Creamy Spinach & Mince

We all know how good our greens are for us, and yet for little people who aren’t quite eating salads just yet (will they ever?!), it can be quite difficult to get them in (for more on ways to do this, read this blog here) .

I was having to be creative in the kitchen when we realised he might have a tomato allergy. He would come up in this awful bumpy raised rash that almost stretched up to his eyes! It was there for a good few weeks and when I took him to the doctor they gave us some anti-fungal cream (no home remedies seemed to work). We used that but then also noticed that if he had citrus or tomato-based foods it would flare up. I didn’t think it would be too difficult to avoid these, but um… hello?! Slow-cooked lamb? Tomatoes. Lasagne? Tomatoes. Spag bol’? Tomatoes. A lot of other pasta sauces or curries? Tomatoes! Now I was really challenged.

We resorted to mum’s middle eastern chicken which is a creamy based curry (delicious by the way!), baked fish dishes, chicken carbonara and any curries that were tomato-free. Then I came across creamed spinach. Oh yes please.

This is something I devised when I was trying to make a pasta sauce with mince. Grub loves this and so do we actually. It can be served over pasta or mashed potato and you know it’s good for you when you see how green it is! And it’s also full of iron, protein and calcium. I definitely feel good seeing him wolf this down.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bag of fresh spinach, washed and chopped or 100gm frozen (defrosted)
  • 15g butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 4tbsp parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • Pinch or two of nutmeg
  • 300gm mince

Method:

  • Heat a frying pan and melt butter over medium heat, then add the chopped spinach. Sauté until wilted.
  • Add in the cheeses, milk and nutmeg and stir through until the cheese is melted.
  • Transfer to a food processor (our nutri-bullet worked well too) and blend until smooth.
  • In the same pan, brown your mince in a little oil until cooked, breaking it up as you go. Once cooked, remove from the heat and stir through the spinach mixture.
  • Serve over pasta or mashed potatoes.
  • Suitable for freezing.

Slow-cooked Lamb

Sometimes I forget how easy these slow-cook meals really are. And they’re perfect for those cooler months. I made this mainly for the little one as he needed some more red meat in his diet and I was getting bored of the typical puréed steak with vegetables. Turns out, this is also one for the whole family as my husband and I enjoyed it for dinner that night too! If you can get the lamb on special it’s a pretty economical dish too – 1.5kgs is about half a lamb leg roast.

We served this with steamed green beans for us adults, as I like mine rather crunchy, but you could add in all your vegetables and be done with it. There’s not a lot of browning of vegetables and sautéing sauces prior to putting it in the slow cook. For me, this takes away the whole purpose of using one – it’s supposed to be easy!

Our slow cooker is a bit old and can’t be that good as I find when I cook on high for 4 – 5 hours, the meat never falls apart like it should. So I end up doing it for 9 hours on high; but I’m sure you guys have one that works properly!

This is a pretty versatile dish; we “pulled” or shredded some of the lamb using two forks and served it over some couscous I had lying around, then mashed in the carrots and kumara – it was a serious winner. Or you could serve as is. For little grubs I would puree the whole lot. This is suitable for freezing too.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg lamb leg roast, bone in
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium kumara (or a mixture of kumara and potato)
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ cup of beef stock (reduced salt)

Method:

  • Cut up potato/kumara and carrots in to chunky cubes and place in the bottom of your slow cooker
  • Crush 3 cloves of garlic and finely chop up ½ your rosemary. Swirl some olive oil over your kumara and carrots and mix in the rosemary and garlic
  • Pour the stock over the vegetables
  • Heat up some oil in a fry pan and brown the lamb all over. Place in the slow cooker, on top of the vegetables. Rub the remaining crushed garlic and chopped rosemary in to the lamb.
  • Cook on high for 4 – 5 hours or on low for 9 – 10 hours.

 

 

Cottage Pie

A family classic in our house, we grew up with this on high rotation. However, it had to be called “shephard’s pie” as my brother wouldn’t eat “cottage” pie – little did he know they were exactly the same! However, mum’s version had half a bottle of chutney in it, which is actually more than 50% sugar! So I’ve come up with a version that uses grated fruit instead, and it honestly tastes exactly the same. Even my brother couldn’t tell the difference.

This is a great winter dish for the whole family that you can make ahead of time and freeze if necessary or keep in the fridge overnight. I always found that mince was a hard thing to introduce to my little one (even at 10 months old!) and I think it was because of the texture. So, the trick is to put the mince sauce through the food processor. But don’t worry! It’s still totally edible for the whole family – the texture doesn’t change too drastically.

If you can’t find crushed and sieved tomatoes, just use chopped tomatoes. I find the crushed are a little thicker so they’re better for things like cottage pie and spaghetti bolognese, but it’s not a biggie if you don’t have them.

cottage pie 2

This will make enough for four large ramekins which is handy if you’re making this just for your little one – then you can defrost one portion when you’re ready. Or you can assemble this in a single baking dish. If it was me? I’d double the recipe and make one big family meal that will do two nights.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • 500gm beef mince
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 60gm frozen mango (about 8 cubes)
  • 1 medium red apple
  • ½ can crushed and sieved tomatoes (200gm)
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 25gm butter
  • 2 tbsp cream

Method:

  • Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and saute over a medium heat until soft. Add in the mince and break it up as it cooks.
  • Once the mince is browned, add in the paprika, Worcestershire sauce and the grated mango and apple.
  • Add in the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. You’ll then need to put the sauce through the food processor.
  • While the sauce is thickening, if your potatoes are ready, drain them and mash with the cream and butter until creamy and soft. Keep adding butter and cream until you’re satisfied you’ve got a smooth potato mash – you’ll need lots of grunt here!
  • Either divide the mince across four greased ramekins or use one baking dish. Then top with the potatoes. Freeze at this point.
  • When ready to bake, put a few blobs of butter over the potato to help with browning in the oven at 180c until warmed through and brown on top (everything is cooked already, this is simply to crisp up the potato topping).

