Sunday, 30 January 2011

Money, time and energy saving tips encompassed in a cottage pie

Hmmm, pot roast.  We had a pot roast for tea tonight and the joy with pot roasts and stews is slow cookers are fantastically energy efficient:

But unless you're one pot cooking, you need some accompaniments and I was craving a jacket potato.  So, my oven was going to be on for an hour which isn't much good for my electricity usage so I either bite the bullet and have one in the microwave (sorry, might save money but they taste minging) or I use the oven heat effectively.  After all, it costs the almost the same to heat an oven full as a half empty oven.  So I put some extra jacket potatoes in and a dish with my easy tomato sauce recipe:

Normally I would only freeze the sauce in big pots for my husband and I but this time I finally remembered to freeze it in smaller pots so I could easily heat some up for my son.  I have a feeling there's a tomato sauce based couscous recipe in me somewhere which I might have a go at.

I can't in all honesty though share the pot roast recipe because it's not mine but it's not that tricky and similar recipes are out there on the internet.  The best meat to use is beef brisket but unfortunately whatever I do it falls apart into not very pretty but very tasty shreds when I try to carve but these meaty shards when leftover are awesome for making cottage pie.  I don't mince the leftovers, I chop them finely then mix with leftover gravy.  Now cunningly I take my leftover jacket potatoes, scoop them out and mash through my bargain Ikea potato ricer (I'm rubbish at mashed potato but trust me, a ricer makes it foolproof) and then put the potato on top of my meat / gravy mixture, cool then refrigerate, add grated cheese on top before baking for around half an hour.  Ok, that means the oven is on again but it's not for quite as long and it does mean every bit of my joint was used, (including the gravy) and that my friends can't be bad.  Also if you think you don't like cottage pie, give it a go.  It is the best tasting cottage pie you will ever have!

Cauliflower Cheese and Tiredness

Hmm.  Perhaps he's not ready.  Night 1 wasn't too bad, we got him to 5:15am before we fed him but last night was a bit of disaster.  From 3:45 to 4:45 he cried on and off.  It's heartrending and goes against what feels natural.  I know rationally he probably doesn't need night feeds anymore but he does want them.  In the end I fed him at 4:45 and then he slept till 6, fed again then slept till 6:45 which is the latest he's got up for about a month.  We tried giving him water to get him to calm down but he was not fooled.

I think I've resolved to aim for 4am feeding as the earliest time (previously it was 3:15) and then take it in small steps from there.  Perhaps we were trying too much of a big jump.

Anyway, weekends are often the time I get a chance to cook him some meals for the freezer.  Yesterday I had a cauliflower that needed eating and plenty of full fat milk.  I did um and ah about putting such a simple recipe on here but I do make my white sauce in a slightly strange (and easy) way so I thought I would include it.

Makes around 4-5 portions for my baby, would make more for smaller ones.

1 head of cauliflower broken into florets (can use broccoli as well)
Full fat milk, I didn't measure it but it was probably 1/2 - 3/4 of a pint
Cornflour (about 2-3 dsp)
Grated mature or extra mature cheddar (he's now onto vintage farmhouse!)
Unsalted butter


Boil the cauliflower for 5-7 minutes until soft enough for your little one.  Drain.  Heat the milk in the microwave for around 2 mins until boiling or nearly boiling.  Mix the cornflour with some cold milk or water to make a paste, then pour into the milk stirring constantly, it should start to thicken immediately (if it doesn't, it will need longer microwaving afterwards).  Add the cheese and about half an ounce of butter and mix.  Microwave again for around 30 seconds; keep an eye on it as it can boil over.  If it's not thickened give it a bit longer.  If it still doesn't thicken, add a bit more cornflour paste.  Taste to make sure it doesn't taste floury (in which case it will need cooking a bit more).

Puree the vegetables and cheese sauce for little babies or you could use a food processor for older babies like mine so it's still a bit textured.

