Many of you may know of my woes of trying to get the girls to eat anything that a)isn’t pasta and b)isn’t party rings so I’m quite excited by today’s post. Despite being a bit of a pro baker and easily being able to turn my hand to all manner of wondrous and healthy recipes and bakes it seems I have failed miserably where my children are concerned.

I have, however, decided that I am taking a new approach and getting the girls back on track. It may take some time but surely I can convince them that vegetables are not the enemy? In fact I’m pleased to report they now eat broccoli and Alice ate about 3 punnets worth of raspberries and strawberries whilst playing in the garden yesterday. Amazing how much difference picking them herself made.

A few weeks ago I came across the amazing Instagram account of @Young_Gums and I was instantly hooked. Yes, the recipes are geared towards weaning but there are a plethora of ideas that are all suitable for any age group. Young Gums was set up by the lovely Beth, first-time mum to seven month old Baby B, when she couldn’t find anything interesting or inspiring as she started weaning. It’s all about healthy and clean eating in the most delicious guises. Plus the graphics and her fun and insightful recipes are a big hit. And it seems not only with the Instagram community. In the few short weeks since it launched it has been picked up my numerous big brands and nutritionists. Even the children’s food guru that is Annabel Karmel has been sharing the recipes. That is some going.

So I’m delighted that Beth is taking to the blog today to share some of her most popular clean baby dinners with you and keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks for a few more delicious recipes. If you can’t wait that long be sure to follow @young_gums for your super yummy recipes fixes. I’ll hand over to Beth to tell you a bit more about Young Gums and share some spectacularly yummy recipes.

I’ve always had an interest in wellness and nutrition, and am raising my baby in an area of London that’s home to a vibrant and exciting food scene (London Fields, Hackney). When it came time for my daughter to start eating, a few weeks ago, I was keen to establish a diet of simple, clean, colourful, whole…and crucially, interesting…food. Her dad and I scratch-cook and eat pretty consciously, so we want nothing less for our baby. 

But it turns out weaning a baby is bloody hard – there’s so much conflicting advice about what to offer, when, how often, and in what quantity. And the first time I walked down the baby food aisle in a big supermarket I was so shocked I left without buying anything. It’s sad how low the nutritional standards seem to be in some of the most popular commercial baby foods in this country. I found highly processed, artificial-feeling foods presented as healthy choices with opaque language like ‘no nasties’ and ‘pure’ on the packaging. It feels like the food industry is making it harder, not easier, for parents to make good food choices for our babies. 

I didn’t want feeding to become a source of #mumguilt so went looking for inspiration on healthy (genuinely, actually, nutritionally, healthy), interesting, easy, quick baby meal ideas I could make myself. I needed a writer or blogger to follow, someone well informed who could educate me on infant nutrition as well as inspire me with non-boring, unexpected recipes. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I did it myself. 

My Instagram blog is based on my view that feeding a baby mindfully is way harder than it should be. I suggest baby-safe versions of interesting dishes that are trending right now, and give ‘clean, green’ makeovers to familiar family dishes. I avoid sugar, processed grains, salt, excessive dairy and common allergens, but go big on flavour and colour. I try to think of creative ways to use basic, inexpensive ingredients (with the odd superfood thrown in…chia seeds, nut butters, coconut) to build meals that are good value and not a faff to make….stuff mamas enjoy making as much as their babies enjoy eating. I have a distinctive visual look and always have a laugh with my mama followers – just because we’re mamas doesn’t mean we left our sense of humour at the maternity-wing door. 

My recipes are bolder than what’s typically fed to babies, but everything is absolutely safe from six months. I wouldn’t give my own baby something that wasn’t suitable. Young Gums is a mix of baby-led-weaning and purees, and I verify my nutritional advice with a local NHS infant dietician. I never list ingredient quantities by gram/millilitre…no mama has time for weighing scales and measuring jugs. I use teaspoons and tablespoons as my measuring devices. It’s all part of trying to make every recipe so simple that you can cook it with one hand. Which is needs-must in my house…more often than not I have a hungry baby in the other hand. 

I’m including a selection of my mama-followers’ most favourite recipes here.
Who says you can’t have cool, vibey meals when you’ve only got two teeth?

Baby Burrito Bowl

ARIBA. When it’s Mexican night, and Baby wants in, it’s burrito bowls all round. No chilli or salt for B (or beer, sorry bae…stop reaching for it…) but other than that, our dinner is her dinner.

