Monday, 26 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday - how is it that time again?

Just call me the white rabbit today - I've been late for everything and my meal plan is no exception. To be fair I realised at 5am whilst feeding Harry that I hadn't written up my plan but as I haven't yet worked out how to simultaneously blog, sleep and breastfeed that got promptly forgotten. Anyway, I'm typing up now - it's not Tuesday yet.

This week is a funny old time - we were talking about it today at Slimming world (it's going well, thank you) Apparently today is 'Blue Monday' the most depressing day of the year, and last Thursday was the day that all our New Year's Resolutions got chucked out of the window. I don't know about either of those being true, I am a bit down at the moment, I know I'm not getting enough daylight despite trying to get out everyday as sometimes it's just too cold. M is working crazy hours, and Harry is still teething. I think once the weather changes and M and I see each other a bit more I'll start to feel a bit brighter.

Food wise, this week is mainly roast chicken orientated. It's in the oven at the moment (smelling wonderful) and I'm hoping the leftovers will keep us going until Thursday.

Breakfasts: Porridge or scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. Harry's still having his porridge fingers or scrambled eggs too.

Lunches: I made a root veg and pearl barley soup for this week. Then I can supplement that with chicken sandwiches.


Monday - Roast chicken, roast potatoes (does everyone else know how to make syn free roasties or should I blog them?) stuffing, lots of veggies

Tuesday - Leftover roast chicken with baked potatoes and veggies

Wednesday - Chicken and mushroom risotto (I'm going to try using a puree of cannelini beans to replace the butter and cheese at the end)

Thursday - Leftover risotto

Friday - Meatball pasta I think.

We're with family this weekend, so have a couple of days off meal planning. Which is always nice.

What are your favourite - make your chicken go further recipes? 

Be sure to pop on over to At Home with Mrs M and see what everyone else is up to this week.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Porridge fingers for big and small people

Porridge fingers are a well known Baby Led weaning staple. I think the recipe is from the book I don't have, the Gill Rapley one? Harry loves them - as with the fish cakes, I think he likes the control of feeding himself and porridge fingers enable him to do just that. 

Small person Porridge fingers

3 tablespoons porridge oats
3 tablespoons breast milk/ formula
1/2 banana mashed up 
Pinch of cinnamon/ sweet mixed spice

Mix up the porridge with the milk, mashed banana and spice. Pop in the microwave for 2 minutes and then leave on the worktop/ window ledge to cool. 
Slice into pieces and let your baby feed himself. 

M's been working very long days of late, leaving super early and as such was finding he was hungry well before lunchtime despite eating first thing. I had planned to make some slow-cooker porridge for him so that he could have something hot and substantial before leaving, but he's always in a bit of a rush in the mornings, so I think this suits him more easily as it's a grap and go option. 

There's a bit more to them than there is to Harry's - but as an on-the-go option they're excellent. Portable and adaptable depending on what you want and link in the middle.  

These are obviously dairy free, but you could substitue normal milk where I've used almond and normal butter where I've used peanut butter. Similarly you could switch out the banana for dried fruit, the cinammon for any dried spices. I'm sure if you're being healthy these wouldn't object to chia seeds or similar being added.

Big person porridge fingers

2 and a half cups of porridge oats
1/2 cup of milled flasxeed
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 and a half cups almond milk
1/2 cup golden or maple syrup or runny honey
2 tablespoons peanut butter (the unsweetened type - I use Meridian)
1 banana, sliced
1 tbsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a brownie tin with parchment
Blitz half the oats in a food processor until they're really fine
Mix up the dry ingredients in a big bowl - porridge oats, flaxseed, cinnamon, baking powder and salt
Mix up the wet ingredients in a jug - almond milk, syrup, peanut butter, and vanilla. Whisk up
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly
Stir in the sliced banana
Pour into the baking tin and cook for around half an hour - you want the bars to bounce back under your fingers when they're cooked through
Leave to cool then slice into squares - this made about 12 for us. Store in an airtight tin.

When you want to eat them, slice in half horizontally and spread honey, jam, chocolate spread, speculoos spread - really your options are endless...