For babies 10 months plus, you could either leave the florets whole or cut into small (pea or bean sized) chunks before boiling and don't puree at all.  Then feed to your baby either by spooning or allowing them to feed themselves (or a combination of the two which seems to be the norm in this household.)

You could use a similar recipe for any mix of vegetables but green vegetables work particularly well and a mix is good, e.g. broccoli, green beans, peas, spinach (effectively a vegetable gratin) and it can be a way to get babies to accept new and stronger vegetable tastes if they're already keen on the cheesy sauce.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Baby chicken casserole

Makes about 5 portions for my nearly 9 month old.

I came up with this while looking for a recipe to use some chicken pieces.  It's not hugely flavoursome, I might add some garlic next time but it was his first time with celery and bay so it was mellow and pleasant without being a knockout.  It would probably be good for fussy ones as an introduction to meat.

Oil or unsalted butter
A chicken breast, cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped small
2 carrots, chopped small
1 celery stick, chopped small
1 potato peeled and chopped into inch cubes (approx)
Butternut squash, approx 100g in half inch cubes
Thyme, a few sprigs
Bay leaf
Salt free chicken stock cube

Fry the chicken, onion, celery stick and carrots in the oil or butter.  Add the thyme, stock cube and boiling water, add the bay leaf, potato and squash.  Bring to the boil then simmer for approx 15-20 mins (or until the vegetables and chicken are cooked).  I took out the potatoes and mashed them separately to give a coarser texture and pureed the rest (remembering to take out the bay leaf after my pork and garlic experience!)

He seemed to like it.  You could add a bit of parsley in at the end for a bit more interest and flavour.

Talking about herbs, I grow a lot of herbs myself.  I think it's the one thing really worth doing to save money and add bags of flavour into your cooking.  My rosemary however, is looking a bit worse for wear after this winter, however, surprisingly my thyme and parsley (both mediterranean herbs) are looking lush and green.  Actually I have to confess to a bit of a thyme obsession and I currently have two well established plants in my garden; a golden thyme and a silver thyme.  Some thymes have obviously different flavours (lemon thyme for example) but I find even the others give slightly different notes.  I love thyme it goes on my roast chicken, in stuffing, in stocks, in pasta sauces, in stews.  It's such a versatile herb.

If you don't have the space for plants, do look at woody herbs in the shops and rather than buy fresh every time you need it, they freeze brilliantly.  When I say woody herbs, I mean things like rosemary and thyme. It doesn't take much space though.  I grow mint in a pot (because otherwise it takes over the garden) which, although it dies back every winter, soon perks up again in summer.

Friday, 28 January 2011


Some weeks it feels like I've gone all week without a break.  Well this is my first real break this week (it's Friday, yawn) and I thought I'd dump out of my brain something I was thinking about last night in bed.

My son and I have had a sometime fraught relationship with breastfeeding from day 1.  I always wanted to breastfeed since I found out I was pregnant; probably because I was in the (now unusual) situation of being a child born in the 70's who was breastfed.  I'm sure the fact that breastfeeding rates are so low now is because the grandmothers of todays kids didn't commonly breastfeed.  There are lots of reasons for that but from what I can tell, it's mainly because mothers were told not to breastfeed more often than every 4 hours and babies were taken away from their mothers for long periods in maternity wards, neither of which will help milk production in the first days.

Anyway, our relationship has always been fraught because he's never fed like the books say he should (5 mins has always been a good feed for my little man and he likes to be fed often; both of which are "wrong" according to Gina Ford, Babywhisperer and any other number of child rearing books.)  So I spent several months trying to solve our "problem" before realising it was only a problem in my head as my son was unable to read the books and know what he should be doing and the frequency of his day feedings seemed to have no bearing on the night feeds even when I hit the hellishness of 4-6 months.