 

The Iron Man

BEEF, LIVER & GREENS

Liver is such a great source of iron, which is required for babies 6 months and over. It has quite a strong flavour though, so I only add in a little to ensure it doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish and is still edible. Pair it with some beef (also a good source of iron) and this combo makes a great iron boost.

Liver can be bought at your supermarket, if you can’t find it just ask the guys in the deli section. You can also buy it at your butcher or any specialty food store. No need to cut all the fat off the beef either, a little fat is good for us and keeps little grubs satiated.

I tend to always include a starchy vegetable with my meals, like kumara, potato or pumpkin. This gives the dish more of a smooth and creamy texture to it and is easier to disguise the greens and meats in. Starchy carbohydrates are also part of a balanced meal.

Either mash the vegetables or puree the whole dish for smaller babies who still require a smooth texture.

beef and liver

Ingredients:

  • 450gm beef steak (rump, sirloin, scotch)
  • 2tbsp beef or chicken liver
  • ½ head of broccoli
  • 1 capsicum (yellow, red or orange)
  • 2 large orange kumara
  • 15gm butter
  • water (for desired consistency)

Method:

  • peel and chop the kumara in to 2cm pieces and chop the broccoli florets and capsicum in to small bite-sized pieces
  • steam the kumara for 5 minutes and then add the broccoli and capsicum and steam for a further 10 minutes until all vegetables are soft
  • meanwhile, cut the beef in to 1cm strips and dice the liver
  • add the butter to a frypan and fry the beef and liver until cooked through
  • for small babies, puree the beef and liver together with the vegetables and you’re good to go. Add in some water to reach desired consistency if necessary.
  • otherwise, puree the beef and liver together and then mash in with the vegetables

Introducing Meat

It’s recommended to introduce meat (or vegetarian iron sources, like tofu and lentils) at around 6 months old as this is when babies’ iron level requirements increase a lot more than what can be provided through breast milk or formula. But, I wasn’t sure how to actually introduce the meat. What do I cook it in? How do I feed it to him? I like my steak cooked medium rare, but is that okay for babies? Do I start with chicken or fish or red meat?

We ended up starting to introduce vegetables at around 5 months as we had a hungry little grub. So, when it came to introducing meat we had already established an eating routine and it just meant slipping it in to some of his vegetable combos that we had already tried.

I started with chicken first and then some beef, as chicken is slightly easier to digest than red meats. We didn’t do baby-lead-weaning, so it was a matter of pureeing meat…. What?! The concept of that was a bit weird for me. Perhaps a stupid question, but, how on earth do you do that? I thought about frying the chicken, but that might’ve been a bit dry, so I ended up sort of poaching it in some water instead, until it was cooked through. I then pureed it in with some steamed kumara and spinach. And… he loved it!

With beef, I fried some sirloin steak in some butter and pureed that; I didn’t bother with poaching it. I also fried it in some garlic too which little grub loved. When he got a little more dextrous, I also gave him strips of cooked steak or the “tail” end of lamb loin chops to snack on after his main meal. This was a massive hit!

One trick we tried (with both red meat and chicken) was to chop up some raw meat in to smaller chunks, freeze it in a snap lock bag and then if you’ve got some vegetables all ready to go, you can grate some of the frozen meat in to whatever vegetables you’re cooking. This is an alternative to pureeing cooked meat.

When it came to trying fish, I have a great salmon recipe (here’s the link) for you guys to try; this was the first fish dish he had and it went down very well, in fact he still loves it – make sure you check it out.

salmon kumara 1

For those of you who are vegetarians, you’ll be proud to know I tried a tofu, broccoli and pumpkin puree. I fried the tofu in some olive oil and then pureed it with some roasted broccoli and pumpkin. I’ll be honest; the tofu doesn’t blend to a smooth texture, it stays quite lumpy. But he still ate it with no complaints! If you guys have any tips on serving tofu to little ones, please let me know! Lentils are great; they can be cooked in a few cups of water and then pureed or mashed quite easily with any other vegetables. I have a great lentil curry recipe which I’ll share soon.

So what are my tips for introducing meat?

  • Start with chicken or fish for the first few times and then move to red meats
  • If you’re pureeing food, it’s much easier to puree meat together with a starchy carbohydrate vegetable (like kumara or pumpkin) rather than on its own
  • You can fry the meat in some butter or oil or you can poach it (basically fry in some water) until cooked through
  • If poaching, reserve 1 or 2 tablespoons of the water and include in your puree’s; it’s full of the nutritious juices from the meat
  • Don’t forget to try giving some strips of meat too; they love to gum the meat

Look out for some meat recipes to try over the next few weeks – your little grub will thank you!