Making Pizzas with Hidden Vegetables

Monkey is a fussy eater. He wasn’t until he was about  13 months old then almost overnight everything changed. I’ve talked at length about it before and we have ups and downs with how fussy he is. We have been going through a very fussy patch lately. As he has been so poorly over the recent weeks he really hasn’t had as much of an appetite so we have been happy when he has eaten anything really. I am planning a seperate post about this but it is so difficult to be strict with them when they are poorly, especially with food as he needed to keep his strength up and things can taste really funny when you are poorly.

I’ve been watching “Junk Food Children who’s to blame?” on TV too recently, and well I think it is pretty obvious the documentary makers are laying the blame squarely on the parents. I think they are probably right, as they are the ones who buy the food for their children, but I can also see how it is a slippery slope and none of these parents do it with intentions of harming their children. Far from it, they are probably too soft on them and that isn’t always good for them.

Anyway it has made me think a lot about Monkey. He has a pretty good diet anyway, hardly ever has crisps, chocolate etc, BUT we could do better. He doesn’t really eat any fresh fruits (we get him eating dried, cooked, frozen pureed but no joy with fresh really) and we struggle with lots of vegetables too, and most things actually. Pasta, sausages, chicken, pretty much everything depends on his mood. Most dinner times are spent with Mummy and Daddy pretending to be the voice of a toy (postman pat, a bus, an owl, any toy really) as he is much more likely to eat something when a toy suggests it! Not ideal but we go with what works.

One great way to get kids interested in food is to get them to help with preparing and cooking food. Monkey does love cooking but after catching himself with the peeler a few months ago he has been more reluctant to get in the kitchen. He has expressed more of an interest though lately, and with poorliness and chicken pox meaning we have spent a lot of time at home, rather than out and about, I have grabbed the opportunity to get him back in the kitchen. We do a lot of baking, which is great, but there is no reason cooking can’t be fun too.

We love Annabel Karmel’s recipes, her veggie burgers are a firm fave and we make them regularly in big batches so there is always some in the freezer. Another regular is her hidden veggie pizza sauce, which again we make in big batches and freeze. I know not everyone is into hidden veggies and I would prefer Monkey ate vegetables without having to hide them, but while we work on that I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting them into him any way that we can.

Hidden Veggie Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

WP_20150304_09_28_57_Pro1/2 onion – finely chopped
1/2 leek – thinly sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 courgette, grated

1 clove crushed garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp tomato pesto (we use sacla sundried tomato pesto)

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 1/2 tsp sugar

We tend to double this and make a big batch (because so many of the ingredients are halved etc.) which gives enough sauce for 20 pizzas, so this would do about 10 pizzas.

Monkey helped me prepare the veggies, washing them and grating which is good as at least he knows there are veggies. He even announces that he loves leeks and courgettes – without tasting them. I love his enthusiasm though even if I don’t believe him for a second!

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, leek, carrot and courgette and saute for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for one minute than remove from the heat. We have hard anodised pans and a hand blender so I add the remaining ingredients in the pan and blend in there, but if you have non stick pans, or if you prefer, you should move the veg to a blender or bowl at this point.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Return to the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and then it can be frozen in batches. I usually spoon off a couple of ladles full into a tupperware which can then be got out to use with 2 pizza bases as and when. I would love to make our own pizza bases, but don’t have the time or energy at the mo – hopefully we will one day though!

Pizza toppings

The pizza sauce is great, but with the small amount of veg in there I doubt it would count as one of your 5 a day, and we really want to work on getting other veg into Monkey. Homemade pizzas are a great way of doing that, as cheese can help mask the veg, and you obviously get control of the ingredients. We use a half fat cheese, because it happens to be our fave and does help with our diets.

This is the fun bit that kids can really get involved with. We bought Monkey a child safe knife – which has a rounded tip and a fairly blunt serrated edge. It still cuts veg so you still have to be very careful around it, but the thought of Monkey cutting with it terrifies me a heck of a lot less than helping him use our big scary kitchen knives would! It means he can join in with the chopping safely and without giving me heart failure. (Yes he is wearing his PJs in these pics, I indulged him with a PJ day when he was poorly :))

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So he helped me chop up the mushrooms and yellow pepper and had great fun doing it. The amounts and size of the bits I guess depends on your kid and their fussiness level. We are going for not too much, and fairly small at the moment as if they are big he will either eat round them or refuse to eat them at all. Even some of these size bits have been a challenge to get him to eat! Monkey is seriously stubborn and often goes to bed without eating any tea when he doesn’t like what is on offer (or at least he has decided he doesn’t like it even when we know it is something he does actually like!).