The next problem I had was well meaning people from those I know to those who are meant to support.  Here, I found myself stuck between two camps.  I found the breastfeeding supporters all "right on" cloth bummed baby wearing cosleeping types (nothing wrong with that but it's a bit much to aspire to for me) and other people who just thought I was making life hard for myself by breastfeeding and letting my son rule me (which at times felt like they were talking sense.)  At 4-6 months as we were going through hell and my son was demanding feeds hourly during the day sometimes and up to 6 times at night, the well meaning types were telling me to take up formula, the breastfeeding advocates were saying "it's a growth spurt, go with it" (to which I replied "really?  For 8 weeks?").  In the end I listened to myself and what I needed (as formula was looking more appealing by the day) so we did a bit of sleep training.  I couldn't bring myself to do controlled crying so we did PUPD and got down to 1 feed in about 3 weeks.

So why all this reflection?  Well I decided last night that he's nearly 9 months old now, has always gained weight well and normally feeds around 3/4am so we should give it a go and see if he can make it through the night.  Part of me feels a bit of loss that this is what I'm aiming for now which has surprised me.  I think it's brought it home to me that as I'm returning to work in May I will be cutting back to the morning and pre bedtime feed in 3 months and then stopping completely as around a year has always been what I've thought I could give.  Despite all the hard work, that does feel difficult.

What will I miss?  There is a sense of closeness, especially on that pre bedtime feed (which I think was why I got so upset when he started refusing it for a while).  The fact I know I'm not the perfect mother but I'm giving him something which will help him and well, it is perfect for him, even if I'm not.

What won't I miss?  The looks.  I wish I was more confident at feeding in public and I have got more confident but now he's 8 months and although he's average sized, people think he's older than he is and so the staring and looks have got worse.  I think people seem to get really uncomfortable at the sight of me breastfeeding a baby who's much longer than my lap now.  I keep saying to myself that I have to keep doing it as part of the battle to normalise seeing babies over 6 months old breastfed or else it will always be a problem to people and frankly I refuse to be hidden away but it's hard.

Though I look like my hair has been combed with a hedge most days so people could be staring because I look a mess!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Pork and Vegetables - a lesson in flavour for babies!

makes 5 portions big enough for my 8 month old

Ok, I’d got into a rut.  Nearly all of the sauces I was making for my son contained milk or cream cheese.  I needed a new recipe.

I had an idea at 3am (while feeding him when I do my best thinking) for a pork dish with apples, although I decided against the apples in the end (as I put sweet potatoes in I thought it might be too sweet), this is what I came up with.

1 pork chop, cut into pieces (any bone removed)
½ oz unsalted butter
5 or so mushrooms, sliced thickly
¼ of a chicken stock cube (low salt) made up to 125ml
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 sprigs thyme
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
¼ swede, peeled and chopped
½ sweet potato peeled and chopped

Fry the pork in the butter until nicely browned (remember that’s where the flavour is) adding the garlic clove and thyme towards the end.  Add in the stock and mushrooms and cook until the pork and mushrooms are cooked (about 10 mins or so).

Cook the potato, swede and sweet potato (the normal potato takes around 5 mins longer in my experience than the other veg so I add them in after the potato has been boiling for 5 mins).

Remove the garlic and thyme from the pork.  Puree the pork and mushrooms with the stock and mash the veg mixing the two together.  Mashing the veg starts to get your little one used to lumpier textures.

Now this was all great but just after hitting the “go” button on my liquidiser I realised I’d not removed the garlic.  I tasted it, it tasted nice actually, I’d certainly have eaten it but the garlic was in your face rather than subtle.  I thought “what the hey” and tried him on it anyway and my little gourmand wolfed it down!  I might use half a clove next time if I’m intending to leave it in as now both of us have garlic breath but it’s a salutary lesson that you should not make baby food too bland.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Tips on saving money on food and waste prevention

On £123 a week it's a tough ask to make and eat decent food and sometimes I just didn't manage it, especially in the early days.

Having worked in food for years, there is a part of me that cannot abide waste and a part that is fanatical about food safety so in this spirit, I thought I'd share something I've been doing to ensure I don't waste foods like yoghurt by opening it then throwing it away.