This meal is fun for a baby because there’s so much going on. Interesting textures, flavours and bright colours come from some pretty big-hitting ingredients:

Black beans (Fibre, potassium, B6), Beef (a complete protein stacked with baby-essential minerals haem iron and zinc), Sweet potato (Vit A, Vit B, Vit E, Calcium, Beta-Carotene), #Avocado (One of the most nutritious, efficient foods known to man and loved by babies. Good fats, Vitamins A>K, and so many minerals), Lime (Vitamin C to help your babe absorb all that iron in the meat), and Garlic (minerals and antioxidants).

WTF do I do?

Soften chopped half-onion and garlic clove in olive oil and add two tbsps organic beef mince. Brown the meat then and add three tbsps black beans, sprinkle of paprika (or cayenne) and quarter of a raw sweet potato, grated up with a standard box grater. Half a mug of water and simmer for a few mins, squashing and mushing the beans up with your stirrer. While your beef chilli is cooking, smash up your avo and mix with a coupla chopped up fresh tomatoes and a coupla leaves of coriander (snip herbs up with scissors). When the chili’s cooked, heap a couple of spoonfuls into a little bowl and top with your smashed avo mix. Squeeze of lime and it’s party time. If your baby’s very wee then just put this through the blender.

Gentle Lentil Dahl

Red lentils. Kapow! Power food for babies. Protein. Fibre. Iron. B-Vits. Beta-carotene (which provides Vit-A). Vit-C. Quick to cook, great value and the creamy texture is perfect for young gums.

And don’t even get me started on coconut. That guy deserves a whole post to himself.

Here is a lovely little recipe for a quick and easy lentil-y dinner that contains a super powerful host of beautiful, easily-digested nutrients for growing babes. And it tastes amazing (we make this as a side-dish for all sorts of mum & dad dinners). Yield: one-two servings for a six-month-old (factoring in some to go on floor/hair/eyelids)

WTF do I need?

-two tbsp uncooked red lentils
-two tbsp coconut milk (I’ve got the solidified bit from a can of biona organic CM)
-splashes of cold water or homemade bonebroth (see earlier post for dead-easy method…we’re loving the broth)
-small garlic clove
-half small red onion
-thin slice of ginger, skin off
-half a tsp turmeric (spice of the Gods, mamas!)
-half a tsp cumin (babies are brave, let’s give them flavour)
-couple of leaves of coriander, smashed up a bit

Do I need two hands for any of this?

Only a bit. Open your can of coconutmilk. Roughly chop your little half-onion. Smash up your garlic. Skin your ginger and chop it up a bit (or grate it if your baby is wee/without teeth). Snip up coriander with scissors. That’s probably 20-30 seconds for a multi-tasking mama like you.

WTF do I do?

Small pan on heat. Blob of olive/coconut oil. Onion, garlic and ginger into pan for 3-4 mins to soften and blend, stirring with your one available hand. Shake in your dry spices. Add the lentils. Add the coconut milk. Add the splash of water or broth. Stir, lady. It’s like making porridge. Keep it moving and add a bit more broth/water whenever you need. When it’s looking creamy and soft, have a taste to check. Put a couple of tbsps of your dhal into a small bowl and scatter coriander on top. Stir it in as you serve it up for your babe.
Optimal optimisers: serve with steamed/baked vegetable sticks to make this dinner BLW friendly. Carrot, butternut or courgette sticks are lovely with this. Let the baby dunk and scoop.

Magic Fish Fingers

In the UK it’s traditional to eat fish on a Friday. Baby B is all over that tradition this tea time. We’re also experimenting with nuts.

Extraordinarily nutrient rich, the NHS baby dietician I talk to says almonds are safe in baby cooking from the very start, as long as you’re not concerned about a possible nut allergy (these are so serious that it’s worth treading v carefully). Laden with protein (more than egg), great fats, B-vitamins, and essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc, almonds give oomph to your baby’s immune system and support all that growing they’re doing. Did you know babies grow mainly during their sleep? I’m no expert (clearly!) but I think that’s right. So when you think “bloody ‘ell you feel a bit heavier this morning”, maybe it’s true.

