• Rowan Evans

The Expert Guide to Cooking for Kids

All mothers will know the challenge that weaning your baby on to solid food can be. It is a minefield of mush versus baby led, vegetables versus fruit, not to mention the conflicting advice regarding ingredients and brands. So we were delighted to be introduced to Miriam of Mimi's Bowl, who is on a one mother mission to simplify weaning and support parents throughout the process. Her recipes are delicious and baby friendly - all in all she is a refreshing voice in the child nutrition conversation.

Why did you start Mimi's Bowl?

I wanted to reach out to other parents, who felt as I did about weaning. I felt totally overwhelmed and unprepared. I had just about established a sleeping routine and now there was the next challenge: food.

I had two goals to start with: end “babyfood panic” by talking about it. (By “babyfood panic” I mean an anxiety about how to feed your baby and what to feed your baby). Secondly, I wanted to really re-think babyfood and family food for a busy modern parent. There are so few relatable parent voices out there, and even less tried and tested parent-friendly recipes. Only a parent, who has been there, understands the determined rejection given by your baby, toddler, or child, when they squirm at the sight of food, you have lovingly made for them. I have been there.

Today, I post and write about children’s food to try and make it easier for parents who want their kids to be eating more healthily, with less hassle.

I started Mimi’s Bowl about 6 months after I gave birth to my daughter. I was struggling so much when it came to feeding her solid foods. I searched high and low for a relatable parent-voice sharing realistic recipes for babies, toddlers and young families. I just couldn’t find one.

I unconsciously began making lists of how I wanted to do things differently and recipes that worked for us. Those lists and recipes grew into an online presence with an Instagram feed. The immediate response from other parents/ or carers of children, who felt similarly, was really exciting and humbling. Soon a wonderfully supportive parent community grew into Mimi’s Bowl; based on the foundation of my recipes and followers sharing their baby food adventures. Today Mimi’s Bowl also has guest contributors and experts sharing their knowledge too. I hope it’s a place where parents feel heard and can find useful information and ideas about children and eating. Feeding kids isn’t always straight forward.

Where did your interest/passion for childhood nutrition come from?

My mother was a huge source of inspiration to me when I was growing up, she is a natural born cook. Despite having four children to raise she would always cook for us from scratch. She taught us how to grow food and still manages her own fruit and vegetable garden in Kent. When I started cooking for my daughter, I realised how lucky I had been. I wanted to provide the same happy food memories for her.

What is missing on the market right now? What are other kiddie food suppliers/recipes missing?

The current babyfood cookbooks are just so out of date: long complicated recipes, out of season ingredients, or worst kids’ food styled to look like animals. I just don’t get it and I don’t have time. I want to make simple, seasonal, home cooked food for my daughter and baby that’s nutritious. That’s it. I am not going to spend 10 minutes making a pizza into a cat, and so on…

A lot of the exciting trends in food: like eating a more plant-based diet, a few days a week, or reducing our food waste just haven’t made it into babyfood cookery writing. I believe modern parents expect more and they want quick simple ideas.

I also notice consistently that babyfood recipes are mostly sweetened with fruit, this is totally at odds to all the noise we are reading about sugar in our children’s diet. A well know baby recipe is to mash an avocado with a banana? Why? Just give your baby a banana, or an avocado. You shouldn’t be sweetening every puree to taste the same. The window in which a baby develops their palette is short, you need to introduce a broad range of flavours from more bitter tasting vegetables, through to sweet fruits. That is the basis of creating a confident and adventurous little eater.

How do you create your recipes?

I actually mostly cook what I have in my fridge! This depends on the seasons. I also cook from memory a lot and often try and recreate foods I ate as a child. I also get challenges from friends often who might say, can you help me create a veggie pancake, pancakes are the only thing my kids eat… That is exactly how my popular recipes for Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Pancakes and Root Veggie Cakes were written.

I also now work with a brilliant paediatric dietician: it’s been amazing having her knowledge to give more specific age guidelines and key ingredients for development, and so on.

What inspires you to keep growing your platform?

I’m very inspired by other women and mothers. They are often the people I talk to most through my work. Their strength, creativity and passion are incredibly inspiring to me. Whether they are focusing on being amazing parents, building new businesses or managing existing ones. I have always wanted Mimi’s Bowl to be an effective tool and resource for them. (That also applies to all the brilliant Dad’s, extended family members and carers who cook for their families too).

Outside of work I have a number of key charities I work with and am passionate about.

Why is childhood nutrition and weaning so important?

At the root of most parent’s wishes for their children is their desire for their children to be happy and healthy. Food can play such a brilliant foundation for your child both physically and emotionally. Anything we can do to improve the diets of our babies, toddlers and children is positive.

Do you try everything on your own little ones?

Absolutely! I mostly cook at weekends and that’s when we as a family find time to eat together. My daughter is now 4 years old and she is capable of very immediate and honest feedback! Equally I love cooking for my son who has just started weaning. I work on recipes for him that I can adapt for the rest of my family. I don’t have time to make separate meals from scratch, for everyone.

What advice would you give to any mum struggling to get the good stuff in to their toddler?

Don’t make food a battle ground, try and keep meal times relaxed and enjoyable. If it’s a bad meal, leave it and move on. Eat together if you can, so you’re not just monitoring every bite. Involve your toddler as much as you can: go food shopping together and pick out fruits and vegetable to try.

What’s next for you and Mimi’s Bowl?

I have so many hopes and plans for Mimi’s Bowl, the key thing is juggling my ambitions, with the demands of two very small children who need me. I hope in the immediate future our online community continues to expand and grow. This year I want to share more topics through the feed, that feel relevant for my audience. Everything from lifestyle advice, such as organising your home, to living with less plastic, to the importance of self-care for parents.

Finally, my long-term goal has always been to publish a book, for parents to buy when they start their own baby eating adventure. The printed voice, with realistic recipes and ideas that I was looking for myself, four years ago.

Miriam has kindly shared three amazing recipes with us that we will post later this week, in the meantime you can visit www.mimisbowl.com for more mealtime inspiration.