Now this might sound stupid but after having a baby my memory is shot to pieces.  I suspect it's the sleep deprivation but all I do is use a permanent pen and write on the pack when it was opened.  It means I no longer have any doubts on the food safety side and also I suspect I often threw away open packs of food as I'd forgotten when I'd opened them.

My other food safety tip is buy a fridge thermometer.  Many domestic fridges are at 10 degrees or more when the ideal temperature is around 4 or 5 (certainly less than 8).  If your fridge is cold (not too cold so you freeze your lettuce) you're much less likely to get food spoiling before the use by date.

My last organisational tip is frankly supermarket shopping is a pain with a baby and I can't see it getting easier any time soon.  Sure people say to do online shopping but I found it would take me just as long and I'd then not get a break as I'd do it during his naps and putting the shopping away was no easier; especially if they "ran out of bags" (which seemed to happen with alarming regularity).

Anyway, so there's no substitute for being quick around the supermarket.  Write a list; this helps avoid overspending and also if you know the layout it can speed you up; no nipping back for that thing you forgot.  Then when you get to the checkout, put the items on in this order; frozen, chilled, veg, shelf stable.  Pack the items in that order in separate bags then when you get to your boot, put the frozen and chilled stuff on one side (I put them on the right), veg in the middle and shelf stable on the left.  Then, if you get home and your little one is upset you can prioritise putting away the frozen and chilled with them on your hip knowing the veg will be ok for a few hours if you need to leave it and the rest can wait till bedtime if needs be.  Also if your baby is breastfed and crying for food as you go round, I have found the changing rooms are useful places for a quick feed if you're not confident feeding in public.

Friday, 21 January 2011


We've had a fraught relationship, us, our little one and his sleep.  He regularly wakes for one breastfeed a night nowadays and we're gradually trying to get him down to one.  We were going to leave it longer but we had three nights in a row where he seemed to be waking later and later for that feed so we decided that if he woke earlier, we'd push him back still.

Last night of course was the first night we decided to do this and he woke an hour earlier than he had in three days.  Disappointing.

What's more frustrating though is the well meaning relatives who tell you that he doesn't need feeding at night after 6 months old (he's 8 months now) and shouldn't I have him on a bottle by now anyway?


Anyway, he's currently napping after having lamb tagine with cous cous for lunch (no chilli, don't worry).  Sorry, I can't remember the recipe (it was a frozen portion) but I know I adapted it from an adult one.  Dried apricots, cinnamon, garlic and sweet potatoes were involved somewhere.  It seemed to go down better than I remember it the first time we made it.  Cous cous is something I will have to revisit I think...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A chicken does 3 meals...

Last night we had some of the leftover chicken with a South Indian curry (inauthentic I'm sure but it was tasty).  Today, I'm maximising my efficiency by sticking the bones in the slow cooker with some water to make stock (slow cooker stock is excellent btw).  Later on I'll add veg, leftover meat and stuffing and thicken slightly to make soup and have with the bread that's currently in the breadmaker.

Even though it's the slow cooker and breadmaker doing most of the work for me, there's something incredibly rewarding about making your own soup and bread.  Seeing as the free range chicken cost me £4 (gotta love that reduced shelf) to have 3 good meals out of it for two people is brilliant.  If we weren't such greedy people I'm sure we could have had more.

I'm not going to get all evangelist about free range.  Frankly I would love to afford it all the time but I can't not on £123 a week but irrespective of how the chicken was raised (or any other meat for that matter) it is respectful (and important financially and environmentally) to use it as much as you can, get as many meals as you can and not waste it

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

In a stew; a slow cooker is your friend

Ok, this isn't quite a recipe, more a guideline.  That's the joy with savoury food, especially with slow cookers, accurate measuring is pretty much pointless unless it's pastry and you can adapt things to what you have in the fridge.

This winter my slow cooker has been working harder than ever.  The joy with slow cooking is you can put things on to cook when your baby is napping and like magic it's ready once you're ready to eat and generally things don't spoil (if the meat overcooks it just falls apart a bit but tastes great still.)

