When I look back over the 30 months of my daughter’s life, I can clearly see the moments that I worried unnecessarily. Stressing over whether she was too hot or too cold, in her moses basket. Worrying about whether she’d had too many naps in a day. Creeping around on tip-toes while she slept, in case I woke her up.
But one mild panic that I felt was justified, was around five months ago. I read an article that referred to the fact that the government recommends that all children between six months and five years should take a vitamin supplement that contains vitamins A, C and D. I immediately emailed my mum-friends and asked if they knew about this and whether they gave their toddlers a supplement. Some did, others didn’t. I felt worried that I hadn’t considered it – and that I’d never been told about this government recommendation by any health visitor or GP. How are mums meant to know this stuff, unless we’re told by the health professionals we’re seeing?
Reading up on it, Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that contributes to healthy, strong bones and helps to control the amount of calcium in the blood. Unlike many other vitamins, thanks to grey winters and cloudy British summers, getting your recommended daily amount of vitamin D isn’t that easy. Worryingly, the average British toddler is only getting 26% of their daily vitamin D needs from their diet.
Leading dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton advises we take action: “Given that fewer than one in 10 toddlers receives a supplement and many HCPs remain unsure of official vitamin D advice, I recommend a combined approach to boost a child’s vitamin D status, through supplementation, safe sun exposure and eating foods high in vitamin D, such as oily fish, eggs and Growing Up Milk.”
Growing Up Milk? Didn’t expect that, but it actually has loads of Vitamin D in it – two beakers (150ml) of Cow & Gate Growing Up Milk provides more than 70% of the daily toddler recommendation. Here, I speak to kids food expert and toddler chef Fiona Faulkner, who has six recipes – yes recipes! – that include Growing Up Milk, as a sneaky way of ensuring even the fussiest of child gets enough Vitamin D.
Baby Broccoli Muffins
Makes at least 24 toddler-sized muffins
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 10 minutes
Fiona says: “Not only are these baby broccoli muffins a great nutritious snack; they’re also the perfect finger food for toddlers’ birthday parties. Broccoli is full of important nutrients like calcium and vitamins A, B and C. In this recipe I’ve also used Growing Up Milk to gently cook the veg and infuse it with an even yummier taste! For a little extra flavour I’ve added cheese and ham, but you could also add shards of cooked bacon – or see my tip below.”
250ml Growing Up Milk (ready-made or made up from powder form)
100g tiny cuts of broccoli florets – use the dark green flowery non-stalk end – cut with scissors or use a food processor to whizz it up. (Weight is after the broccoli has been cut).
100g unsalted butter
250g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
150g mature Cheddar cheese – half of it grated, the other half cut into small chunks
100g cooked ham, chopped into small pieces (use scissors if easier)
1 large egg, whisked
Preheat the oven to 200°C / fan 180 / Gas Mark 6. Place 24 miniature paper cases in two (or more) miniature muffin tins. Alternatively use a little softened butter to gently grease the tins.
Place the Growing Up Milk in a medium saucepan with the broccoli and butter. Heat up to just before boiling point and then gently simmer for 3 minutes.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the cheese, the ham, the egg and finally the broccoli with the melted butter and Growing Up Milk.
Stir firmly but gently to combine (don’t beat or mix too hard). Divide equally between the paper cases and bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool down in their tins before serving.
NOTE: If you prefer, you could create 12 larger muffins. If so, bake for nearer 18 minutes, using full size muffin cases and muffin tin.
FIONA’S TIP! Add 100g of sundried tomatoes – chop finely with scissors – for added vitamins and flavour!
Serves 3 toddlers
Prep Time: 5 mins / Cook Time: Varies
Fiona says: “This recipe is also a good way to add extra omega-3s to your toddler’s diet by using tasty tinned tuna or salmon. You can add the goodness of beetroot to this meal, whilst removing the hassle of actually peeling it and cooking it…you’re busy enough with a toddler, right?! Of course the beauty of the beetroot juice is that it also acts as a fun, but entirely natural food colouring.”
3 small-medium baking potatoes
20g unsalted butter
50-100ml Growing Up Milk (ready-made or made up from powder form)
100g hard cheese, grated
130g tin salmon / tuna, drained
2-3 tablespoons beetroot juice, taken from pack of cooked beetroot (not in vinegar)
To decorate: olives (pitted), baby tomatoes, sugar snap peas….or whatever you think!
Bake the potatoes as you wish – either in the oven, the microwave, or cook in the microwave and then crisp up the skins in the oven for a final 15 minutes or so.
Once you’ve baked the potatoes, allow to cool sufficiently enough so you can handle them, then cut away the tops, scoop out the cooked potato into a large bowl, leaving the skins in tact. You’ll need about 350g cooked potato…
Add the butter, cheese and fish (tuna or salmon) to the potato and mash together, with the beetroot juice and enough Growing Up Milk to create a smooth consistency of mash. Taste it so you know you’re happy with it.
Place the mash back in the skins and re-heat if necessary. If not, create a funny face with the veg and olives…. Serve immediately.
Banana-Blueberry American-style Pancakes
Creates approx 20 toddler sized pancakes
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: Approx 20-30 minutes
Fiona says: “I’ve found that little ones love the combination of the two sweet fruits, which is great because bananas are a good source of potassium and blueberries are full of fibre. You can serve them with a little plain yoghurt and honey, or make them savoury, American-style, by serving with bacon rashers and a grilled tomato. Equally, it could be a lovely warm dessert for your little one, served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.”
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 dessertspoons caster sugar
100ml Growing Up Milk (ready-made or made up from powder form)
1 tbsp melted butter
2 large ripe bananas
Vegetable oil to fry
Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar, Growing Up Milk, egg and butter and stir to combine.
