"I'm Hungry!" This is the standard statement painfully made every half hour in our household by Finn at the moment. I personally find food and kids very challenging. Finn is very fussy - although he eats everything at nursery, from vegetables to sauces, he refuses to eat them at home. I've even got recipes of things he loves off the nursery to recreate at home and he just rejects it. You can't mix sauces with pasta (god forbid if they even touch each other on the plate!), he won't eat pasta pesto (doesn't every child eat this?!) and fishfingers have sadly become a household staple. If I try to hide things in his food he finds them. We've bought the fun Buddy & Bear tablewear and expensive Design Letters cutlery (which is awful by the way!) to jazz meal times up but nothing seems to make a difference. One week he will eat something then the next week he won't. He has spent the time I've been typing this running over to the computer shouting "pancakes pancakes" as he's spotted the image below! They are his absolute favourite. I always thought I would be one of those mums with a kid who ate anything put in front of him, especially coming from a real foodie family, however this is certainly not the case and I'm praying its a phase!
When I came across thishackneymum on Instagram a while back I was super impressed at how she made something fresh and often new everyday for her son. Her pictures are colourful, inspiring and yummy! I was also drawn to her excellent and inspiring taste in kids tableware! She documents what she feeds her son everyday via Instagram. I've been following her for a while and she has just had another baby, congratulations! This Hackney Mum has kindly answered some questions we sent her and given loads of advice about food with kids. I wanted to find out her secrets! How does she find the energy to make something every day (noted that 'thishackneydad' is now starting to help out with a newborn in the house!)? Baby Violet (4 months) is starting to get very interested in food and it's funny how much you forget about weaning, This Hackney Mum is inspiring me to make more effort and ditch the Ellas pouches (gulp, watch this space!) when the weaning process does start in the next month or so.
Name: Rachel Boyett (33 yrs) aka @thishackneymum
Children's names: Felix (20 months) & Juniper (newborn!)
Live: Homerton, Hackney, London
Job: Ex City solicitor currently plotting my next move (a toddler and newborn making this a very very slow process)
Why did you start This Hackney Mum? I wasn't at all excited about weaning. To me it seemed like more work, more things for me to forget on days out (I'm seriously bad at packing baby bags) and so on. So I waited until almost 6 months and went down the baby-led route which meant we went more or less straight to more interesting food (purees and steamed veg didn't get me excited!). Once we started it dawned on me that pre-baby I loved cooking and baking and generally being in the kitchen. The weaning stage was more of a creative outlet than I had imagined. I think after the monotony of dealing with a newborn you lose sight of the possibility of bringing your own personality into childrearing and doing fun things.
I started turning to Instagram to get more weaning ideas - there are some amazing mums on there producing really inventive and fun foods for babies and toddlers – some Instagrammers who inspired me at the start were babytoddlerfoods, betsyledliving, whatsbabyeating and the mamas on the Instaweanteam (to name just a few!). I then decided to go for it and start snapping my own creations.
The other main advantage to This Hackney Mum is that I have a record of what I’ve made, what’s been a success and essentially what Felix has eaten recently. When you are sleep deprived it’s very easy to forget what you had for dinner the night before! I expect in 6 months when it’s time to wean Juniper I’ll be doing some frantic scrolling to remember what Felix started on.
What are the main challenges with feeding a baby/ toddler? The frustration of out and out rejection. When you know they will like something if they would only put a tiny bit in their mouth but they point blank refuse.
Food throwing. It’s really hard to stay motivated to cook something different if 9 out of 10 times it’s thrown on the floor (thankfully more recently we’ve had a lot less floor throwing and more just pushing away). Balancing the “they need to eat something nutritious” with the “they need to eat so they don’t wake up hungry in the night”. I’m looking forward to Felix being a bit older so I can deploy some more effective tactics around not offering replacement foods for dinner.
What's your child's favourite food? Pasta, cheese and banana. If he rejects any of these I know he’s really poorly.
What recipes/dishes are your most popular/ successful? Annoyingly it’s probably my most boring dishes which are the most popular (there must be a correlation to the more time, creativity and nutrition put into a dish the more likely it is to end up on the floor…..). In the early days of weaning vegetable muffins were a saviour. I don’t make them as often now but when I do they still go down well. Like a lot of babies Felix is a total carb junkie and vegetable muffins are a very effective way of bringing carbs and veg together!
Rachels Vegetable Muffin Recipe
Ingredients (makes approx 10 muffins):
1 cup of flour (for a basic muffin a 50/50 mix of wholemeal flour and white flour works well. I like to experiment with flours - spelt works well in muffins. Buckwheat and polenta can be mixed with plain flour to add different textures/flavours)
1tsp of baking powder
1 cup of chopped veg (leafy greens should be gently cooked off first. Any other veg can be added raw)
1/4 cup of whole milk (or any other milk of your choice)
1/8 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of cheese (optional)
(if you want to pack in more protein you can add a handful of milled/chopped seeds to the mix and/or sprinkle seeds on top)
1. Sieve flours and baking powder together and stir in the veg.
2. In a separate bowl beat together the milk, egg and oil.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add cheese and/or seeds if using and combine. You may want to add a touch more milk if the mix is looking a bit dry.
