Category Archives: Baby-led weaning

Garlic Butter Chicken

This simple dinner is incredibly tasty and easy to make, and both cheap and satisfying.

Garlic Butter Chicken

  • 500g Farm Foods Frozen Mini chicken breasts.
  • 30g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
  • 5ml olive oil.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes, chopped into chips.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g broccoli.
  • 5 cloves of garlic.
  • 20ml of olive oil.

Heat the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and the olive oil in a large frying pan, crush and add the garlic (you can use less if you want a more mild flavour). The olive oil is important as it helps to prevent the spread from burning, by increasing it’s smoke point. Once the garlic is starting to brown, add the frozen chicken mini breasts, and gently fry. These will take around 35-40 minutes to cook, unless you chop them into smaller pieces as they cook. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Put the broccoli and carrots on to cook. Allow 30-35 minutes if steaming, or 25 if boiling. Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil all over the chips. I use a basket called a ‘quick chip’ to cook our chips like this, but you can use whatever baking tray, rack or pan that you have. Pop into the middle of a preheated oven at 180 degrees, for 30 minutes, checking a couple of times to make sure they don’t over cook. If using a pan rather than a rack, you will need to turn the chips about half way through.

Once the chicken is all starting to cook (and hence no longer frozen), it can help to cut it smaller. I do it by lifting it from the pan with a fork and cutting with a pair of kitchen shears. This saves dirtying an extra chopping board, and keeps the clutter down.

The chicken is cooked when all of the meat is white or brown-there should be no pink remaining at all. Once cooked, serve immediately with the chips and the veggies.

When prepared as described, this meal has a total of 576 calories, and costs £3.50 in all-just 88p per serving. Adapt for baby-led weaning by using unsalted light butter instead of the spread.

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Sausage and Mash

I’m sure that most children growing up in the UK in the last forty or fifty years will have looked forward to the nights when they were served sausage and mash. The Dinner Mama household is no different, with my children both loving this simple dinner.

While it’s quick and easy to make, the calorie count is good enough to not scare most people. Perhaps the biggest benefit however is the cost, with a family of four being served for just £3.

Sausage and Mash

  • 1 packet of 8 pork sausages (Aldi).
  • 1 bag of frozen floret mix (1kg bag, Aldi).
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 40g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.

 

Peel potatoes and chop into evenly sized pieces. Put into a large pan and cover with water, put onto boil for about 30 minutes or until soft. Put frozen veggies in a steamer or pan of boiling water. Steam for 30 minutes or until done to your liking. If boiling, allow around 20 minutes.

Place sausages under a high grill, or on the cooking plates of a stand alone grill (such as a George Foreman). Prick to allow the fat to drain out, and cook until golden brown all over, turning frequently.

Mash the potatoes in with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light, and serve with the veggies and two sausages per person. When prepared as directed, this meal has 593 calories per serving. Each serving costs just 75p, making this a cheap and easy go to meal!

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using salt free butter in the mash and slicing the sausages down the middle lengthwise. Day two of the challenge is complete, 6 meals down, 15 more to go!

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Challenge Day 2, Breakfast

This morning my smallest child loudly demanded an “eggy weggy woo” for his breakfast. So off to the kitchen I did trot to cook up a batch of boiled eggs, to refrigerate for later meals and snacks. You can choose to do them one at a time as needed if you wish, but I find this easier.

This left me with a breakfast today of a hard boiled egg and two slices of Hovis Wholemeal bread, toasted, with I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light (277 calories in all) with a cup of tea. With the milk in my tea, my breakfast came to a total of 337 calories. This meal can be adapted for baby led weaning by using salt free butter on the toast, and simply slicing the egg in half.

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My oldest child had a muffin, and dinner dad had Frosted flakes. My morning snack today is a pear, followed by a small treat-peanut butter on toast, bringing my total to 581 calories for the morning.

Four meals down, 17 more to go.

I’ve added a new section to the site because there was just too much information to add to a single post. See “eggs” at the top.