All those micronutrients are better absorbed when consumed with VitaminC. Hello, peas! Peas rule. More Vit-C than apples, more fibre than wholemeal bread, and major Vit-A, amongst other goodies. Yes Peas.

As I learned at the fishmonger last week, white fish like this cod brings all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein. Holy grail for anyone interested in growing. And egg is safe from six months old as long as your babe isn’t allergic.

WTF do I do?

Did someone say one hand cooking?? Yeah! Dip your fish slices/chunks in beaten egg, then roll them in ground almond. Fry in coconut oil or bake in the oven at 180 for 10 mins. Steam your peas and whizz in a blender with a splash of baby’s usual milk. Pimp your peas by adding avocado to the mush. Serve the fish as finger food and let the babe dunk and lick the mushy peas.

Brazilian Baby Jackets

Naw it’s not a new clothing direction to go in, it’s another mega baby dinner for mega babies.
Taking inspo from the blazing sunny beaches (and exciting Olympic happenings brewing) of Brazil, this tropical dinner is proper mini athlete fuel for that Olympic baby-rolling.

Sweet potato, loved by babies all over the world, cuddles up with gooey black beans and melty cheese. Cool yoghurt and a bit of fresh coriander make this dish taste, and look, even more interesting.

Sweet potato brings easily-digestable fibre and nice slow-release carbohydrate; minerals you don’t see every day like copper and manganese; and a big dose of Vit A from all that beta-carotene, plus C and E. ACE! Avocado = minerals, vits, good fats and some protein. The beans and dairy are our major protein source here though. Not full-spectrum ‘complete’ protein (= all nine essential aminos) that’s the holy grail for anyone interested growing. But close. And great for veggie babies, or mamas who forgot to go to butcher. And fishmonger. I’m not keen on B having cow’s milk because it’s not easy for a little bb to digest. All the lactose can stress the digestive system. However the natural production processes that turn milk into cheese or yoghurt neutralise much of that problem so I think they’re very nice things to start working into her diet bit-by-bit. Cheese and yoghurt are products I always go organic with. It doesn’t cost mountains more to upgrade these kinds of ingredients and makes a lot of sense for them to come from grass-fed animals reared in as simple and old-fashioned a manner as possible.

WTF do I do?

Bake your sweet potato whole in the oven for an hour on medium heat. This isn’t a special mini one, it’s just the smallest spud in the kilo bag I bought from Tesco. Warm up a couple of tablespoons of black beans and fork-mash them. Open the jacket and pour in the beans, sprinkle the cheese over and wiggle everything about a bit to melt it. Blob of plain yoghurt, splodge of smashed avo, and a sprinkle of coriander if you have it. Bigger babes can have a num on a big wedge of the potato, skin-on to make it grippy. DINNER OF CHAMPS

Mexican Eggs

B’s dad and I first had them on hols in Tulum a few years ago and ever since, this breakkie-brunch has been on pretty heavy rotation in our house. Rich, smoky, colourful and gooey, this feels like a real treat but it’s crazy loco nutritious and tastes like beachy paradise. Sure, it’s not the most obvious weaning breakfast but actually this dish is a rainbow of baby-friendly ingredients and the squidgy texture is a dream for anyone low on teeth. Rich, warm cooked tomatoes and soft, mild onion bring gentle fibre that’s easy for the baby to digest. Smoked paprika and cumin give aromatic depth that’s so interesting for a baby to experience. And together just a couple of pinches of these spices bring Vit A, E, B6, iron, zinc, calcium, selenium, magnesium, various phyto-chemicals known for powerful antioxidant effects. We’ve talked about eggs before haven’t we, mamas? We knoooooow they’re one of nature’s most perfect foods and contain all sorts of goodies for our babies. The egg’s most important function here is protein, to set the baby up for a top day of growing. Combine this dish with BABY GUAC recipe for a more substantial meal, great for dinner.

WTF do I do?

In your smallest saucepan heat a blob of olive oil & sweat diced half-onion. When soft but not brown, pinch cumin, pinch paprika, two organic or canned plum tomatoes. Bash up tomatoes well as you stir. Cook for a couple of mins on gentle heat then…the magic bit…press spoon into mixture to create a hollow. Crack egg into hollow and watch it slowly cook. Allow egg to solidify then fork-mash egg & sauce to the right texture for your baby and watch them go Totally Mexico.

Is anyone going to be trying out these super yummy recipes?