Mash the banana and add this along with the blueberries. Gently stir through.
Heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan (just enough to cover) on a medium-high heat. Once you see a little smoke coming off the pan, add a generous tablespoon of the mix. Then add another one or two alongside (don’t overcrowd the pan or make these too big).
Leave them to fry off for a good minute or so before using a spatula to turn them over and finish off until golden brown on each side.
Leave to drain on a plate with kitchen roll and finish off the mix until it’s all cooked, adding more oil as you need. Alternatively, cook as many as you want and then leave the batter, covered, in the fridge for up to 24 hours (the banana will go brown – but this wont affect the taste).
SERVING SUGGESTION: Add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon / nutmeg to the batter for added flavour.
Don’t worry if the first batch goes wrong – for some reason chefs often find this to be the case with cooking pancakes! Just try not to have the heat either too hot or too low.
Contrary to popular belief, pancakes can be made in advance (well, I do this anyway!) Simply make up a batch and leave in the fridge, covered, laying them on top of each other. Then place on a non-stick baking tray and reheat in an oven!
I tend to cook pancakes in oil – so the butter doesn’t burn.
Magic Carrot Soup
Creates 4-6 toddler portions
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: approx 30 minutes
Fiona says: “I’ve used Growing Up Milk in my magic carrot soup to bring out the natural sweetness of the carrots and add a bit of extra flavour. This recipe lends itself to lots of tweaks and variations, and it’s entirely freezable too. Perfect! So why is it magic? Because it’s so versatile for busy mums, dads and grandparents. By simply not adding the 200ml of extra water, you can transform this dish into a tasty pasta sauce. Pour over cooked pasta and top with grated cheese and a few diced green olives and that’s lunch sorted!”
50g unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
500g carrots, chopped
500ml reduced salt vegetable stock
100g dried red lentils
½ tsp salt – plus a good twist of pepper
3 tablespoons growing up milk – ready-made or made up from powder form
Melt the butter in a large non-stick pan on a medium heat and sauté the onion for 3-5 minutes.
Add the carrots, stock, lentils and water and rapidly simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally towards the end, until the carrots are tender. Stir through the salt, pepper and Growing Up Milk.
Allow to cool for a few minutes then blitz in a blender (or similar) until it’s smooth. Test for temperature and then serve.
Add some gentle spice by adding 1 tsp ground cumin at stage 1 of the method. You could also use ground ginger.
Add a tin of drained butterbeans instead of the lentils.
Rice pudding – with spiced orchard fruits
Creates approx 16 toddler portions
Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: Approx 1 ½ – 2 hours
Fiona says: “Not only do the spiced orchard fruits really complement the dish, but they add a bit of fibre too. Fibre is great for your toddler because it helps with digestion. Why not get your little one involved by taking them to the supermarket to select their favourite fruits to add to the dish? I think a good handful or two of raspberries would also work really well!”
200g pudding rice
100g caster sugar
1.4 litres Growing Up Milk (ready-made or made up from powder) – hot
Sprinkling of ground nutmeg
3 red apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar (caster, brown or granulated…)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 150°C / fan 130 / gas mark 2. Lightly butter a large casserole dish. Place the first three ingredients in the dish, sprinkle with nutmeg and then carefully place in the oven.
Bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Check after 1 ½ hours. Once the rice is nicely softened, the dish is done.
Chop the apples and pears into small-ish chunks. Leave the skins on but discard the core and seeds etc. Place in a medium saucepan with a lid, along with the juice, sugar and cinnamon. Cook on a medium heat, with the lid on, for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally and mashing down a bit as you go. It’s ready when the fruit is softened.
Serve both together, once they’ve cooled sufficiently.
CHEAT’S RICE PUD! You could cook the rice much quicker in a saucepan – but it won’t have the same browned-off topping that people love – and you would have to keep stirring it. If you want to try it this way, I’d halve the quantities of the first three ingredients (unless you have a gigantic saucepan!) and place in a non-stick pan with half a teaspoon or so of ground nutmeg. Then simmer for approx 30-40 minutes or until it’s the consistency you’re happy with, stirring occasionally.
Twisted Macaroni Cheese
Serves 6 toddlers
Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 10 minutes
Fiona says: “I’ve added some extra greens to this dish, plus yellows and reds, to help provide your toddler with some of their ‘five-a-day’. In fact, once it’s cooked, you could add pretty much any vegetable you fancy to this sauce. What more could you want?”
300g dried pasta twists
400ml Growing Up Milk – ready-made or made up from powder
40g plain flour, sifted
40g unsalted butter
150g grated hard cheese – plus extra to sprinkle
100g frozen peas
100g frozen sweetcorn
100g cooked chicken, cut into small pieces
1 crust of bread
1 medium tomato, sliced
Preheat the oven to 200°C / fan 180 / Gas Mark 6. Get the pasta cooking as per the pack instructions.
Place the Growing Up Milk in a medium non-stick saucepan with the flour and butter. On a medium-high heat keep stirring with a whisk. As it comes to a boil, it will thicken to a sauce. This will take 5 minutes or so – be patient and don’t stop whisking!
Add the cheese and stir to melt. Add the peas, sweetcorn and chicken. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it off and tip into a casserole dish. Stir through the sauce.
Tear up the crust of bread to make crumbs (or put in the food processor for a few seconds) and use to cover the pasta. Finally top it all off with the slices of tomato and any extra grated cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy and golden. Allow to cool a little before serving.
This sauce freezes easily – simply pour into a freezer bag and defrost in the fridge when you need it – adding a little more Growing Up Milk when you reheat in a pan.
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