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Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (500 Calories)

I tend to buy the biggest chicken that I can find when I’m shopping, because it works out the best value for my money. This week, with the budget being more challenging than normal, I’ve decided to cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker instead of the oven, in the hopes of losing less to drying, and because a slow cooked chicken tends to literally fall apart, allowing you to get more from the carcass.

Cooked in the slow cooker, the chicken needs little to no attention and so will not take up much of your day. The vegetables tonight are frozen, as these are cheaper than buying fresh. The almost certainly will not look as appealing as the fresh varieties, but are far easier to use and cook as there is no prep needed. Allow 200-250g per person, and remember that they generally don’t take as long to cook as fresh vegetables would.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Dinner

  • 1 Large Chicken (around 2.2kg).
  • 1.1kg of potatoes (peeled weight).
  • 1kg bag of frozen floret mix frozen vegetables.
  • 40g of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light

Line the slow cooker with a double layer of tin foil. This isn’t essential but is a really useful step to take, as it allows you to use the foil to lift the chicken out. When cooked it will be so tender it will be literally falling apart, so trying to remove it with forks is likely to be difficult, if not essential. Preheat the slow cooker on high, and place the chicken in it, on top of the foil. Do not add any liquid. The chicken will produce lots of it’s own when cooking.

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Allow to cook on high for one hour. This brings the meat up to temperature more quickly, a precaution that though possibly not necessary, I prefer to take with poultry. Turn down to low, and cook for a further five to six hours. Turn to warm if the chicken is cooked thoroughly too early. You can check by piercing through the thickest part of the meat-the thigh-and check the colour of the juices that run out. If they are clear, it’s cooked. If they are pink or red, give it more time (on high).

Once fully cooked, the chicken should be gently lifted from the cooker using the foil, and left to rest for ten minutes. I wrapped the foil around it and used this to turn the chicken over, to help the breast stay moist.

Put potatoes on to boil, and add the frozen veg to the steamer about half an hour before serving the chicken. The chicken can be carved as the potatoes and veggies cook. You may find that the chicken is too tender to carve easily, in which case it may be better to simply pull the meat from the bones, in chunks. Take care to ensure that any small bones are removed.

Boil the potatoes until soft, then mash with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Serve the mash and veggies with 50g of breast meat, and 45g of dark meat (from the thighs, drum sticks and so on) per person.

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When cooked as prepared, this meal provides 500 calories per person, and costs 91p per serving. Gravy can be added, at 15 calories extra per person for Bisto.

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using unsalted butter, or milk instead of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light to make the mashed potatoes.

3 meals down, 18 more to go and day 1 of the budget challenge is over!

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Sausage and Bean Casserole

When you are looking for a comforting and warming dinner that is also cheap, you can’t beat a good sausage and bean casserole. With plenty of veggies in it, it is incredibly filling and thanks to the high protein and fibre content, it will keep you satisfied for a long time.

It should be noted that it isn’t essential that a meal like this be cooked in a slow cooker however it does make it easier. It is less likely to burn and will require less attention from you while it is cooking.

Sausage and Baked Bean Casserole

  • 1 pack Aldi Ashfield Farm pork sausages.
  • 1 can Asda Smart Price baked beans.
  • 2 cans Morrisons value chopped tomatoes.
  • 1 medium white onion.
  • 2 leeks.
  • Half a small swede.
  • 1 chicken Oxo cube.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots, chopped.
  • 60g fusilli pasta.
  • 300ml of boiling water.

 

Preheat your slow cooker. At this point you can either add everything to the slow cooker uncooked, but you may decide to brown your sausages first. Doing this leaves them looking nicer, but more importantly it allows some of the fat to drain off. When cooking a meal like this, that can be an important consideration, as otherwise the casserole may be left overly greasy.

