Monday, 27 July 2015

RECIPE - #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Mango and Coconut 'Nicecream'

Little Dude has never been a huge fan of mango (or any fruit that is obviously fruit, for that matter) so for me, this challenge was about finding a clever way to sneak it into him! I'm still a bit obsessed with the banana and berry ice cream my buddy Meg made a few weeks ago so I decided to try making my own variation. This recipe is so easy it barely qualifies as cooking :)

YOU'LL NEED
1 ripe banana
1/2 ripe mango
Handful dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon natural yoghurt

METHOD:
1. Chop the banana up into slices and put into a freezer bag
2. Slice the mango in half, chop into chunks and add to the bag with the banana.
3. Put the bag into the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours. Remove from the freezer and set aside for 15 minutes before you want to make the 'nicecream' (smirk)
4. Put the (now slightly softened) fruit and the yoghurt into the blender. Blast it until the mixture is smooth and creamy. I do this in bursts because my blender objects to frozen things.
5. Add the coconut and blend again briefly to mix.
6. Serve. I sprinkled a few chia seeds and some more coconut onto ours but some finely chopped nuts, chocolate shavings or slivers of fresh mango would also be ideal.

This week's challenge comes to you sponsored by the fabulous Ezpz, makers of the Happy Mat and Happy Bowl. See my review of these products if you're interested in buying them.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Healthy eating out and about...

Little Dude and I went shopping today. My plan to make a quick dash to get him some new shoes turned into a casual jaunt round a dozen shops and before I knew it, it was 11.30. I'd packed some snacks - raisins and a Nom Nom Kids smoothie pouch filled with kiwi, banana and apple - but nothing substantial enough for lunch. The smoothie was still half frozen at that point anyway - excellent planning Mama!
Usually when we eat out I pack a full homemade lunch box to take with us. Quite honestly, kids menus at most cafes and pubs make me cringe; the majority of them don't seem to extend beyond fish fingers, chicken nuggets, and burgers. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to serve the odd thing like this in moderation (white chocolate buttons are a particular weakness for both of us!) but I'd much prefer to do it when I can read the packet myself and check out the salt content, amongst other things.
L tends to nap after lunch so I figured it was worth braving it and ordering a couple of things for us to share, rather than let him fall asleep on the way home and go to bed with an empty tum. Mama needed coffee so we headed to Starbucks and I picked a cheese and ham toastie and a chicken salad. The food selection was obviously aimed at adults but both of these seemed suitable enough for the pair of us. I figured Little Dude would be all about the carbs but he surprised me by merrily munching through a handful of sugar snap peas and bravely sampling a huge slice of lime. It's just a shame I didn't capture the faces he pulled on camera - he went back for several tastes though so must have liked it!
This got me thinking... where else can I find decent children's menus? I generally really enjoy putting a lunchbox together for him but it'd also be handy to have more places that I can visit on a whim without stressing about what there is for him to eat. I'd love to hear from other Mamas about their favourite places to take little ones for decent, healthy food. Let me know your recommendations here or on the BLWMamaUK Facebook page and I'll put a list together for us all to share.

Monday, 13 July 2015

RECIPE: #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Olive and Roasted Veg Vol-Au-Vents


This week’s #InstaWeanTeam Olive Challenge comes to you 70s style. I’ve never tried vol-au-vents before so fancied giving them a go and they were surprisingly easy to make. These were perfect for both Little Dude and my vegetarian friend who joined us for a BBQ (the carnivores also had homemade paprika burgers, swoon!). 

I used shop bought pastry which has a little salt in it but making my own would've been way too time consuming. This recipe made 4 vol-au-vonts plus a bunch of different size rectangular 'slices' for our guests.

YOU'LL NEED:
1 Sheet Puff Pastry
5 Black Olives, Sliced
3 Vine Tomatoes
1/2 Courgette
1/2 Red Onion
1 Yellow Pepper
1/2 Tsp Mixed Herbs
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Beaten Egg

METHOD:
1. Lay out the pastry and use a cookie cutter to make an even number of pastry circles.
2. Take half of the circles and use a smaller cutter to remove the middle, leaving a pastry ring.
3. Brush the edge of the pastry circles with beaten egg, lay the pastry rings on top. Brush the top again with beaten egg.
4. Put them pastry in the oven on a lightly floured baking tray, cook for 25-30 mins on Gas 7 until golden and risen (check them regularly!). Once cooked, set them aside to cool. If the inside has risen, carefully pull it out leaving a pastry case with a hole in the middle.
5. Chop the vegetables into small chunks then lay out on a baking tray. Sprinkle herbs on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
6. Cook the veggies (except the olives) at Gas Mark 5 for around 30 mins.
7. Chop the olives and add to the cooked veggies, mix well.
8. Carefully spoon the cooked veg into the pastry cases. 

These can be eaten cold or blasted until the grill to heat them up just before serving. Delish!

Don't forget to check out what the whole team made for olive week by checking our InstaWeanTeam Facebook Page

PRODUCT REVIEW - Ezpz Happy Mat & Happy Bowl


Ezpz have a pretty straighforward mission statement: To take the mess and stress out of mealtimes. Founder Lindsey Lourain is a Mama of two boys and, being the proud owner of a very grubby little man myself, someone I am now eternally grateful to!