So this is a stew which my baby regularly has a bit from blended up and we have later on when he's in bed (with adaptions.)

Stewing beef (or lamb, venison, mixed game etc)  Note that stewing meat should look sinewy but that melts down into  a lovely sauce so don't fear.
Unsalted butter
Root veg of your choice (carrots are good but you could use parsnips, swede, sweet potato or a mix)
Low salt stock cube (e.g. Kallo very low salt or Heinz baby low salt) or home made beef stock made without salt
mushrooms if desired

Fry the meat in some oil until brown.  Nothing to do with "sealing" the meat but it causes a "Maillard reaction" which makes all of those lovely brown tasty meaty flavours.   Put in the slow cooker.  Soften the veg (chopped of course) in the butter, stick it in the slow cooker.  Make up the stock to 2x strength (although this will increase the salt a little remember slow cookers have very little evaporation) pour into the cooker but don't cover the ingredients, the veg will cook down.  Add in some herbs chopped or tied into a bouquet garni.  Parsley, bay and thyme are good for beef.

Cook for around 6-8 hours on low.  Mushrooms can be browned in more butter and added 30 mins before the end of cooking.  Puree for babies with some freshly cooked green veg if liked.  Add a further normal stock cube and a tbsp of grain mustard for adults.  Thicken the gravy by turning the slow cooker to high until it's bubbling and mixing a dsp cornflour with 2 dsp water until smooth then mixing in to the sauce stirring a couple of times.

This is a good recipe for both babies and mums, both of whom tend to have low iron levels.  It freezes well and leftovers can easily be made into a tasty pie.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Roasting a chicken and the joy of temperature monitoring

Crikey, even for me that's a boring sounding title!  Well as I said yesterday, I'm always on the lookout for dishes which can be put in the oven with little attention for over an hour so they can go in before my son's bath and be ready when I've finished feeding him leaving me to feel like a super organised Mummy with still a hint of the domestic goddess about her rather than a Slummy Mummy who rarely gets the chance to have a bath herself (the latter is unfortunately closer to the truth.)

Anyway, I'm not going to wax on about how to cook a chicken, if you buy a chicken from a supermarket (sorry but how many Mums of babies have the time to go to the butchers?  I certainly don't), there are cooking instructions on there, although I often find it takes 5-10 minutes less time.  I will explain how I can confidently assert this in a bit.

I do use a bit of food technology when cooking chicken or turkey.  I roast mine on a rack over a tray of water.  This has two benefits; first a bit of steam gets into the oven which helps keep the meat moist without ruining the crispy skin.  I find if I roast a chicken in a tray or dish directly touching the meat, the skin around the base is floppy and unappetising anyway.  Another benefit is my fan oven can get heat all around the bird which I'm sure helps reduce the cooking time a little.  The third positive is the juices (which you will want for your gravy) don't then burn in the tray making them unusable or if you did use them your gravy would be bitter.

My last bit of food technology I use in the kitchen is temperature monitoring.  I would not be without my temperature probe for cooking large poultry joints.  I find that without it I am far too worried about food poisoning and end up overcooking the chicken.  What's important though is what temperature to aim for.  Now several cookery books will give several different answers for this; they're not wrong.  In fact there are several temperatures which are equivalent as long as the time is also accounted for.  What on earth do I mean?  Well hold a chicken at 72 degrees for 1 minute 5 seconds and yes, that chicken will be cooked, likewise, hold that chicken at 85 degrees for 1 second and it will also be cooked.  The higher the temperature attained, the shorter the time you need to hold it at that temperature for.  This is how top chefs get away with cooking food sous vide (aka boil in a bag!) at fairly low temperatures without it being unsafe.

In practice this means when probing your chicken (no puns please) you need to hold the probe in the thickest part of the meat and make sure the temperature you're reading is held for the time I've indicated below.  If it only just creeps to 72 then stays there for 1 second before falling back, you can't be sure that bird is cooked.