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While the sausages are browning, dissolve the Oxo cube in the boiling water, and peel and chop the carrots, leeks, swede and onions. Add the carrots, swede, sausages and onion to the slow cooker, with the cans of tomatoes and the stock. Top with the can of baked beans and then the leeks (I add these last as they don’t require as much cooking). We prefer to have the sausages chopped into chunks before they go into the casserole, but this is personal preference.

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Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Cook 60g of fusilli per person, about twenty minutes before the casserole is due to be served, and serve the sausage casserole on top of it.

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When made as described, this meal has 700 calories, and costs just 88p per serving!

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using low salt and low sugar beans and cutting the sausages in half lengthwise instead of cutting them into chunks. Low salt stock can also be used.

 

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Why Use a Slow Cooker?

If you’ve not used a slow cooker before, you may not really know what one is, and certainly you aren’t likely to understand what all the hype surrounding them is for. Given how easy they are to use, how versatile, and how budget friendly, they are one of the more useful kitchen items to get to know.

Slow cookers are self contained cooking pots that come in three main sizes, the largest of which is sufficient to make a complete, hearty, one pot meal for a family of at least six, and potentially more. They are incredibly easy to use, thanks to the fact that they normally have just three settings: low, high, and keep warm.

They are fantastic for three reasons in particular. The first is the fact that they are great for the budget. The fact that things are cooked on a low heat for a long time means that they come out incredibly tender, allowing you to use up far cheaper cuts of meat than you otherwise might like to. Additionally, the fact that you are cooking in an enclosed environment, often with liquid in the pot means that food doesn’t dry out. Since it doesn’t shrink from drying out, it means that you can serve more people from the same amount of food.

Second is the fact that they don’t require constant attention as an oven may do. You can put your food in the cooking pot in the morning, leave it on low all day and then come home to a wonderfully smelling dinner when you are finished with work, or with whatever other activities will be keeping you busy that day. They are safe and economical to run.

Finally, for people who are baby-led weaning, a slow cooker is a dream. The food cooked in them comes out incredibly tender without nutrient loss as any nutrients that leach from the food stay in the liquid, which is often turned into a sauce or else it otherwise thickened.

They also give adventurous cooks the chance to experiment. The range of foods that you can cook in your slow cooker is enormous, and includes not only the more expected foods such as stews and casseroles, but also cakes and breads, and puddings too.

The price of a slow cooker means that they are within almost anyone’s reach, with basic units costing from under £20 for the larger of the pots. Clean up is simple after use, thanks to the fact that with most, the cooking pot can be removed from the heater and washed.

There is a wealth of information online for people who are interested in slow cooking,  and plenty of meals that can be made low fat, or low calorie, vegetarian, or to otherwise suit the special needs of your particular diet.

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Steak and Cheese Subs

When you fancy something a little different from your normal dinner, you might be tempted to order take away. But if you are watching your budget, as well as your waistline, there are alternatives that you can make at home for far less than it would cost to buy take away food for the family.

These steak and cheese subs are quick to make, and are both tasty and satisfying. With a serving of vegetables on the side they are a filling meal too.

 

Steak and Cheese Subs (serves 4)

  • 4 Greggs subway rolls.
  • 1lb (approximately) thin cut sandwich steak, cut into large bite sized pieces.
  • 120g light mature cheddar cheese (Cathedral City or Lidl own), grated.
  • 2 medium white onions.
  • 180g white mushrooms, chopped.
  • 400g peeled and chopped carrots.
  • 400g chopped broccoli (or other vegetables of your choice to serve).
  • 20ml olive oil.
  • Extra light mayonnaise (Hellmans or Bramley), mustard, or other sauce to serve.

 

If you’ve chosen to have cooked vegetables with your meal, make sure that you put them on to cook before you start to prepare the sandwich. They will take the longest amount of time, especially if you’ve chosen to steam them. Peel carrots, and chop them and the broccoli. Allow 30-45 minutes cooking time for carrots and broccoli in the steamer, depending on how soft you like them.