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Guinness casserole with dumplings

Just before Christmas I was trying to work out what other than turkey I was going to feed the extended family - I knew we were having Ham, egg and chips for Christmas Eve supper, but was at a bit of a loss. I was contacted to ask if I'd make a recipe using Guinness. The only thing I've cooked with Guinness previously was cake I use a Nigella recipe that I've worked into cupcakes as well as a big cake. 

The original recipe was for a venison stew - apparently venison is not purchaseable in North London the week before Christmas. None was to be found in Sainsburys or Tesco and our Butcher gently pointed out that he was up to his ears in turkeys and could I come back after Christmas. Undeterred, I adapted the recipe using shin of beef and some extra veggies. 

I should point out that the quantities below made loads - we had 16 portions in total, so have had it in the freezer and it's just as yummy as a freezer surprise dinner and warmed through. M made a good point that as it thickens up when you freeze it, then it would be a fantastic pie filling. I've finished it for now, so will have to make it again (such a hardship) to try that out. Overall, it's a warming, stick to your ribs, stew - the guinness flavour is there but not overwhelming, but really tasty. 

Because of the quantities of the original recipe I had to split the stew into 2 as I don't have a casserole or anything big enough - the first time I made it using the first method - which was the one I was given, the second time I used the second method which is closer to how I would normally make a casserole. The results were very similar - just the sauce/ gravy on the second one was much reduced. 

Guinness Dublin Porter stew

100ml Olive oil
2 White onions (I used red)
2 Garlic cloves3 Bay leaves
1tbsp Ground allspice
 2kg Venison (I used shin of beef), diced
500g Carrots
500g Swede 
500g Parsnips - my addition
300g mushrooms - my addition
1litre Water - I used a stock pot for some extra depth
1.2litres GUINNESS Dublin Porter
Salt and pepper

Chop your onions, crush the garlic and peel and chop the veggies into largeish chunks. Soften your onions and garlic in the olive oil and add your beef/ venison - brown off to seal. Put the water/ stock and Guinness into a pan and bring to the boil. Add the sealed venison, turn it down and leave it to simmer for 10 minutes. If any foam rises to the top just skim it off like you would stockAdd veggies and spice and continue to simmer for between an hour and 90 minutes.  

My adapted method 

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C
Chop your onions, crush the garlic and chop the veggies into largeish chunks
Soften the onions, and garlic in the olive oil over a low heat and seal your beef/ venison. Remove from the pan and deglaze it with a little of the Guinness. 
Add your veggies, meat, the rest of the Guinness, stock, herbs and spices. 
Cook in a covered casserole in the oven for 2 hours or until you have a gorgeously thick gravy, and super tender meat. If your beef/ venison doesn't fall apart when you touch it, then pop it back in the oven. 

I made dumplings to go with this 

3oz suet
3oz self-raising flour
1-2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper

In a bowl mix the suet, flour and water to make a soft, slightly sticky dough
Roll the dough into ping-pong ball size dumplings and add a little chopped thyme, salt & pepper
Add to the casserole (making sure there's lots of gravy to cook them in) about 45 minutes before the end of cooking.

Funnily enough, Guinness used to be recommeded to breastfeeding mothers to build up their strength - whilst I cant see that catching on nowadays, I have to say that making a hearty stew of this kind was Guinness certainly gave this breastfeeding mother a real boost in the middle of a very busy, cold, and dreary December.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Meal Planning Monday:

The cold weather really hit us last week, Harry and I had to abandon a walk as despite all the layers and a massive snow suit he was just too cold, and we both ended up a bit under the weather. I'm hoping this week will be better so that we can get out and about - we're hoping to try a library Rhyme Time session for the first time.

The original plan was to cook a chicken on Sunday, but Aldi had pork leg joints on offer this week so I took the opportunity to save some money, I also picked up 5 of their 'Super six' veggies and some pork mince which was again on offer. I promise this post isn't an advert for Aldi, I'm just at the end of my Mat leave so saving money is a priority for us at the mo.

