Beef & Veg Lasagne

If your child is averse to munching on veggies at the best of times, and you are finding it increasingly difficult to get them into his or her little tummy, you aren’t alone.

I played around with a family favourite –  lasagne – to find a lip-smacking way to sneak in the veg and cram in the nutrients…all unbeknownst to my son!

If your family or child doesn’t eat red meat for any reason, then this recipe can also be made with chicken mince, tuna or just veg.

Although I used egg lasagne noodles in this recipe, you can really use any pasta of your choice (penne,  fusilli or farfalle could all work). A little trick I discovered is that the noodles don’t need to be pre-cooked, as long as they are coated in enough sauce!

Get creative with adding in different veggies, and process them as chunky or finely as your child will tolerate.

If your child is lactose-intolerant, go for lactose-free cheese options and substitute lactose-free/almond milk for the cow’s milk.

This recipe can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and then popped into the oven before serving. It also freezes extremely well: all you need to do is thaw it ahead of time and then bake it as below (you could also make extra mince and veg mixture, and then freeze that in individual portions to use at a later date).

This recipe makes around 12 portions.

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg free-range beef mince
  • 1.5 boxes egg lasagne sheets (roughly 350g)
  • 3 x tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin tomato purèe
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3-4 large leeks, finely chopped
  • 3-4 large carrots
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 large peppers (any colour)
  • 2 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp crushed/minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups grated white hard cheese (mozzarella, gouda)
  • 4 heaped Tbs wholewheat flour
  • 1.5 litres milk
  • 3-4 cracks black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 180°C
  • Combine the carrots, broccoli florets and peppers in a food processor and pulse until fine (about the same size as mince meat)
  • In a large pan heat 1 Tbs olive oil and garlic on a medium-high heat
  • Add the leeks and stir until softened
  • Add the mince, stirring to get rid of any large pieces
  • Once browned, add the vegetables and mix together, cooking for a further 5 minutes
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato purèe, water, oregano and parsley
  • Turn up the heat and bring to a boil
  • Lower the heat to a medium heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes
  • In the meantime you can get started on the sauce
  •  To make the cheese sauce:
    • Heat 1 Tbs olive oil on a medium heat
    • Add the flour, using a whisk to mix it together with the oil in the pan
    • Slowly add the milk, whisking the mixture constantly
    • Add the black pepper and the nutmeg
    • Allow the mixture to thicken (not allowing the mixture to catch in the pan, rather turn down to a low heat if needed)
    • When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (not too runny and not too thick) you can remove the pan from the heat completely and add in the cheese, whisking it into the mixture until smooth
    • Your sauce is now ready!
  • To assemble the lasagne:
    • Using a large oven-proof dish, start with 1/3 meat & veggie mixture, followed by a layer of noodles and then 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Repeat 3 times.
    • Sprinkle parmesan over the top.
    • Bake for 50 minutes, until browned and bubbling (if the top begins burning, turn the heat down)

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

Mushroom & Coconut Chicken

Food for thought: mushrooms are have been hailed as a superfood due to the impressive punch of nutrients found in each serving. By including mushrooms in your child’s diet, you are adding in a significant amount of B vitamins, fibre and, most importantly, selenium. Selenium is one of the most powerful antioxidants that is required by the body to fight off harmful free radicals. In addition, selenium has been linked to controlling blood glucose levels, and preventing brain nerve tissue deterioration and cancers. 

On a mission to come up with a tasty meal using the humble (and nutrient-dense) mushroom, this recipe is simple, ideal for cold, wintery days and can be dished up to the entire family (unless there are a few fussy eaters amidst the pack!).

The mushrooms work brilliantly with the flavour of the coconut milk, and the saucy consistency makes it ideal to serve over whole-wheat noodles, basmati rice, brown rice or even over mash. If you would prefer to keep this recipe dairy-free, then hold off on the cheese and use nutritional yeast flakes instead. Alternately, using cow’s milk and parmesan will be equally delicious. If your child has a soy allergy, then opt for tamari in place of the low-sodium soya sauce.

