A few months ago, I was approached by Square One Organics to develop some recipes using their organic pureed foods. Once I read Square One's inspiring story (that was so similar to my experience with my niece and her food allergies) and sampled their full range of organic purees I felt compelled to share these amazing products with you as well as take up the recipe challenge. I have to say, that I have fallen in love with this family company!
Not surprising, I suppose. I am a sucker for a heart-felt story about food allergies. But more importantly, I am passionate about good organic convenience products. I have always been a fan of organic vegetable and fruit purees. They are incredibly easy to make by steaming or stewing fruits and vegetables and then blending them with a little bit of filtered water. But it is great to know that for those times when we are short on time and can't our own, there is a healthy organic pre-prepared option. This is where Square One comes in. Now I have purchased organic baby food as a snack more times than I can count, and unsweetened plain applesauce remains one of my favourite "quick-fix' vegan treats. There is also a multitude of some fantastic organic baby food companies out there. But a lot of these companies offer products that are often blends of a few different fruits or vegetables. So how does Square One differ? Well, firstly these purees are frozen, and secondly, they come with a complete colour-coded feeding system. Confused?
Well, "Let's start at the very beginning…" I don't know why, when I think about baby food and childhood I always think about The Sound Of Music. Maybe because my dad proposed to my mum at at the intermission of a screening of the movie over 45 years ago, or maybe it is because it then became our absolute family favourite movie growing up. I have literally watched it over 500 times with my sister, and attended numerous screenings of Sing-A-Long Sound of Music (now that is a hoot with all of the costumes)! Oh, the joys of childhood. But I digress. Perhaps I am secretly yearning to return to my Square One.
Square One Organics is a fantastic allergy friendly company based in Chicago. Denise Henderson and her husband Jeff started their company after one of their twins with twins Jed was diagnosed with food allergies to dairy and soy. Denise became committed to learning everything she could about kids with food allergies and ensuring her children received the most nutritious diet possible without exposing their son to allergens. After extensive research and personal experience, she developed her own personal feeding system that she and Jeff used to feed their infants. After several friends commented on how useful this system was, Denise thought that if a few people found it helpful, maybe other people with kids with food allergies would too, and so they started at Square One and developed their organic food business with the belief that "every time a child eats it is an opportunity to make a positive impact on his or her growth and development."
Square One offers a range of unblended whole fruits, vegetables and grains pureed with just a little bit of water. These nutritionally dense organic Superfoods have been carefully chosen and organised into the same four colour-coded groups that they used to feed their own children, making it easy for other parents dealing with food allergies to ensure that their child is eating a balanced diet and getting all of the essential vitamins and minerals required for healthy growth and development. The purees are cooked and then quick frozen, making them really convenient for those times when you need some organic prepared fruits and vegetables quickly!
There are the orange and red packs, where there is a choice of different fruits and vegetables that supports healthy teeth and gums, immune system function, antioxidants, and growth and development; the green pack offers choices of spinach, broccoli and peas, promoting healthy bowels and digestion, heart health and are a great source of Vitamin A and C; and the purple pack which contains the quinoa baby porridge which is great for bowel movement and iron absorption. All of the pureed superfoods are allergy free and 100% organic; and are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, sugar free, and prepared in a facility that is nut free.
My sister is absolutely fantastic about preparing fresh organic purees for my niece Alexandra, who suffers from multiple food allergies. When my mum, dad or I babysit we have a printed list of instructions and a step-by-step feeding schedule in order to ensure our highly allergic little darling remains safe and healthy. I WISH Square One products were available in Australia. It would have been so helpful to my sister, and to all of the other families in her allergy study that are managing the diets of their kids with food allergies.
The Square One Colour-Coded feeding system is really helpful for those parents feeding babies and children with food allergies, and invaluable for when those same parents leave their children in child care. The system follows "cautious food introduction principles. But Square One's delicious range of baby food makes things easier for any busy parents who don't have time to make their own organic purees but want to ensure their children are eating in a healthy nutritious way. The handy 2oz portion-size containers mean there is less waste and greater opportunity for variety in your child's diet. Another important thing to mention is that, according to Square One "the container cups are made out of #5 recyclable polypropylene, which is one of the top three healthiest types of plastic for food containers. Number 5 polypropylene does not contain Bisphenol-A and has not been shown to leach carcinogens or endocrine disruptors."
I really love this family owned and operated company who are committed to supporting other parents dealing with foods allergies and nutrition concerns. You can download a free copy of their Food Journal that was developed with a Pediatric Nutritionist. The journal "offers guidelines for food introduction while tracking recommended serving sizes, sleeping habits, and formula or breast milk intake." There are also a ton of delicious recipes the whole family can enjoy using the Square One products.
I decided to create some super easy quick vegan, allergy free recipes that were gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free and sugar free, and could be enjoyed by children and adults. The Square One organic purees are perfect for this as they actually taste exactly like the whole food, making them great for adults looking to improve the nutritional content of their diet! The purees have a fresh flavour and texture. I love eating the mango directly out of the container! Many nights I have come home and placed a few of the green and orange packs in a saucepan with some herbs for a super quick healthy soup. I wouldn't do this all the time, but it is a great option for when I need to stick my snout in a healthy trough quickly!
So I am going to share my three favourite recipes that I made with these delicious purees: my panna cotta, spinach milkshake, and gloriously green creamy quinoa risotto. I also made some of the other allergy free recipes on this site with the Square One products: the pumpkin pie smoothie, pumpkin blender pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cornbread and mango bliss smoothie. Don't worry if you can't get Square One products. I also made these allergy free recipes with home made organic purees and will tell you how in the recipe story and instructions.
So I have to start with this delicious tropical vegan panna cotta which is dead easy to make and absolutely incredible. Panna cotta is my all-time favourite dessert. However, this traditional Italian dessert, which literally translates to "cooked cream" is not very forgiving for sensitive foodies looking for gluten and dairy free recipes, or discerning eaters who don't want to coat-check their colons when they indulge in a sweet treat.
This simple little vegan panna cotta take minutes to prepare and hits the spot for a Summer dessert that the whole family can enjoy. I have deliberately used coconut milk in order to replicate my favourite mango pudding at the Shark Fin Inn where my family and I have enjoyed more than a few hundred yum cha lunches! Their mango pudding is made of condensed milk! This vegan version is much more forgiving! It is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free and sugar free.
Just a note about the agar: if you have never used it before, acquainting yourself with this wonderful vegan gelling agent will be a gift! Typically, the acidity and enzymes in mangoes and some other fruits compromises the gelling power of the agar, but heating the mixture neutralises this problem. Another thing to mention is that agar is sold in flakes and powder. The powder is a lot harder to find than the flakes, that are found easily at health food stores and Asian grocery stores. So I have deliberately made this with the flakes. If you use the powder, you only need 3/4 teaspoon powder and will not need to strain the mixture.
To make your own organic mango puree: 2 cups of fresh or frozen organic mango pieces and 1-2 Tbsp filtered water make 1 cup puree. The coconut essence is not critical if you can't find it or don't want to invest the money. It just boosts the natural coconut flavour. Give this simple little vegan dessert a spin in your blender and let me know how you go.
**To purchase Square One Products head to their website, where your frozen organic purees will be delivered quickly on dry ice packs to ensure freshness and quality. They can also be found in markets in the Chicago area. Visit the Square One Organics website to see a full list of retail outlets.