Since Lil A started eating real, whole food about three months ago instead of mashed meat-and-veg meals (which I used to buy her from Nutrikids, and which she LOVED), I’ve had to adjust the way hub and I eat. After only eating meat (by which I mean chicken, fish, ostrich or venison – I don’t really eat beef or pork at all, so we never cook it) maybe once a week, we’ve now started having fish at least once a week, and ostrich or free-range chicken once a week too.
We’ve cut right down on our vegan Asian meals and spicy vegetable curries because we can’t adjust them for Lil A. For one thing, they’re much too chilli-ful – and not being an actual Asian or Indian baby, she wasn’t exactly weaned on curry – and for another, ethically-sourced poultry and fish, and dishes containing dairy, are a much easier way for her to get all the vitamins (B12, specifically) and macronutrients (easily accessible protein) she needs. Of course it’s possible to raise a perfectly healthy vegan baby – I’m just not up for the challenge myself.
Here are Lil A’s favourite home-cooked meals so far (all cooked in bulk and frozen in portions for upcoming lunches and dinners – a surprisingly satisfying, Stepford-wife-esque endeavour):
- Tuna, broccoli and courgette “crustless quiche” – basically a frittata made with cheddar cheese and wholewheat breadcrumbs. This was one of the first meals hub ever cooked for me at varsity (of course, instead of tuna, broccoli and courgette, it contained vienna sausages and that’s about it), and it’s still one of my favourite comforting, home-cooked 80s throwbacks.
- Tagliatelle with small chunks of well-cooked butternut, spinach and ricotta (we use the vegetables and cheese as stuffing for cannelloni for ourselves, and mix it with chopped up long pasta for Lil A).
- Ostrich cottage pie with mashed orange sweet potato topping – cooked with lots of fresh thyme and basil, and heavy on the tinned tomato.
- Mushroom barley risotto made with fish stock, with flaked hake added for Lil A.
- Macaroni and cheese (duh), with roast chicken (leftovers pulled off the bone from a roast lunch), grated courgettes and peas. For a Lil A-friendly version of mac-‘n-cheese, I don’t make a roux-based white sauce – I just melt grated cheddar in a saucepan of milk – she doesn’t need the added fat from the butter, or the flour (nor do we, probably). And I’m ashamed to say that I serve it to her with a dollop of tomato sauce.
- Mild chicken or sweet potato curry made with coconut milk, chutney, peas and grated carrots, served with brown basmati rice.
[The boring/healthy disclaimer-y bit: We don’t add salt to any of these meals while we cook them, and the stock we use is low in sodium, so almost all the flavour in these dishes comes from the aromatics (onion, garlic, leeks) and herbs. We try to only use white cheddar, which doesn’t contain colourants, and we only ever buy free-range meat and eggs.]
The sad thing about all of this, of course, is that a boiled egg and toast, with a naartjie for pud, is probably Lil A’s favourite meal of all time, and she wouldn’t mind if we never cooked for her again. But, to be fair, as long as we don’t try to give her avocado, raw tomato, guava, or cheese by itself, she’ll eat pretty much anything.
If you’ve got a toddler or a little child, please share your foolproof family recipes in the comments. As you can see, our repertoire is a little limited, so I’d love whatever inspiration you’ve got to spare.