72 degrees 1 minute 5 seconds
75 degrees 26 seconds
80 degrees 5 seconds
85 degrees 1 second

So if you know you're an impatient sort, aim for 85 degrees knowing you won't have to wait long to confirm the temperature has been held.  Generally I know I can wait, I aim for 80 but accept 75 if it's been held for half a minute.
This is why most cookery books err to the side of caution and advise higher temperatures, however, I think the inconsistency between the advice makes it more confusing for the home cook.

Obviously it's up to you guys to check your meat is cooked properly and any sign of pink on poultry such as chicken or turkey is a sign you should not be eating it.  Use some common sense!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Back to the food. Chorizo rice.

I'm trying to stop obsessing about my son's feeding so back to the recipes.

I've been obsessed with producing meals quickly or putting together meals which can be put into the oven while I bath and (hopefully) feed my son, either for the right kind of time (an hour or so) or which can be put in with the timer to come on as I sort him out.  Sorry, this recipe isn't it!

Small amount of progress... Holding breath

Last night he didn't want to feed again after his bath but we managed two breastfeeds today latching on while standing up.  I'm hoping this means things are on the mend.  Knowing my son he'll soon realise I'm "tricking" him into it and rebel...

Friday, 14 January 2011

A Glimmer of Hope... Dashed

Promise I'll get back to some recipes soon but seeing as I survived on bran loaf alone the other day I'm not the best person to talk about anything but this nursing strike right now as it's all that's on my mind.

Well the strike is ongoing.  He latched on playfully which was odd for 2 minutes in the afternoon.  I was so happy, I very nearly posted here and on facebook saying "It's over!  He's ok!"  The peer supporter I'd left a message with called me back and I was almost trying to get her off the phone "Look!  We're fine!"

Well we're not fine.  He's seeming a little more himself this afternoon but it's so painful having something he loved last week rejected, having me rejected.  I know that's irrational but it's how it feels.

So he rejected feeding again at bedtime but then took around 3-4 ounces from a cup.  I just hope this glimmer gradually grows into a spark.  As I held him and he was latched on earlier, it just felt like all was right in the world for those 2 minutes.

Major Nursing Strike Continues...

We'd never had a nursing strike until starting this blog.  I hope the two aren't connected.  Anyway after the small strike of a few days ago, it got serious and my son is still unwell and refusing to feed during the day apart from on solids (it's the 3rd day of this serious strike now).  3 days ago he would take the occasional 1 min feed, yesterday he was taking a small amount of formula from a cup, today nothing.  He's still eating solids (which I'm sneaking more liquid into) and having a small amount of water but only with meals now.

I went to the Doctor again and of course he does what he always does; spends an hour being grizzly with me and then smiles at the GP (although at least he didn't put his hand on the female GP's chest like he did last time. 8 months old is the only time you can get away with that Mr!)  Anyway, diagnosis is the same *just* a cold, no signs of bacterial infection, just wait and he'll get better.  Give him Calpol and Calprofen if he needs it etc...  All of that doesn't really help when you have a baby screaming at you again as soon as you get home.

It's not his first cold either and he's never been this bad.

I had heard about nursing strikes before but just in a detached unemotional way.  Being in one, (he's only now breastfeeding twice during the night) it's very different.  You've made that decision when he's born to breastfeed because it's best for him.  You've survived the growth spurts then suddenly you're rejected and what's worse breastfeeding seems to be causing pain.  It was never meant to be like this.  Your baby wasn't meant to get ill because of this fantastic thing you're doing.  You've had moments where you've hated being so tied to your baby but secretly you like being the only person who can do this for him, then it's all taken away.

The most painful thing was around an hour ago, he was screaming at me because he was hungry.  I offered the breast; refused.  He refused water and formula from a cup.  Eventually he had a small amount of plain yoghurt to keep him going till lunch.

