Weaning with 'My little Piccolo'.
I remember when I started weaning Oakley and I said I wouldn't feed my baby anything I wouldn't feed myself, I was convinced I would make him fresh purees and he would eat all the things I wanted him too. It took me until I was an adult to fully enjoy a varied diet of vegetables and fruit myself, but now I enjoy all foods (I enjoy them a little too much if you know what I mean) I will try anything, In-fact my favourite thing to do is eat out when given the chance. Ive battled with my weight for a long time and all I want is my children to have a healthy relationship with food, starting them as young as possible is key. I think were I went wrong with Oakley was my lacking knowledge and confidence when It came to weaning, we tried a mixture of smooth blended foods and baby led weaning ideas, although it worked for so long once I knew the things that he liked I began to only focus on what I knew he would eat. It saved time and effort which is the long run has left me with a toddler who knows exactly what he wants and is not willing to budge.
My Little Piccolo are a organic 100% natural baby food provider, growing up eating Mediterranean food Co founder Cat wanted the same for her family so the brand was formed. She continues to spend her time tracking down the best and the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients, experimenting with recipes, and sharing her culinary creations with the most people that she can squeeze around her kitchen table. The flavour combinations were what originally caught my eye (along with the amazingly aesthetic packaging, I'm such a sucker for pretty packaging) they are so unique they believe that introducing a pinch of Mediterranean goodness helps develop your little piccolo's taste buds from when it matters most. Another amazing dynamic to the brand is their giving back, 10% of profits go to help fund food education, in partnership with the NCT, providing practical support around baby nutrition to parents.
We were lucky enough to be contacted last year when they launched their brand and we were able to receive some pouches to sample, Oakley was mostly on solids at this point but he loved having a pure fruit or fruit and yogurt pouch in the morning as he felt it was something special squeezing it out of the tube and into his mouth and I was happy knowing that he was getting some real goodness. What I wish I had known at the time was that I could cook with them too, adding them into dishes for him would perhaps have eased my worry about his lack of fruit and vegetables. So before I tell you all about our pop in event with them I'm going to give you an amazing and exclusive recipe were you can use the pouches to make a cake, yes you heard correctly a CAKE using baby food as its key ingredient, and I can tell you first hand that it was delicious. Alice (the other co-founder) of the brand was experimenting before we arrived and she was hoping to get some feedback, it instantly got the seal of approval as we all sliced it up and had it with butter and jam. So here it is...
Piccolo Apple & Date Cake
This is a lovely tea time cake, where the piccolo pouches have replaced most of the added sugar and the butter. Dairy free, this cake also works well using gluten free flour, it just makes it a little denser.
300g self-raising flour
250g packet pitted dates, chopped
75g soft light brown sugar
1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 x pouches of Piccolo’s Apple & Apricot Puree or peach & Apple Puree ( also works with 2 x pouches and 100ml of light olive oil)
2 medium eggs
1kg (2lb) loaf tin, either a silicone tin, or a standard tin buttered and lined with a sheet of baking parchment
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3 or 160°C fan. Greece with oil a 1kg loaf tin and line with baking paper. Pour the flour into a bowl and stir in the chopped dates, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Pour in the piccolo pouches and eggs into the bowl and 4 tablespoons of water. Stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and level the surface.
Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the loaf feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean after being inserted into the loaf.
Remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Place the cooled cake in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow the cake to defrost overnight before serving.
Cooking: 50 minutes
Preparation: 15 minutes
After we had demolished Alice's cake with her homemade prune jam (don't knock it until you've tried it, I was skeptical but it was so sweet and the perfect spread) We got down to business, the whole concept behind the event was to get us stuck in, cooking fresh foods and thinking outside the box when it comes to what we give our babies. I think what we all took away from it was confidence, In knowing that cooking can be easier than we think, so many of the recipes needed a very basic amount of ingredients and equipment, most of which I had at home anyway and the ones I didn't have were the type of jars that could sit in the cupboard with a good sell by date as a little goes a long way. All recipes we made were perfect for baby led weaning, they could be sliced into small bites or fingers, the textures were all so great for little taste buds to explore and digest. With only a couple of hours to make everything we hurriedly chopped, mixed and stirred but in fact we had time to spare and lots of tupperware full to the brim, just goes to show how easy it was. We each made a loaf of soda bread and got it cooked out the oven in less than 1.5 hours, I was just as surprised as you are. Teamed with homemade hummus, It was delicious.
