Last week I spent the day at the Waitrose Cookery School with Ella's Kitchen learning how to make healthy food for my family. Although the weaning stage feels like a long way behind us, we still have a way to go in helping our kids to eat and enjoy healthy foods and so I was really excited to be invited along.
Ella's Kitchen has teamed up with Waitrose on a new campaign, called Little Foodies. The campaign is all about helping people to make healthy, nutritious food for babies and toddlers, but also to really help kids of all ages learn to love food. This might be through getting them involved in cooking and shopping, eating together as a family and trying new foods on a regular basis.
The Waitrose Cookery School is an amazing place. A proper professional kitchen with all the tools you need, expert help on hand and the best bit of all - someone else does the washing up! I learnt so much while I was there and I'm seriously hoping to go back again in the future to study one of their courses.
We were shown three recipes by the chef, Andy. Andy gave us a demo of each recipe and then we had the chance to cook it - and taste it - for ourselves. One of my favourite parts of the day was that he shared with us a wealth of cooking and nutritional knowledge and allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted, rather than just showing us the recipes and leaving it at that. For example - did you know that the most nutritious part of a potato is the skin? So as long as your potato isn't too old don't peel it as it's full of goodness - even vitamin C!
I came away from the event feeling really inspired and with lots of new knowledge - both around cooking skills and nutrition.
Here are the three dishes that we made:
1. Roasty Red Pesto Cauliflower
Everyone else made theirs with chicken but as a vegetarian I was given cauliflower as an alternative. Andy explained that reason for this choice was that many other vegetables have too high a water content and would have made the other ingredients a bit soggy. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favourite dishes so I was very happy with this choice.
2. Pop Out Mini Tortilla Muffins
Whether you call them tortilla, omelette or frittata these are basically mini ones stuffed full of veg - potatoes, peppers, spring onion and peas - and baked in the oven. These could be served for breakfast or lunch and would be perfect in a lunchbox. We also used these incredible silicone muffin pans - the muffins literally popped out with no sticking at all. I am definitely adding these to my wish list!
This recipe also sparked an interesting discussion about picky eating and the merits - or otherwise - of hiding vegetables. The veggies in this aren't nearly hidden enough to get them past R, who at almost 7 is an expert vegetable detector, but my other two kids loved these.
The chef also shared with us some interesting facts about how it is completely natural for toddlers to start rejecting vegetables. As they begin to become more independent this is a protective measure to stop them from eating poisonous berries in the forest. The nutritionist from Ella's Kitchen also mentioned that sometimes we need to offer our children a new food ten or more times before they'll accept it, which is worth bearing in mind before you give up on broccoli or beans.
3. Chilly Cherry Pudding Pots
We actually made this super simple recipe with berries, which was another one of Andy's tips. Get to know what each ingredient does in a recipe and you'll begin to learn how to substitute an ingredient you don't have in the house for one you do. In this case we subbed cherries for berries, but this would also work in the red pesto dish above with leeks and onions for example. This dish is a bit like an easy version of summer pudding, made with bread, berry compote and a little apple juice. We made two of these and I *may* have eaten one of them myself and made the kids share the final one. Whoops!
The recipes above can be found in the Ella's Kitchen cookbooks - Ella's Kitchen: The First Foods Book: The Purple One and Ella's Kitchen: The Cookbook: The Red One.* They are great recipes for families because not only are they delicious, they can be customised for different ages. If you have a baby in the family the cauliflower pesto dish can be whizzed in a food processor into a purée or served as it is if you have older children or you're doing baby led weaning. The same goes for the muffins and the pudding pots. There's no need to make a separate meal for the kids as these dishes, and all the recipes in the Ella's Kitchen cookbooks are free from salt, sugar and nasties. You can of course season your portion at the table! Mr Sneaky Veg is a big fan of adding a large dollop of chilli sauce to everything I cook.
Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post with Ella's Kitchen
* This post contains affiliate links which means that should you buy something after clicking on this link I will receive a small commission. The price to you remains the same.