4. Spoon into an oiled muffin tray and sprinkle on any seeds (if using).
5. Bake at 180c for around 20mins (until golden on top)
I’m very fortunate that Felix will eat pasta with pretty much any sauce. So we do a lot of hidden veg pasta sauces and pestos made from variety of nuts and veg. I’ve been consciously trying to reduce his pasta intake so that he eats a wider range of carbs and grains but I’ll always go back to pasta when he’s teething or a little under the weather (or if we are eating out – I still find it too frustrating for him to chuck restaurant food on the floor).
Pancakes are always a hit – I try to mix them up with different flours etc to cover more nutritional tick boxes.
What tips do you have for making sure your little one gets their fruit and veg intake/ eat? I definitely don’t feel qualified to answer this (unless cheese is a fruit or veg…)!! Felix loves fruit so actually one of my concerns is not giving him too much fruit as fruit is still high in sugar and also I’m conscious too much might upset his tummy.
I do worry about his veg intake though and really wish he would be more adventurous with what veg he eats. Going down the covert route (something I never thought I would do. Before weaning I felt strongly a child should be enjoying veg for what they are – however reality soon sets in…!):
A handful of leafy greens into a breakfast smoothie;
Pesto made from spinach, kale or broccoli;
Hidden veg tomato sauce (which can be used with pasta or as a base for a pizza);
Mac cheese made from butternut squash or carrots;
Dips (like a lot of toddlers Felix loves to dip!). Homemade tomato ketchup with added carrot and/or peppers, hummus with added carrot/beetroot and so on.
I also frequently offer Felix things I know he likes (alongside something new or something he has been refusing to eat) for example cooked carrots, avocado, cucumber spears. If there is a vegetable they like embrace that – if nothing else it will make you feel virtuous when they clear the plate! I work on the basis that as long as I continue to offer veg, then it is there when Felix decides to eat it. Plus he will be used to veg being part of every meal (that’s not to say I don’t get frustrated when he rejects it…!)
How do you make mealtimes fun? Whenever possible we try to eat as a family. We all sit down to breakfast together as I think it’s really important to show Felix that mealtimes are a social occasion. During the week it is harder as my husband doesn’t get home until after 7 but I still sit down with Felix at 5:30 and have a mini dinner (I’m sure that’s breaking a million dieting rules!!). Rolling play dates into a baby dinner is also great although it can go either way – they both eat everything or they both eat nothing! Now the weather is better we try and get outside to eat. I think a change of scene helps to encourage trying new foods. I’m looking forward to involving Felix more in cooking too as he gets older. I’m ashamed to say the thought of the mess has put me off doing it so far.
Where do you get your ideas / inspiration from? Instagram mostly. I’ve said before but I love the weaning community on there. I also have a few favourite recipe books which I turn to: The Green Kitchen, Jamie Oliver Everyday Superfood, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Veg Everyday and any Ottolenghi. I don’t always follow recipes (I’m a bit too disorganised to ever have all the ingredients) but I like picking up ideas from the books.
Biggest challenges your currently experiencing with your little one and food? The word NO. It’s deployed frequently and seemingly indiscriminately! I try and remember that fussiness is a way of testing boundaries and expressing themselves but it’s very hard to stay calm in the face of refusal (especially if you are offering something that was enjoyed the week before). On a personal level being pregnant was a huge challenge to cooking. I was sick for about 4 months at the beginning and it was a struggle to provide meals (Felix had a lot of pasta with Ella’s pouches as a sauce…). And now having a newborn creates its own challenges. I think getting organised is going to be the key – I’ve been meaning to start meal planning for ages so watch this space!
Thoughts on frozen fish fingers and chips!? Frozen food has its uses and I’ve definitely turned to the freezer section before. We don’t eat it often but I think when you are generally providing low salt/sugar food for your little one then the odd freezer meal is fine. Plus life sometimes gets in the way of cooking – having food ready to go in the freezer is invaluable when it’s suddenly 17:45 and you have a very hungry toddler to deal with. In a similar vein these days I don’t eat anything in front of Felix which I’m not prepared to share as I don’t want him to think there are forbidden foods which I’m allowed and he is not (obviously this doesn’t extend to booze!).
Any other recipes you love to make- sweet and savoury Pre babies I loved baking proper cakes and treats. My all time favourite cookie recipe is the Ambitious Kitchen Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies – they are amazing (100% not baby friendly). I do like experimenting with refined sugar free cakes and muffins too – it’s nice to be able to give Felix guilt free treats (and pass on my love of cake!).
Thanks @thishackneymum for some amazing advice and an insight into your everyday life! Please check out her instagram feed and follow her, I hope she'll bring out a baby recipe book soon! I'm off to make those Nutella stuffed cookies now, for myself of course :)
All images in this post belong to @thishackneymum