The Perfect Soda Bread
450g Coarse wholemeal flour
50g rolled oats
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp treacle
450ml buttlermilk (or sour milk, or milk with 1tbsp lemon juice)
1 tbsp melted butter, to finish
Preheat the oven to 200c/ gas mark 6 and grease a baking sheet.
Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together to combine. Make a well in the middle, stir the treacle and honey into the butter milk until well mixed, then pour into the well and very quickly stir together with your hands until you have a soft, sticky dough.
Form this into a round on your baking sheet and cut a deep cross into the dough. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, keeping an eye on it, until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.
Brush with melted butter and leave to cool before tearing into it. Eat as soon as possible as it doesnt keep very well.
Perfect for a quick, no fuss, and more importantly minimum mess, snack or breakfast. Add your own flavours to this base to make it your own. Tip: As your baby gets older you can make these a bit more exciting by adding other spices such as allspice and dried chopped fruit or make a savoury version with some mixed herbs and grated parmesan.
10 heaped tbsp porridge oats (or a mix or oats, millet flakes or barley flakes to provide a mix of grains to your baby’s diet)
10 tbsp full fat cow’s milk (or no added sugar almond milk, oat milk or any nut milk alternatives)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pour the oats into a small, flat bottomed microwave proof dish and pour over the milk.
Add the cinnamon and mix together.
Press the oat mix down into the dish with the back of the spoon and cook in the microwave for 2 minutes on high.
Cut into fingers and serve once cool. If you don’t want to use the microwave, these work just as well in the oven. Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and cook for 15 minutes.
Time: 20 minutes
Serves 8 (Can be eaten hot or cold)
These delicious quick savoury flapjacks make brilliant finger foods and perfect afternoon snacks. Tip: Use different vegetables or spice to make your own versions!
200g porridge oats
200g grated carrots
200g grated courgette
200g Grana Padano or Cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5
Grease a baking tray (Swiss roll size). Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and press into the tray
Bake 25-30 minutes, until set and lightly browned
Serves: Makes 20 squares
Ready in 40 minutes (Suitable for freezing.)
Egg Breakfast Cups
8 Slices of Parma ham, wafer thin ham or turkey (optional)
Some chopped spinach, baby tomatoes, spring onion and/or mushrooms
Preheat the oven to 180c/ 350f/ Gas mark 4. Generously grease the muffin tin with sunflower, ice bran or olive oil and place ham slices into the tin to form a cup, you may need 2 slices of ham to ensure there are no gaps in the muffin cup.
For a baked egg, put any vegetables you would like in the bottom of the cup and break the egg on top. For scrambled egg, mix the veg with a beaten egg and pour into the cup.
Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Note the scrambled egg cup takes less time to cook through than the baked egg.
Preperation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10-15 minutes.
Makes 4 egg cups
Everything we made was so versatile, there was no specific breakfast, lunch or dinner which was something I loved about it all, perfect for lunch box snacking or picnicking you could even add some other elements to make it a bigger meal. The options were endless and I left with a full tummy from trying it all, nothing I wouldn't eat myself which made me extremely happy. Safe to say that we all left the pop in feeling inspired, educated and raring to go, I'm aware that some days I'm not going to be the roaring chef I'm making myself out to be, sometimes things will get in the way but I am so determined to make better choices with Olives diet, and I'm hoping in doing so it might get Oakley a little more willing to try new things, these recipe methods were great sensory play too and maybe if he gets his hands dirty he might want to taste the end result. Now I don't want to wish time away but I cant wait to put these new skills to the test and see Olive enjoying her mamas cooking.
But you know what made the day even more fabulous, was the company. Alice was the absolute perfect host and I felt so at ease with her. Her passion was clear, she knows what works and she was unbelievably helpful in advising us in areas of nutrition we were struggling with, dietary requirements, allergies and the dreaded tomato ketchup ban. Even quickly whizzing up a quick alternative to help us wean the toddlers away from that red stuff! The girls though, well meeting those mamas for the first time was so surreal, we have mostly followed each other right from the beginning of motherhood. We have watched bumps turn into babies and babies into toddlers and our virtual relationship became a real life one, it was very special. We spent all day chatting, the babies playing and we decided to find a local pub to continue our day, so engrossed it was soon London rush hour and we ended up arriving home much later than we imagined but it was worth it. Thank you My Little Piccolo for not only providing us with an amazing event but for also giving us the opportunity to grow friendships for our babies.