat from grassfed has higher levels of omega 3’s. Compared to grain fed animals, the saturated fat from grass fed animals have higher levels of the saturated fat, stearic acid, which does not increase cholesterol levels and conversely has lower levels of the two saturated fats that cause increased cholesterol (myristic and palmitic). Grassfed meat also has been found to have higher levels of anitoxidants, Vitamin’s A and E and glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Both these meats are also very good sources of protein, iron and zinc.

Red meat does get a bad press, but it can make a valuable contribution to a balanced healthy diet – especially for younger children – who are at higher risk of iron and zinc deficiency. It’s also worth remembering that most studies of beef consumption in the US, will be based on what most people eat which is intensively reared cattle on feedlots where the cattle eat grain and in particular maize, which causes all sorts of health problems for the animals and also means the meat has a less healthy profile compared to grassfed.

Autumn squash spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is such a family staple in the UK. I can remember my mum’s in the 70’s. I don’t think it had any herbs, except a bayleaf or two. When I first left home, I made my spag bol the same way, but over the years it’s gone through so many changes.

In the Summer I put peppers and courgettes in but come the Autumn, they go out of season. So I wanted to try something Autumnal so thought of trying squash or pumpkin along with red lentils.

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As this was the first time I made it this way I wasn’t sure whether the lentils would work, so I only used 50g. I think you could increase the amount of lentils and decrease the amount of beef mince. Adding pulses or beans to meat dishes makes them go further and therefore cheaper. Lentils and beans are good sources of protein, complex carbohydrates and valuable minerals and vitamins.

I am going to try and experiment a bit with the lentils and mince ratio, am sure you could make it with just the lentils (so it would be a vegetarian/vegan) dish but would need to look at whether to add stock as the lentils absorb alot of liquid. When I get a chance I will add to this post on that.


Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove chopped
500g organic British beef mince (ideally lean)
1 onion diced
1 stick of celery washed, top and tailed and diced
1 carrot top and tailed and diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or dried if that’s what you’ve got)*
1 squash**
200ml low salt stock or water
1 tablespoon mild smoked paprika
1 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Pasta (of course, though I have to say I’m not keen on pasta, while the rest of the family is, so I often have puy lentils with my pasta sauce instead of pasta)

How to…

Heat your oven to  200°c/ 400°f/gas mark 6.
Wash and cut the squash into chunky slices, cutting out the seeds in the middle (which you can roast separately in olive oil as a snack).
Mix with two tablespoons of olive oil and rub with smoked paprika then roast in a preheated tray for 20 minutes until just browning at the edges.
Allow to cool and then cut off the skin and chop into smaller bite size chunks.
Put to one side to add to the spag bol sauce later.

To make the spag bol

Sweat the onion, carrot and celery in a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
When they are becoming translucent add the garlic.
Keep stirring so that the vegetables don’t brown.
Then add the mince, breaking it up, but not too much so you keep some texture.
Cook the mince until browned, stirring often.
Add the red lentils and thyme and cook for a few more minutes.
Stir in the tinned tomatoes and the tomato puree and stock or water.
Simmer for about 25 minutes or so, until the lentils are soft.
About 10 minutes towards the end of cooking add the squash and stir well.
Put the water on for the pasta and cook.
Serve with parmesan and side salad or veggie sticks.
Make sure it’s cooled down enough for your little ones.

For babies

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If  your weaning, and you don’t want to introduce gluten to your baby’s diet yet or because baby has a possible allergy or intolerance, you can use pasta made from quinoa or corn.

This recipe is suitable from about 7 months onwards, once simple first foods have been introduced. I do try as much as possible to make the same meals for the whole family, including baby, as this keeps life simple. There is no reason why babies can’t have the same as long as no salt is added or hot spices used.

For younger babies, the dish can be thinned a little with babies usual milk and then pureed to suitable consistency. From about 10 months onwards it just needs a little chopping – depending on what your baby is used to. I usually serve spoon feeding dishes like this alongside finger food. You could save some of the squash slices for your baby to have as finger food. I also give some of the pasta as a finger food.

Portion sizes

Just to give a guide on recommended portion sizes, I use Caroline Walker Trust’s CHEW! guidance. This portion size guidance was designed for early years settings, and is useful for parents too. They are based on recommended intakes for babies.