So anyway, yes our chunks are quite small. We also use some flavoured turkey meat for the most part, though do use other meats too sometimes to shake things up a little :). Monkey helped spread the sauce onto the pizza bases and then sprinkle the meat, veg and of course cheese on top. Yummy pizzas made :). WP_20150304_11_35_57_Pro WP_20150304_11_37_51_Pro Now I won’t say it was plain sailing. We make variations of this quite often and it depends on his mood and like I say at the moment he really is quite fussy. He did eat some though and moaned more about the chunks of meat than the veg and with him it really is all about seeing something he doesn’t like. If a mushroom or pepper is hidden under cheese he eats it no problem. If he can see them he doesn’t want it. So it is a work in progress but for my part, I thought they were blimming lovely and it is a good way to get him involved with cooking and vegetables so got to look at the positives! Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

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Yummy baby biscuits and weaning in general

When the time came to start to wean monkey on to solids I have to say I had no clue where to start. I felt pressure that I should make all of his purees so they are all fresh and full of goodness, but really didn’t have the first idea how to puree anything, or at least how to cook things until they were ready to puree, steam? Boil? Bake? There are of course many wonderful jars and pots and pouches out there but as a stay at home mummy I felt that I should be able to prepare most of his food myself. So after a bit of online research I bought a book by Annabel Karmel. Her book had lots of good reviews and seemed like a good place to start.

I’m not going to write a detailed review of her book as there any many available online far more eloquent than I would be, but suffice to say this book has been my bible for the past few months. I skimmed some of it, and followed other parts to the letter. Great as a starting off point for how to make apple puree and others and her recipes really are amazing. We are yet to find one of her recipes that monkey doesn’t like and of course I haven’t made all of them but we have a made a lot of them now and each one seems better than the last. Monkey now seems in a phase where he hates to be spoon fed and only wants to eat finger food, and although they are a little fiddly, Annabel’s mini meatballs are delicious and the rice balls so easy to make.

I have of course used jars, pots and pouches too, mainly to give monkey plenty of variety without spending my life in the kitchen, and there’s only so much space in our freezer! There is no denying that they are also really handy, especially when we go out somewhere , but it’s been nice to know that I have made some of his food, and honestly we love some of the recipes that much that we have adapted them in to adult meals for hubby and I so that sometimes we can all eat the same food together, which is nice.

Our favourite recipe of all time though is for her oaty cookies. They are so good we have even adapted them to an adult version, and everybody who has tried them just absolutely loves them! They are very quick and easy to make, although as with anything baking related with me, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. There have been a few dodgy batches along the way, some where we have cooked them for a couple of minutes too long, or one where I forgot about 3 of the ingredients! They still tasted pretty nice each time though so I don’t think you can go too far wrong with them.

Here is the recipe, almost to the letter of Annabel Karmel’s, although we have adapted things ever so slightly :)

75g flour (the recipe is for wholemeal flour, but we have used plain flour too and they are delicious both ways)
55g rolled oats
¼ teaspoon of bicarbonate soda
85g of unsalted butter (soft)
75g caster sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup (15ml)
1 tsp vanilla extract (5ml)
55g chopped dried apricots
Some chopped white chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C if conventional, (160C for fan oven)

All ingredients (except chocolate) into food processor and whizz until well mixed into a dough – all apricot bits should be tiny and the mix is the same consistency throughout, we’ve found that it should almost be shiny for the perfect cookies.

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When making them for monkey I just leave them as they are but if you want to make them for grown ups or older kids with chocolate, now is the time to finely chop some chocolate (we like white chocolate) and stir it in.

Line baking trays with greaseproof paper (use little bit of marge on underside to stick it down if necessary)

P1020678For baby sized cookies we roll them into teaspoon sized balls, and for adult sized cookies, roughly tablespoon sized balls. Place on the baking trays – they will spread quite a bit so space them out on the baking tray. With adult ones you can see we use two big trays to make about 12/13 cookies.

adult biscuits

adult biscuits

For baby sized biscuits, cook for about 9-10 mins, or for bigger cookies, cook for 12 mins until starting to turn golden at the edges. They can overcook very quickly, and they will still be tasty but less squidgy in the middle.

adult biscuits fresh from the oven

adult biscuits fresh from the oven

Leave to cool on the baking tray for a few mins then transfer onto a wire cooling rack.

baby biscuits cooling

baby biscuits cooling

Store in an airtight container.

We often make a double batch with about 16 baby biscuits for Monkey and 12 adult sized cookies. The apricots went in the food processor as a mistake the first time we made them, and though you can’t really tell that they are there, the cookies were so good that we haven’t dared make them without them in. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as they say!

Happy baking!