Quick and easy dairy-free snacks -3 super simple baby led weaning recipes

At just six weeks old Millie was diagnosed with cows milk protein and soya protein allergies. Despite her restrictive diet I was still determined to go down the baby led weaning (BLW) route which has at times been rather challenging and has made me rethink a lot of the meals we eat as a family.

The point of BLW is to allow your baby to eat what you’re eating and make their own choices about what they want to eat and how much. This has been a real nightmare for us with a very fussy ten year old and an equally fussy husband, our family meal repetoire is already somewhat limited. I have over the last few months trialed, tested and on some occasions binned many dairy free recipes in the hope of finding meals we can all eat as a family.

Lunch time snacks have proved to be the hardest meal for us to get any variety. Millie loves bread, and I mean REALLY loves it. She would have a dairy free cheese sandwich for every meal if she could. But I wanted to find some non-bread alternatives that fit the following criteria; quick and easy to make, high in calcium (it can be really hard to hit a baby’s calcium target on a dairy free diet), and finally they needed to be “portable” so they could be packed for lunch on the days we were out and about at baby classes.

Here are our top three favourites:

1. Pastry Pinwheels – these are so versatile and can be batch cooked and frozen.

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Using ready to roll puff pastry sheets cut into inch wide strips (Most puff pastry is dairy and soya free including shop own brands but we use Tesco’s own puff pastry sheets which can be found in the fridge next to the margarine and butter). Spread your choice of filling onto the strips of pastry and loosely roll into wheel shapes. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes at 180C until golden.

One of Millie’s favourite fillings is a pouch of Ella’s Kitchen purée (roast pork and apple sauce used in the picture above) and sprinkled with dairy free cheese. These turn out like really yummy baby (and mummy… Eek!) friendly pasties!

2. Fish Pate – great on rice cakes or toast.

At 9 months old Millie is yet to develop a liking of fish and she will simply spit it straight back out of it ever gets even close to her mouth. I was keen to find a way of adding fish to her diet in a way that wasn’t too “fishy”. This pate was perfect! It uses all dairy free alternative ingredients but can of course be made in exactly the same way with normal dairy products.

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Ingredients:

150g of cooked salmon or any other fish (I use cod)

150g of soft dairy free cheese

Juice from half a lemon

2tbsp of natural dairy free yoghurt (I use coconut milk yoghurt as we are also soya free)

Chuck all the ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.

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I have also added this to cooked pasta with some veg to make an alternative pasta sauce.

3. Cheesy Egg Muffins – perfect for packed lunches

These egg muffins again can be adapted to include any other cooked ingredients you like. For these ones I just added some chopped tomatoes.

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Whisk two large eggs and a dash of milk in a bowl (we use Oatly oat milk). Add in 30g of grated dairy free cheese and any cooked ingredients such as chicken, other vegetables or fish. Split the mixture across 4 or 5 muffin tins and bake in the oven for 15 minutes on 180C.

These are so simple to make and can be eaten either hot or cold. They have become a particular favourite in the post swimming packed lunch box each week!

I have tested out quite a few other dairy and soya free meals including some family favourites which I will include in future posts. Making things from scratch is one of the most reliable ways of ensuring your childs meals only include “safe” foods. Despite being a little tricky at times, I am enjoying cooking fresh, nutritious, dairy free meals for Millie and love watching her devour them without any sign of a reaction!

What did you do at school today? Encouraging a ten year old to talk!

By the time Nicholas moved into Year 4 I had become really bored of asking the same question every day to be met with the exact same response.  Post-school conversation goes as follows:

Me: How was school?

Nic: Good

Me:  What did you do?

Nic: Numeracy and literacy

Me: Anything else?

Nic: Can’t remember

And so this was repeated every week day for 38 weeks of the year. But how exactly do you get your kids to talk about their day?  One of the things I pride myself on and is crucial in my family home is that every evening we are all home together we all sit at the table and eat dinner as a family.  On our wedding day my husbands speech even included the line “the family that eats together stays together”. The dinner table is the perfect place to catch up with each other and report back on our day. All electrical devices are banned at the table, we actually sit and talk to each other, you know, like in the olden days!  Even Millie gets involved in the dinner time debates now, at almost 9 months she has started repeating words, last night it was potato and water… random, but a sure sign she is listening and taking in our conversation.

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A little while ago I decided it was time we took our dinner conversations up a level and encourage Nic to divulge a bit more about his day. Me and the husband have a habit, in our general day to day conversation, of ranking things. All time favourite film when trying to decide on a film to watch, top five songs when listening to a particular classic on the radio from back in the day (I still find it impossible to answer this one)…. So I started to introduce a similar theme to our dinner table chatter. Straightaway I managed to find out so much more about what Nic had been up to at school but also a bit about the things he is really interested in and what he struggles with.