Fry the onions in 20ml of olive oil, until soft and starting to become translucent. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry till cooked, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the steak to the pan and fry over a medium heat until done to your liking. Slice the subway rolls and fill with onions and mushrooms while the steak cooks, and top with grated cheese. Place under the grill for a few minutes (checking frequently) to melt the cheese.

Remove the steak from the pan and fill the rolls. Add sauces to the rolls to taste-extra light mayonnaise and mustard make good, low calorie options.

This meal can be served up to a baby for baby-led weaning by omitting the sauce and serving the steak in longer strips instead of bite sized chunks. This will allow baby to hold and chew it, and though they are unlikely to succeed in biting pieces off at an early stage, they will still gain some nutrients from sucking and gumming the meat. Everything else can simply be served in pieces big enough to hold in their fist.

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When prepared as described, this meal has approximately 677 calories.

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Chicken and Leek Bread Pudding

Tonight is day two of our whole chicken, that was roasted yesterday. It’s also a bit of a use it up night, so will help to clear the fridge of food before it goes to waste. I would love to have the time to make a quiche from scratch, but today being a busier day I don’t have time to make the pastry. And so, we’re having cheese and leak bread pudding.

For egg lovers this is a fantastically tasty dish, and one that is easy to vary by adding different fillings to it. It certainly won’t leave you hungry, being a very satisfying dish, and easy to pair with vegetables of your choice.

Chicken and Leek Bread Pudding-Serves 4

  • 7 slices of Hovis Wholemeal bread, torn into chunks.
  • 9 medium Lidl eggs (these are on the small side of medium).
  • 2 medium leeks.
  • 2 cloves of garlic.
  • 200g of roast chicken (leftovers from a roast dinner).
  • 120g Light mature cheddar, grated (Lidl was used, Cathedral City is the same calories).
  • 200ml skimmed milk.
  • 400g Cauliflower.
  • 400g carrots (peeled weight).
  • 15ml olive oil.
  • Seasoning to taste.

Carrots were peeled and chopped and put into the steamer for 45 minutes, and the cauliflower cleaned and chopped and added on top of the carrots. The oven was put on to preheat and two rectangular Pyrex baking dishes lined with grease-proof paper.

Roughly tear the bread and split between the two dishes. Remove the outer leaves from the leeks and discard the root end. Thinly slice and fry in the olive oil with the garlic cloves (crushed) for about five minutes, or until soft. Remove from the heat and add to the baking dish with the bread.

Chop the roast chicken into small pieces and sprinkle over the bread and leek mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top.

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Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk together with the milk and salt or the seasoning of your choice. Pour the egg slowly over the bread mix in the baking pan, remembering to try and split it evenly between the two bowls.

Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top has gone golden brown. Lift from the baking dish using the grease-proof paper and place upside down on a plate to allow you to peel away the paper. Turn onto a cutting board to cut into portions, and serve with the veggies of your choice.

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When made as described this comes in at approximately 650 calories per adult serving. The cost was £1.25 per person.

To adapt for baby-led weaning, save the salt for those who want it after serving.

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Roast Chicken Dinner, Under 500 Calories!

There’s nothing as comforting as a lovely Sunday roast dinner, but it is possibly improved by it being less than 500 calories per serving. Even the most restricted calorie diet can make room for this comfort food.

With 100g of chicken per portion, a good serving of mashed potato and steamed broccoli and carrots to boot, there’s no need to go hungry.

Roast Chicken Dinner

  • 1 large whole chicken, without giblets. I used a 2.23kg chicken from Aldi, giving us enough meat for three meals from the one joint.
  • 950g potatoes (peeled weight).
  • 400g carrots (peeled weight).
  • 400g fresh broccoli.
  • 20g I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light.
  • 4 heaped tsp Bisto original.
  • 280ml boiling water.

Unwrap the chicken and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels and throw them away. Place the chicken in a roasting tray in the middle of a preheated oven at 190 degrees. My preference is to start the cooking with the chicken upside down, standing on the breast. I turn it to breast up half way through the cooking, as this helps to stop the breast from drying out too much, and so keeps the breast nice and moist.