So for 7-9 month olds give about 60g of bolognese and 50g pasta with 20g veggie finger food
10-12 months : 70g bolognese and 50g pasta with 30g veggie finger food
1-5 years : 180g bolognese and 120g pasta with two 40g portions of veggies

*You can freeze the fresh herbs you buy – just put them in a sealed freezer bag.

**I used a Harlequin Squash which was about 1 kg

Weaning recipe #2: Salmon and creme frâiche pasta pesto

Salmon creme fraiche pasta pesto

I came up with this recipe when my 7 year old was having salmon with new potatoes and vegetables.

I am weaning using a mixture of finger foods and purees/mashed/chopped dishes (more details in another blog post to follow).

This recipe works just as well with chicken instead of salmon (e.g. leftovers from Sunday lunch).

As shop-bought pesto has salt added it’s not ideal for babies. So I whizzed up my own – it doesn’t take long if you have a hand held blender or food processor. You can freeze what you don’t use in ice cube trays or it keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

I used pine nuts, but if you or your partner have food allergies, eczema or asthma, your baby is at a higher risk of having a food allergy, so make pesto without the pinenuts. (see the NHS website for more information on foods that can cause food allergies). And of course, if you know your baby already has an allergy or has eczema or asthma then just exclude the pine nuts from the recipe.

When you’re preparing the basil do it alongside your baby if you can, so they can be involved in the food preparation. If you grow you own, they could “help” you to pick the leaves and help to wash them. Or just being able to explore the leaves through touch, smell and best of all, taste. The leaves are quite big so it’s a good idea to tear them into small, manageable pieces and at around this age, babies are developing their pincer hold – as shown in the photo below.

Exploring basil

Ingredients for pesto (Makes about 20 x teaspoon portion)


50g basil (washed)
6 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
15g (1 tbsp) pine nuts
30g (2 tbsps) parmesan
Quarter of a garlic clove

How to…

Put in food processor and whizz until quite but not completely smooth – see photo below.

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Ingredients for the pasta dish (makes 3 portions)

100g (approx) Organic or wild Alaskan salmon fillet* (you need 30g cooked salmon per portion**)
Lemon wedge
150g cooked pasta*** (usually equal to 50g uncooked weight)
45g (3 level tablespoons) half fat organic creme frâiche
15g (3 teaspoons) pesto

How to…

Bake the salmon fillet in foil for 20 minutes at about 200˚C / gas mark 6 / 400˚F for 15-20 minutes (until it flakes easily).
Meanwhile cook the pasta as per instructions.
Run a little cold water through the pasta so it doesn’t stick together and put in a bowl.
If you are using larger pasta shapes or spaghetti then chop it up into mangeable pieces.
Once you have taken the salmon out of the oven, allow it to cool and remove the skin (if you haven’t already)
Break the salmon into small pieces with your fingers that are easy to eat.
Take your time as this way you can make sure you’ve removed all the bones.
Put all the ingredients into a bowl together with a squeeze lemon juice and stir.
If you are making this for a younger baby (7 or 8 months) then thin a little with baby’s usual milk and whizz briefly with blender to make to the consistency required.
Divide into three portions (each about 100g).****
Serve with two types of seasonal vegetables as finger food.

*Make sure that you are buying salmon from sustainable sources by using the Marine Stewardship Council’s product finder on their website.

**30g portion of cooked fish for 7-9 month olds, about 40g portion for 10-12 month olds, for children between 1-4 years about 45g per portion and 5-11 year olds about 90g (all from the Caroline Walker Trust CHEW! Guidance which you can download online)

***I’ve used orzo pasta as this is easy for babies to eat at around 8-9 months and does not need chopping. Any other pasta is fine too, it just needs chopping up.

****It will keep in the fridge for two days. You can freeze portions too and it will keep in the freezer for about 2 months.

Abergavenny Food Festival 2012 : The Food Academy lamb meatballs and pasta recipe

We got back from Abergavenny late on Sunday night and what with loosing my USB camera cable, being 6 months pregnant and recovering from such a wonderful festival, it’s taken a few days to get to this blog post.

We stayed with my lovely friend, Cath Fookes (who is festival co-ordinator) and her family.

I hadn’t been to Wales for years and had forgotten how beautiful the countryside is. This is a view from the Castle Field where we spent most of our weekend.