Thanks though to the NCT breastfeeding phoneline (0300 3300770 open 8am - 10pm) though, I am feeling more positive.  I didn't catch the lady's name but she's given me some confidence that this is only temporary.  I hope it is, I really do.  I don't want our breastfeeding journey to finish this way.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Fromage Frais and yoghurt

Well my son has currently got his first dose of man flu according to his Dad.  Seriously he has a really sore throat which is making him very grumpy and reluctant to breastfeed.  I'm frantically trying to hand express to maintain my supply but in the meantime he's eating a lot of yoghurt (as well as other foods) in the hope it will keep his calories and calcium up.  Sadly I've also bought some formula for this evening in case I can't express enough.
Call me cruel but I have never given my child commercial fromage frais or flavoured yoghurt.  I suppose I took the guidance to heart and having read on the packets that it contains sugar, I was determined not to give them until he was one.
There is a reasonably quick alternative though.  If you make your own fruit purees you can easily mix them with full fat yoghurt (for flavoured yoghurt) or cream cheese (for fromage frais).

Some popular purees with my son are:
  • Apricot and apple (simmer dried chopped apricots in water for 5 mins then add diced peeled apple and cook until soft, puree)
  • Plum
  • Pear
  • Mashed banana (raw not cooked)
  • Raspberry (sieved) and apple
  • Mango
If the fruit is a bit sour (often a problem at this time of year) use apple juice instead of the water but make sure the fruit is pretty dry before pureeing otherwise it can be a bit too runny otherwise (apart from the one containing dried apricots).  You can use frozen fruits as well and all of the purees apart from banana can be frozen.  I reheat in the microwave until boiling then allow to cool to a safe temperature to feed my baby and mix in a little yoghurt or cream cheese.

It is rather surprising how many foods contain sugar which are targeted at babies.  I suppose it did me no harm to be munching away on rusks at 8 months but it's not something I want to do with my little chap.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Sleepless nights and bran loaf

Since my son was born, I've found I've been craving sweet things more than ever before.  I remember thinking it was the breastfeeding but when he was a couple of months old I read somewhere that sleep deprivation makes you want more sweet foods.  Well since the early days I've been making bran loaf as it's a (reasonably) healthy cake (as far as cakes go) and full of fibre (good in the early days post birth).  Fortunately I made one yesterday as last night didn't involve much sleep; not because he didn't sleep well but because I was lying in bed worrying about his lack of feeding.

Bran loaf (makes one loaf)

The cup measures can be "proper" American cups but unlike most baking recipes I've found it doesn't really matter and using a large mug works well.

1 cup of all bran (or own brand equivalent)
1 cup of dried fruit (you can use fresh fruit, e.g. apples but I think dried, especially sultanas work best)
1/3 - 1/2 cup soft brown sugar (your preference, obviously the more you use the sweeter it will be but the dried fruit gives a lot of sweetness)
1 cup of hot tea
1 egg
1 tsp mixed spice
1 cup SR flour


Mix the first 4 ingredients and leave to stand for 1 hour minimum, preferably a few hours (or until you have a chance to get away from your baby for 5 mins).  Then mix in the other ingredients, if you have stood the mix for a long time you may need to add an extra dsp water to get the ingredients to mix.  Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin or do as I do and get a silicone loaf tin which needs a quick spray of spray oil at the bottom and doesn't need lining.

Bake for 1 hour at 175 degrees C.

It's an ideal recipe if you have kids around because you can do the first stage one handed and then it takes a matter of moments to get it in the oven.  Also no creaming etc needed and no added fat apart from that used to line the tin and in the egg.

Right, now off to try and work out how to do his feeds today and hopefully have a better night.  Life may be tough but at least I have something to have with a cup of tea later.  Small victories ;o)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Urgh Mr Milkdodger is back

After one good night, my little man has decided to avoid his bedtime feed again, except he completely refused it this time when we were disturbed by the phone ringing.  I figure if he were really hungry he would have started feeding again so I think I'm going to try bringing his teatime forward a little to 4pm and cut back on an afternoon feed to see if that will work.  It's so frustrating and feels like some kind of personal rejection when he turns down a feed.  I know rationally it's not true but I'm not feeling rational right now.  Still, if he does make it to his normal night feeding time, we are definitely going to start trying to get him to sleep through as he will have managed 10 hours without a breastfeed.  When you consider that many babies of his age achieve 12 hours without every night it doesn't seem like a big ask but my little one has never been the best at going without food (which makes his behaviour all the more strange.)