The roasting time will differ depending on the size of the chicken. It needs 20 minutes per pound of weight, plus an extra 20 minutes. Chickens are normally sold by the kilogram these days so you’ll need to work out the cooking time. There are approximately 450g per pound, so a 1.6kg chicken will take about 95 minutes to cook.

Peel and chop your carrots, and chop the broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the potatoes into small chunks for boiling. About 20 minutes before the chicken is due to come out you need to start steaming both veggies-they will need 30-45 minutes cooking time. Start the potatoes boiling once the vegetables are on.

When the chicken is roasted take it out and allow it to rest for about five minutes in a warm place. Carve or pull the meat from the carcass as you prefer and place on a serving plate. Add the boiling water to the Bisto granules in a jug and stir well. We personally like to use less water for a thicker gravy. We also enjoy making the gravy from the meat juices in the roasting pan, however this pushes up the calorie count for the meal so we don’t often do it.

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Mash the potatoes once cooked, with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light and serve with the cooked vegetables. Serve 50g of breast meat and 50g of dark to each person, and 50ml of gravy.

When made and served as directed, each portion has a tiny 479 calories per portion. Good enough for a Sunday roast every day! The entire meal costs less than £3.50 (assuming three meals from a 2.2kg chicken), which is 88p per serving.

To adapt for baby-led weaning, simply mash baby’s potatoes with unsalted butter instead, and don’t serve them any gravy.

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Melt in the Mouth Slow Cooker Lamb

Lamb is a fabulous meat with a really lovely flavour, but is comparatively expensive. That makes it all the more important to do it right when you do it.

This joint cost £6.50 on special offer, for enough to serve the four of us for one meal. This is a lot more expensive than most roasts that I would do, that would average two servings (and maybe three) for the four of us for under £5. It was bought alongside two large pork joints, each on sale at half price, so the savings from the pork made it possible to buy the lamb.

This was another slow cooker meal because Sundays are another busy day for mum’s taxi. That thankfully let me enjoy my time out with the kids, and come home to the most fantastic smells throughout the house from the lamb cooking! This is to serve four, but can be adjusted to suit more or less people.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder

  • 1kg lamb shoulder.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g chopped fresh broccoli.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 2 lamb OXO cubes.
  • 5 tsp Colemans mint sauce.
  • 1 tsp honey.
  • 20g Flora Light.
  • 600ml boiling water.
  • 1.5 tbsp cornflour.

Preheat slow cooker on high for ten minutes, while you peel and chop the carrots. Place them into your warmed cooker and place the lamb on top. Dissolve your stock cubes and honey in the boiling water and pour slowly over the lamb

Lamb shoulder is a particularly greasy meat, so it is important to skim the fat off the top of the water a couple of times during cooking if you can, but at the end before serving at the very least. Cook on high for one hour before switching to low and leaving for six to eight hours more. The lamb should be falling off the bone.

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Cook the broccoli in the steamer for 30-45 minutes, starting before the lamb is removed from the cooker, until it is tender as you like it. We like it to retain a little bite. The potatoes should be put on to boil when the lamb comes out of the slow cooker.

The stock from this joint makes the most incredible, simple mint gravy. Once the lamb and the carrots have been removed from the slow cooker, turn the cooker back onto high. Make a paste from one and a half tablespoons of cornflour,

with a few tablespoons of the stock from the pot. Thin the paste with some more stock, before slowly stirring it into the pot. Leave to thicken, stirring every couple of minutes, while you carve the lamb, or tear it into chunks for serving. Allow around 100g per person.

Mash potatoes with the Flora and serve straight away with the steamed veggies and lamb. Add mint gravy where you fancy it, it was particularly tasty on the mash! Made as described, this comes in at approximately 640 calories per adult serving.

Adapt this recipe for baby-led weaning by using a low salt stock such as Kalo Organic, don’t add the mint sauce until the lamb has been removed, and use an unsalted butter to make your mashed potatoes.

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