We caught up the lovely Aileen Cox Blundell to find out more about baby led feeding.
Aileen’s passion for healthy, nutritious and sugar-free foods led her to begin creating her own healthy, refined sugar free recipes for her family. Aileen is also an advocate of baby led feeding, which allows babies and young children to take control of their eating by encouraging them to self-regulate and be more experimental with different types of food.
Tell us about your relationship with food
I have always loved food, right from when I was a little girl cooking in the kitchen with my mother. That love grew as I did but I also picked up lots of bad habits along the way, eating too much processed foods, chocolates, sweets and sugary drinks. I realised they were pretty much taking over my life and were starting to affect my health so I decided that something had to change.
I didn’t quit all at once, I simply started to phase out eating anything that was processed and refined sugar. Each month that would go by another culprit would be added to the list and before long my entire diet consisted of only fresh, home cooked, refined sugar free ingredients – and it felt really good! My skin was better, my hair was better and I lost weight without even trying. The only trick for me was to always make sure I had healthy treats and healthy foods on hand for when any sweet cravings came.
This is more than just healthy eating for me now, it has become a way of life that I just love to share with those around me.
How did you end up cooking for babies and toddlers?
When my daughter Jade was only a little baby she wouldn’t let me near her with a spoon. She would purse her lips tightly together, turn her head to the side and just would not eat. I brought her to an amazing paediatrian in a panic (she was my first baby) but the doctor just said perhaps I should make food she can feed herself and see how she gets on. That was basically it, I cooked up a storm of muffins, pancakes with veggies, little bites she could manage and she ate everything that was put in front of her. Now Jade is the biggest foodie I know and I believe it is all because of the way she ate as a little one.
13 years later with my new found passion for healthy, non processed, refined sugar free recipes I decided to write a recipe book to document my new baby Oscar’s Baby Led Feeding journey. The project took legs and before long I had almost 12k followers on Facebook and another 3k on Instagram. Baby Led Feeding was featured in the Irish Times, The Irish Examiner, Irish Daily Mail and MummyPages. I was also asked to write an article which was published in Easy Parenting Magazine and also guest blog for Xpose.ie and HerFamily.
All of my recipes champion the use of natural ingredients in replacement of refined sugars and I always try ideas to get more vegetables and fruits into our little ones. I believe eating and cooking both should be delicious fun. With healthy, nutritious, bite-sized meals babies can feed themselves, it creates a positive relationship with food right from the very start.
What’s next for Baby Led Feeding?
I am so excited to work with I Love Cooking. Sarah shares my passion for healthy eating and cooking and I know we will do great things together. I am also working on a new cookbook which will be launching in Spring 2017 by Gill Publishing.
What is your favourite Baby Led Feeding Recipe?
My favourite recipe so far has to be for Sweet Potato Chocolate Truffles. They are sweet and delicious and taste like almost like a jaffa cake. The best part is that they are completely refined sugar free and even with added natural sugars there is only .14 of a medjool date in each one and 0.07 of a teaspoon of maple syrup making them a super healthy treat.
The little bites of yumminess are so easy to make last for about a week in the refrigerator (if you can keep them that long)
Preparation time: 30mins (after roasting sweet potato)
Makes: 42 Truffles
Freezing: Can be frozen – defrost in a fridge until soft enough to eat.
What goes in…
- 1 Cup Puréed Roast Sweet Potato
- 6 Medjool Dates
- 6 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Orange Oil (of if you don’t have it vanilla extract)
- Zest of 1/2 Orange
- Juice of 1/2 Orange
- 4 Tablespoons Coconut Flour
- 100g Cacao Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons Cacao Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Orange Oil or Vanilla Extract
- 3 Tablespoons Tahini
- 2 Tablespoons Cashew Butter (leave out for nut free)
How to make them…
- Pre-heat oven to 180ºC
- Wash the sweet potato (I don’t even peel) and cut into large chunks, drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast until soft which takes about 40minutes. When cooked the sweet potato comes away from the skin easily. The add to a blender, purée and then measure a cup for your truffles then set aside to cool.
- Mean-while add the coconut oil, dates, orange zest and juice and orange oil to a sauce pan and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and keep stiring until the dates break down and the mixture starts to become like a thick caramel. The oil will separate but thats o.k.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl and then add the puréed sweet potato and coconut flour and stir until it becomes nice and thick.
- Place the bowl into your freezer for about 20 minutes to allow the coconut oil to set.
- Roll the dough into little balls. I made them pretty small and got 42.
- Put a cocktail stick into each one to make dunking into the chocolate easier. It keeps them clean and smudge free, then place into the fridge again until your ready to dunk.
- Melt the cacao butter, orange oil and maple syrup in a bowl over a saucepan of water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl as it will destroy the good qualities in the chocolate.
- When the cacao butter is melted take off the heat and add the the cacao powder, tahini and cashew butter and stir well until totally soft and chocolatey. I pour the chocolate in the fridge to allow to slightly go a bit thicker as it coats the truffles better.
- Dunk each one until totally covered and then place on parchment paper. Allow to set and then repeat.
- Eat! Eat! Eat!