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.

Prawn and tomato pasta

This is almost a one-pot wonder, that takes about 20 – 30 minutes to whip up from start to finish. It makes a great mid-week dinner for the whole family as you can adapt it for any age and stage (not everyone needs teeth to enjoy this!)

Shellfish is also an allergen, so if you’re looking for a way to introduce this to your little one, then I’d recommend you give this a try. Just bear in mind though that seafood can be an acquired taste, and your grub might not take to it straight off the bat – I know mine didn’t. But after a few goes he decided he did actually like it. Typical.

For those of you still in the first few months and not looking to do baby-led-weaning, you can puree the whole lot, including the pasta. For those of you at the lumpy stage, you could puree the sauce and then stir it through the soft pasta. And then for those who are a little older, but with no teeth, maybe just cut up the prawns a little bit before adding them in to the tomatoes. We were quite late getting teeth in this house (10 months and he only had one!), so we needed to do that.

If you can find crushed and sieved canned tomatoes in the supermarket (I know Woolworths, the Countdown brand, and Watties make this), I would go for these in this dish. I find they make most dishes a bit thicker and not as watery as other canned tomato varieties. If you can’t find it, just use regular crushed tomatoes.

For the adults, I would suggest adding in some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end, to offset the creamy sauce and give it that little extra kick – delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 400gm pasta elbows (that very small macaroni shaped pasta)
  • 400gm cooked, de-veined and de-tailed prawns (defrosted)
  • 1tsp dried dill
  • 2 large courgettes
  • 2 x 400gm cans crushed and sieved tomatoes
  • 2 big cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  • Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a deep-dish pan and sauté the garlic for a few minutes. Then add the grated courgettes, tomatoes, zest of the lemon and dill and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  • Add in the prawns and if you’re using raw prawns then you want to simmer until they’re white. If you’re using pre-cooked, then simmer for a few minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and stir through. Squeeze over your lemon juice and you’re good to go!

Mac ‘n’ Cheese

The photo may not look perfect, but trust me, your taste buds will LOVE this one!

This is an adaptation of mum’s recipe and reminds me of winters growing up. It’s the ultimate comfort food and has been a winner with little grub from when he was about 10 months old (remember, we did grain-free for the first wee while, otherwise I probably would have given it to him a little earlier!).

This recipe has a little twist in it with the bacon and the peas are in there to make us feel good about this deliciously creamy dish. If yours don’t like peas, you could stir through some baby spinach at the end or grate in some courgette; it wouldn’t change the flavour much at all. For a plain and simple version, you can leave out the peas and bacon, it’ll still be a hearty meal. The Dijon mustard is a must; my husband doesn’t like it but can’t even tell it’s in here! Somehow, this just doesn’t taste the same without it.

This can be served straight away or you can freeze it; both before or after you’ve baked it, it’s up to you. I’ve also put this in little ramekins and frozen them so that I have some meals ready and waiting on those nights we decide to have cheese on toast for dinner. You could make this vegetarian by leaving out the bacon, it’s not a ‘must.’

This is also a great one for those mama’s-to-be who might be prepping some meals for those first few days at home. You’ll need all the carbs and cheese you can get! Did you know that cheese is referred to as “dairy crack”? Read about that here. No wonder I can’t get enough…. And I don’t think you’ll ever have enough of this either!

Tip: once the pasta is cooked and you’re waiting to add it in, glug some olive oil over it and stir it through. This’ll stop it from sticking too much while it’s cooling down.

Ingredients:

  • 200gm macaroni elbows
  • 125gm bacon
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups of full fat milk
  • 2 cups of grated cheese

Method:

  • Firstly, cook the peas and pasta in separate pots of boiling water until soft, set aside.
  • Fry the bacon in a pan until crispy or cooked to your liking, set aside and break into bite-sized pieces when cool.
  • Rinse out the frying pan, then melt the butter and sauté the onion until opaque and soft.
  • Add the mustard and then the flour, continuing to stir
  • Whilst stirring, add the milk until there are no lumps. Simmer over low heat, continuing to stir, until the sauce thickens.
  • Add ½ the cheese and then the cooked peas, bacon pieces and macaroni pasta
  • Place in a greased oven-proof dish and cover with the remaining cheese
  • Bake at 190c for 20minutes or until bubbling and golden

Creamy vegetable pasta

This is a very simple dish to whip up with any left-over vegetables, really, on those nights where either inspiration lacks or time is limited. The good thing though is that you know your little one’s nutrition isn’t compromised!

I used butternut and spinach here, but you could use kumara and courgette instead. This recipe calls for cream cheese, but I think some grated cheese or sour cream would work just as well. All bring a lovely creaminess to this dish.

If you cook the pasta until it’s really quite soft, then this is suitable for younger babies (say 8 or 9 months) as you can break up the pasta shells when you’re mixing through the vegetables and cheese.

This dish isn’t just for little grubs. A sneaky side of garlic bread here and this is easily a dinner the whole family will enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 100gm pasta shells or spirals
  • ½ large butternut pumpkin
  • ½ red capsicum (or orange or yellow)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3 cubes of frozen spinach (defrosted)
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese

Method:

  • Cook pasta in a pot of oiled boiling water until soft, drain and rinse under hot water
  • Meanwhile, chop the butternut and tomatoes in to bite-sized pieces and slice the capsicum in to thin strips
  • Steam the vegetables until soft
  • When the vegetables and pasta are cooked, mix them together and stir through the spinach and cream cheese
  • For younger babies, break up and mash the pasta shells a bit when stirring through the vegetables

Serve immediately or store overnight in the fridge.