Here's to a likely rough night...  wish me luck.

Tomato Sauce for Babies and Toddlers

Ok "nursing strike" is probably overstating things but my little son decided for the first time in months that he didn't want much milk before bed.  I surprised myself after months of feeling tied down and having had a difficult relationship with breastfeeding just how unready I was to give up.  He had a 6 minute feed before bed.  His normal night feed time of around 2:30am came and went and I suddenly realised just how much I would miss feeding him, it is my thing I do for him, even on days when I find him really hard work, it's the thing I know I'm doing right.

Fortunately by 4am he'd decided that he wanted milk after all and then at 5:30am, 8am, 10am... Well he had some ground to make up and he'd got a nasty cold which I think was the source of the issue.

Anyway, continuing in the cream cheese and pasta with everything topic, I gave him some home made tomato pasta for lunch as I knew he was feeling bad and I'd made some the previous evening (admittedly blending the sauce in tears because I was so upset about his feeding).

Tomato sauce - suitable for kiddies and adults, freezes well

3 tins of tomatoes (the cheapest plum tomatoes are fine for this recipe as the oven cooking concentrates the flavour)
1 pack of passata
1-2 onions (depending on size), peel and cut into wedges
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1-2 carrots (depending on size), peel or wash and cut into thin slices
2 peppers (red, yellow or orange) cut into wedges
Herbs of your choice if desired, rosemary, thyme and oregano are good
Chilli chopped (only if not giving to babies!)


Bung all of the ingredients into an ovenproof dish and put in the oven ideally when you're already using it for something else to save on fuel.  Give a stir now and again.  Ideally cook for an hour and a half although if I've only got the oven on for an hour I often put it in as the oven is heating and leave it in for 10 more mins or so as it's cooling.

When cool enough, blend in a blender (crying optional) and use for a simple pasta sauce on its own or with some salami, shellfish or as the sauce for meatballs.  For babies over 7 months it's great with some cream cheese and cheddar and mixed with small pasta shapes.

Update:  I've also tried this in our slow cooker, it's a much longer process but putting on an oven for a sauce is a bit daft and wasteful.  Worked a treat.  Cook it for 6 hours or so (apparently the power a slow cooker uses is similar to a lightbulb so even cooking that long is no biggie.)  I think I'll do it this way every time in future unless I happen to have the oven on already.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Pasta Recipes for Babies: The joy of cream cheese

My son is onto the “soft lumps” stage of weaning.  I know, sounds like the morning after the night before right?  Eew.  Anyway, the way I’ve found to get round this rather unpleasant description is with pasta.  He has been managing to eat farfalline (tiny bow pasta) amazingly well for about a month so I thought I’d share a couple of recipes with you.

The photos below are ones I've added many many months after I first posted these recipes so they are with grown up pasta but they work just as well with small or baby pasta shapes.

Who am I?


Welcome to my blog.  I should introduce myself.  I am the mum to an 8 month old baby and the world has changed.  A tiny but very cute bomb has gone off in my life and the dust is only just starting to settle.

Having worked in food for 9 years, I had images of maternity leave involving bread baking sessions, every meal being home cooked for my husband and my child and suddenly having all the time in the world to do the things I wanted.  Let’s just say reality was somewhat different!  It came as a shock to be the person who has no time to make a sandwich let alone make bread and earning £123 a week (soon to drop to nothing) is another adjustment.

So the point of this blog is not to give any kind of mothering advice, frankly I’m not the best qualified for that but just to share my coping techniques through the world of food.

I hope you enjoy.