So if you also have kids who are reluctant to chat and you’re struggling to get anything but a “good, thanks” from them, here is our list of dinner time conversation starters.

1. Best thing that’s happened to you today:  This one still generally gets a fairly standard response along the lines of “scored an awesome goal at lunchtime”. But at least it’s something to expand on, who was on your team? Did you play football all of your lunch break? Weren’t you tired from all that running around? And the husbands response “You made me a sandwich for lunch instead of a packet of custard creams”, but only on the days I’m feeling particularly domestic goddess like!

2. Worst part of your day: This is usually met with some moan or groan about a topic at school Nic didn’t enjoy or the fact he got moved to a table away from his friends (unjustly of course! Nothing is ever your fault at ten years old). Bingo! There you have it, there was in fact more to his day than numeracy and literacy!

3. What did you learn today? This is my favourite dinner time question but also the one that fills me with dread when it gets round to my turn to answer. What do you actually learn on maternity leave? How to change the nappy of a nine month old baby who has suddenly become as slippery as a bar of soap covered in Vaseline??!! How to rescue your little monster who has managed to  get stuck in the ball pool at soft play while maintaining some dignity climbing the rope bridge? Thank the Lord for Alexa and the “tell me a fact” function. A quick shout out to our new family friend before the boys get home and I’m armed with my “what did you learn today” response. It makes me so proud when Nic tells us a fact and it’s something both interesting and also something I didn’t already know. This week he has educated me to the fact that slaves lost their own identities and took on the surname of the owner of the plantation on which they worked. I probably should’ve known this already but I didn’t! And hearing the history behind it from a ten year made it all the more interesting.

Since we have started this little dinner time ritual I actually now get to know about my family’s day and the highs and lows of what they’ve been doing. It keeps conversation inclusive of everyone and it’s wonderful the days Nic is bursting to tell us his fact of the day.

One final comment… The conversations aren’t always like an idyllic scene from the  Waltons. Just last week Nic’s worst part of his day was worrying his friend had caught Ebola. When asked why, he replied “a classmate put a pencil in his underpants near his willy, then my friend touched it, that’s how you catch Ebola”… Swiftly moving on!

You Baby Me Mummy

I do love a list… Or five!

So what better way to start my blog of lists then a list of reasons why I have an obsession with list writing. There’s the obvious reasons: baby brain means I forget  literally EVERYTHING unless it’s written down, the satisfaction of ticking things off a to do list even if I do only write them on there once done purely for the pleasure of putting a big fat line through it, and what about a shopping list so you can decide what size bags you need to take depending on the length of your list??

But I actually think my need to write lists goes beyond this. I have been known on more than one occasion, back in the days before maternity leave, to take a picture of my 30+ item to do list. Then as things are ticked off throughout the day, send a smug text to the hubster showing how productive I’ve been (I work from home so no colleagues to share my overly smug satisfied grin with). But surely there must be something deeper than gloat factor as to why I feel the need to list my entire life on scraps of paper??

To help support my blog of lists I thought I better do a bit of research into the psychology of list writing (research nerd that I am… more of that later..!).  Having read various articles, some I agree with others I don’t, here is, in my opinion the top three reasons why we (I) write lists:

  1. In the book, Lists of Note, the author Shaun Usher states “Human beings love lists because they create a sense of order in a chaotic world”.  Show me any mummy who doesn’t live in a whirlwind of at least part chaos.  My little lists are the one slither of hope I cling on to to try and take back just a tiny bit of control.  Generally, all control is lost by approximately 7.30am every morning, when I turn into a screaming lunatic making sure the children, husband included, leave the house at least half dressed and with something resembling lunch (usually a packet of custard creams for the husband, thank god for his sweet tooth..).  However, there in the notes column of our family organiser is my list for the day ahead, a quick skim through and I’m back in control.  I may look like an extra from Walking Dead with yesterdays mascara still smeared across my face, lumps of Millie’s porridge hanging from my hair and pre-baby pyjamas bursting at the seems but at least I have my list to guide me through the day.
  2. Lists help to break down information into smaller more manageable chunks making it easier for our brains to digest. They keep us focussed on what actually needs to be done and prevents distraction from everything else going on around us.  So basically if I didnt write a to do list I would probably spend my day watching Judge Rinder and Loose Women…. oh wait….!
  3. Apparently our short term memory can only hold around seven items at one time. Seriously, seven items? Add baby brain into the mix and I’m probably having a good day if I remember four! So finally, here lies one of the most important reasons why I write lists.  I can’t remember a damn thing without them!!

So Mummy’s everywhere, go and embrace your lists, take pride in your colour coded tasks and make sure you start it with “write a to do list” so you can always, at least, cross off one item every day.

Writing this post reminded me for some reason of a picture I saw a while ago which I can resonate 100% with…

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