My daughter’s festival highlight, aside from running around and making new friends, had to be the Food Academy.

The sessions she went to were run by Jethro Carr of Kitchen Academy in Brighton who has an impressive list of clients, from Kids Company, BBC Good Food Show, Soil Association to FareShare, Fair Trade, Womad and Brighton and Hove food and drink festival.

There were more sessions, which we missed, unfortunately, delivered by Alex Mackay, Patron of Kids Cookery School charity (I saw children coming out with delicious looking “Everyway burgers” in baps) and Richard Bertinet of Bertinet Kitchen Bakery in Bath who made  smoked haddock chowder.

There is something that children love about cooking with a chef. I don’t know whether it’s because they associate it with famous TV chefs or because they are so professional (and calm and unflustered) in their whites. But most kids tend to have a bit of reverence for them and listen intently to instructions.

In the Sunday workshop my daughter made …

Lamb meatballs with tomatoes and home made pasta

Once hats were decorated, Jethro gathered mini-chefs at the front and went through the recipe steps, explaining along the way, in particular, safe knife skills: using the claw and bridge. After the briefing a member of Team Food Academy guided the food prep on each table.

Here’s Jethro’s recipe so you can make your own….

This is about enough for 7-10 children’s portions depending on age and appetite. You could either to reduce the amount to suit your needs – or make it in a big batch and freeze what you don’t use.

Once fully briefed, children went back to their tables to grate parmesan …

Pound the garlic…

Then mix all together with torn basil leaves and organic lamb mince…

And roll into small meatballs (followed by a good handwashing)…

Meanwhile on the other (meat-free) side of the table, pasta ingredients were combined…

And kneaded …

While the tomatoes were chopped and deseeded…

Then it was time to roll out the pasta, several times….

Which they loved…

Until it was thin enough to roll into tagliatelle…

While Team Food Academy cooked the meatballs and pasta, kids made their smoothies on the Smoothie Bikes…

Then it was the most important part of the process…

Followed by a delicious smoothie…

All a rather resounding success.

The chefs and all the Abergavenny Food Festival staff worked so hard for two days delivering workshop after workshop, followed by washing up and tidying away ready for the next group of children. Working with children in this way is actually quite tiring so hats off to you all and thank you very much.

Anyone who has cooked with children knows it can have a positive impact on eating habits and openness to trying new foods. Even a one off cooking activity like this can get children trying new foods and instil new food skills.

Clam Linguine

I have been off work for a week with the 5 year old who has a cough that’s doing the rounds. She hasn’t been well enough for school but not ill enough to be in bed. I did manage to get her out of the house yesterday – she has wanted to be in pyjamas all day – I get that sometimes too. After shopping we went to the beach and sat by the shore. The sounds of the sea, watching the waves, the open sky and sunshine was all very therapeutic for a short while before we decided it was too cold and time to get cosy indoors again.

After sitting by the sea I wanted to make a dish with shellfish for supper and found frozen clams in the supermarket They’re high in iron and vitamin B12, these ones are MSC certified (certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainably sourced). They defrosted quickly too. I bought some linguine to go with them, my favourite pasta.

Because I have been cooking all week, Mr O took over in the kitchen and made Clam Linguine for us and it was delicious, cheap (about £1.80 per person) and easy to make…


Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
3 cloves garlic crushed
500g vacuum packed frozen clams
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
200g dried linguine
Grated Parmesan cheese

How to…

Put the olive oil, butter into a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Pour in the tomatoes, simmer and reduce for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. If the sauce reduces too much add a little juice from the clams.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the sauce with the clams and chopped parsley, mix and cover with lid and allow to cook for a couple of minutes before serving with parmesan.

My daughter liked the clams, saying they tasted like the sea. Then she told me she didn’t like them anymore. At the moment I am battling with the influence of school, and its ongoing. I knew this time would come, though as she’s always been a good eater I didn’t worry about it too much. It’s one of those things you don’t deal with it until you have to.

For now I am just taking it a meal at a time, and not limiting the foods I offer, and will continue to try new dishes, like this one. Its tricky sometimes to work out whether she genuinely doesn’t like something, which I am fine with or that she is trying to get attention or being influenced by friends.

So, I said, she obviously did like it and encouraged her to eat more, which she happily did, and considering she’s not had much of an appetite this week, was good