This recipe also freezes really well! I would however recommend freezing the chicken and mushroom mixture and then, once thawed, serving it with the fresh starch of your choice.

What you’ll need:

  • 1-2 packets chicken breasts (6-8 chicken breasts), cut into strips
  • 2 punnets mushrooms, finely chopped (any mushrooms will work)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 heaped Tbs almond flour (or any wholewheat flour)
  • 2 heaped Tbs nutritional yeast flakes / grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbs olive oil for frying
  • 3 cracks black pepper
  • 1 Tbs low sodium soya sauce/tamari
  • 1/4 cup chicken/vegetable stock (low sodium is preferable)
  • Noodles/rice of your choice (wholewheat, brown or basmati is preferable)

Method:

  • Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
  • Brown the chicken strips for about 1-2 minutes on each side, then remove the chicken from the pan set the chicken aside.
  • Add the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil to the pan, followed by the garlic.
  • After a minute of frying the garlic, add in the chopped mushrooms, black pepper and soya sauce/tamari.
  • Cook out all the liquid from the mushrooms, until the mushrooms begin browning (around ten minutes).
  • Add back the chicken, followed by the stock, and the coconut milk.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer on a medium heat setting for 5 minutes.
  • Add the flour and the nutritional yeast/parmesan and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  • Once the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and set aside (the mixture will still thicken when off the heat).
  • Cook the noodles/rice according to the package instructions.
  • Serve the noodles/rice with the chicken mixture, with an extra sprinkling of parmesan/nutritional yeast flakes on top.
  • Makes 6-8 portions, depending on the age(s) of your child(ren).

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

Herb & Parmesan Crusted Salmon

It’s no secret that omega fatty acids are one of the most important sources of fuel for growing little people. DHA and EPA are the most optimal sources of omegas (needed for brain development, emotional development and concentration), and are abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. Although plant-based oils, which are high in omega 6 – including avocado, flaxseed, soy and canola oil – offer a number of health benefits and are converted to DHA and EPA by the body, it remains far more beneficial to consume fatty fish sources when it comes to brain development.

So, exactly how much of this fatty acid should children be consuming?

Experts recommend at least two servings of fish per week, where fatty fish is preferable. If you plan on giving your child more than two servings a week, then it is best to avoid high mercury options (high levels of mercury can be toxic to the body when consumed in high quantities).

In an attempt to get my son to eat more salmon, and the omega 3’s that come along with it, I wanted to make a delicious salmon dish that would get him excited at the prospect of eating fish. The parmesan creates a subtle saltiness in this dish and the crumbled feta adds some creamy texture. Although I opted for almond flour because it adds a delicious flavour to the herb crust (amongst an added kick of omega 6), wholewheat flour could totally work in this recipe too.

What I really love about this recipe is that it is a healthy and flavour-packed dinner option that the entire family could enjoy. If your child is lactose intolerant or has a dairy allergy, then look out for lactose-free or dairy-free alternatives (a fantastic one is Nutritional Yeast Flakes that can be found in most health stores, and can replace the parmesan in this recipe).

What you’ll need:

  • 4 small-medium fillets fresh salmon
  • 1 handful fresh mint
  • 1 handful fresh basil
  • 3 heaped Tbs parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 heaped Tbs almond flour
  • 2-3 cracks black pepper
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/4 cup feta, drained, crumbled

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • Place the salmon fillets on a greased baking tray.
  • Combine the rest of the ingredients, apart from the feta, in a food processor and process until semi-smooth.
  • Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto each salmon fillet and spread to coat the surface (you will need roughly a heaped tablespoon per fillet).
  • Sprinkle over the crumbled feta.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Serve with wholewheat pasta, brown rice, sweet potato fries or vegetables of your choice.

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

*Always double-check fish for bones before feeding it to your child.

*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.