First, the technical bits - Ezpz placemats are:
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Microwave safe 
  • BPA, PVC, phthalate and lead free (I had to look up phthalate but didn't like the sound of it when I did)
  • Made from FDA approved silicone
  • Suction to the table
  • Can be stacked and carried together
  • Can be drawn on with dry wipe marker  
 
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my parcel from Ezpz; the mats are much more substantial than I'd expected with a thick, chunky base. The bowls have stiff sides that don't yield to little fingers (ours was excitedly prodded and poked by both myself and Little Dude!). The divided plate on the Happy Mat has three good sized sections which are more than enough to satisfy a hungry toddler. I have a tendency to over-cater so I like this gentle nudge towards portion control.

We have an Ikea Antilop high chair and the Happy Bowl fits quite neatly onto the tray, while the Happy Mat hangs over the sides a little. This doesn't bother me though - the more coverage the better in my opinion. Having said that, Ezpz have noted the seemingly universal popularity of the Antilop and I believe are working on a mat specifically to fit this particular highchair. Personally, I think the 'suction' element would be better described as 'sliproof' but semantics aside, it definitely works. Obviously it can still be peeled off the table by a determined toddler but there is definitely less chance of the meal being upended than with a traditional bowl or plate.

We used our mat and bowl for some very messy meals - overnight oats, pasta bolognese and yoghurt to name a few. So far, it's done a grand job. Often, I find that tomatoes and berries can permanently stain my tableware but so far it hasn't happened with the Ezpz mats. The absolute best feature is that the built-in placemat allows me to let Little Dude do his own thing with a spoon (he's all about spoon practice at the moment) then just lift up the mess and tip it into the bin or rinse it under the tap. This really saves me a lot of time in chasing squished bits of food round the highchair tray while L tries to catch them first and throw them over the side!

In terms of downsides, there is very little to call out. The Ezpz logo has indented lettering which can be a bit fiddly to clean if food gets stuck in there, but that's about it. I have a titchy microwave so I haven't tried heating food up directly in them yet (I guess other people might have the same problem), but again, that doesn't cause me any real issues.

So - overall, I think these are a fab product and they've already become a staple part of mealtimes in our house. Ezpz ship internationally from their website currently but are also working on setting up distributor in the UK - keep an eye on their website for details. Happy eating!


Note - technical details are taken from ezpz's own website/literature.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

RECIPE - #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Casserole-Pot Moussaka


Outside of Greece, the best moussaka I've ever had definitely has to be the one my mother-in-law makes. Aubergine is another ingredient I don't cook with very often (read: ever) so when the girls decided it was going to be this week's #InstaWeanTeam challenge, I knew there was only one dish I wanted to try. When I told my own Mama that I was going to tackle a moussaka she suggested adding courgette - followers will know I'm very partial to this particular veg so throwing it in seemed like a great idea. So basically, my version is an amalgamation from the two Mamas in my life, plus my own random invention. Fortunately, I wrote the recipe down as I went because this one really is good - hearty, warming and really, REALLY tasty.

YOU'LL NEED:

2 aubergines
1 medium courgette
1 medum onion
3 large white potatoes
500g lamb mince
2 tomatoes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 garlic clove
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground cinnamon 


B├ęchamel  Sauce:
300ml whole milk
30g butter
30g plain flour
1 beaten egg Grated cheddar

METHOD:
1. Slice the potatoes into discs and par-boil (6-8 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Slice the courgette and aubergine into discs. Lay on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at Gas 5 for 25-30 minutes then set aside to cool.
3. In a pan, heat the butter and flour gently, stirring all the time until they are well mixed
4. Pour in the milk, whisk gently until just boiling and the sauce has thickened. Set aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, add the finely sliced onion, lamb, oregano, garlic and cinnamon in the casserole dish and fry in the little oil (I used organic rapeseed) until cooked.
6. Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
7. Spoon the lamb mixture into a separate bowl so the casserole dish is empty.
8. In the bottom of the casserole dish, arrange a thin layer of potato slices. 
9. Spoon a layer of lamb mixture on top, followed by another layer of potato.
10. On top of the potato, lay the aubergine then courgette, then fresh sliced tomatoes.
11. Add another layer of the lamb mixture, another of courgette and aubergine, and a final layer of potato (obviously feel free to freestyle here and arrange the layers however you fancy!)
12. Stir a beaten egg into the cooled white sauce. Pour on top of the moussaka.
13. Sprinkle on some grated cheese then bake at Gas 3 for 2 hours. 
14. Turn up the heat for the last 10-15 minutes to brown the top.


Don't forget to check out the other dishes the #InstaWeanTeam made this week by visiting our Facebook page.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

RECIPE - #InstaWeanTeam Challenge - Watermelon Kebabs



I chose a simple summer dish for my watermelon #InstaWeanTeam Challenge – fruit kebabs with natural yoghurt and chia seeds. This took 5 minutes to prepare and about 5 seconds to devour! The sweet watermelon works really well with the creamy yoghurt and I used a flower shaped vegetable cutter to make it a little more appealing – still not enough to convince L to eat fruit unfortunately but it worked for the grown ups!


YOU’LL NEED:

¼ Watermelon
½ Mango
10-15 White and Red Grapes
Kebab Sticks
Natural Yoghurt
Chia Seeds (optional)

METHOD: 
1. Slide a knife along the rind of the watermelon to remove the tough skin. Slice the melon into strips. Using a cookie or vegetable cutter, cut out some pretty shapes :)
2. Same deal with the mango - remove the skin and slice into cubes
3. Slice the grapes in half lengthways (this reduces the choking hazard)
4. Thread each piece of fruit onto a kebab stick until it's full.
5. Service dipped in yoghurt with chia seeds (you might want to remove the stick for younger children)