I did OK at Slimming World last week - something tells me that this week wont be as successful as I've felt dreadful and not managed to stay on plan at all. Although towards the end of the week I got back on it a bit more (save the end of a packet of liebkucken on Saturday afternoon while the men of the house dozed)

Mark's working silly hours at the moment and Harry's still teething (no teeth yet, but sore gums, red cheeks, all the dribble, and broken sleep but NO TEETH) so I'm after a relatively stress free week food wise.

Breakfast: Porridge with fruit or scrambled eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms for me. Porridge fingers, scrambled eggs or a bagel and fruit for the baby

Lunch: Soup, a baked potato or an omlette for me - fish cakes, or chicken and veggies or just veggies for Harry.


Monday: Leftover roast pork with baked potatoes and veggies

Tuesday: Quick chilli wraps with leftover pork, a teeny bit of rice, avocado and veggies

Wednesday: Baked pasta with a ragu type sauce (a recipe I'm going to adapt slightly from my slimming world book)

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Freezer surprise

Saturday: It's St Dwynwen's next weekend (Welsh St Valentine's) so if we can find a friend to look after Harry for a couple of hours I'd like to try going out for tea. If not, it'll be steak and chips at home.

Sunday: Perhaps that chicken...

 My challenge for Monday is to remember to link up with Mrs M again.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Marshmallow magic

When I got my Kmix, marshmallows were firmly on my to-make list - and then life kind of took over. One house, wedding and baby later, the Kmix lives on the fridge (don't get me started on the lack of counter space we have in the kitchen) and I buy marshmallows from M&S. Or at least I did. Before Christmas, Sainsburys asked if anyone wanted to have a go at making marshmallows from their new kit. In the madness that is sleep deprivation I volunteered, convinced of my ability to make perfect snowy mounds of confectionery that I could then bestow upon friends and family a la Nigella. Now I don't know if the baby can read my mind, if this was before he began teething or if I just picked a really good week for his naps, but I managed it.

The Sainsbury's kit takes all the fear that I had about marshmallows - mainly centred around sugar temperatures - and sweeps it away, you follow super simple instructions, let the mixer do the hard work, and voila - appropriately seasonal sweeties with an awesome wow factor. I dipped mine in melted dark chocolate and topped them with freeze dried raspberries before giving them as Christmas gifts to the other NCT mummies - and pretty much anyone else that passed our way.

I would definitely make these again, in terms of a wow factor for not much effort, they're a definite winner. The only thing I'd do differently is think about flavourings as the kit is perfectly plain. You could use a skewer to swirl melted chocolate or a lime curd through them, seived raspberries would make them perfectly pink and impart a lovely fresh tang, or you could add some salted caramel, pile them high and serve them as petit fours with some rich, dark coffee after dinner. The options are endless... I'll definitely be making them again, it is coming up to St Dwynwen's day after all...

Friday, 16 January 2015

January favourites

As another month passes, Harry gets bigger and our favourite things (sing with me) change. This month the cold, moving along our weaning journey and starting to sit up (yes, really!) have all prompted changes in the things both Harry and I reach for on a regular basis.

All these things have been purchased by us (or been presents from friends and family)

Tuppence and Crumble star wrap

I had seen pictures of babies in star wraps and thought 'how cute' long before Harry was born - however, I came to buy one because Harry needed another layer when in  the sling. Much like in the car seat, snowsuits aren't recommended when babywearning for safety reasons so I needed an alternative - which is when I remembered star wraps. Harry has a cornflower blue wrap and over Christmas we used it as a makeshift dressing gown when away from home, as well as an extra layer in the car or sling. He much prefers to his snowsuit as it's softer and he's more mobile in it, and aside from the cuteness factor I love the fact that it's far less of a battle to get him in it.

Bedtime bear

Bedtime bear (a little bear/ lovey/ comfort blanket) was a gift when Harry was born, and to be honest this could be any soft toy/ comforter as it's what we do not what it is that makes it a favourite. At our NCT group a friend's husband recommended putting soft toy in the cot/ crib that just lives there. Never leaves. Which is what we do with the thus named Bedtime bear. Harry loves seeing him when I put him in his cot/ crib - he rubs him on his face (no, I've no idea either) and after a little chunter to the bear settles himself down. Not every time - he's a real baby, not a pretend one. I like to think that Bedtime bear is a signal that it is bed/ nap time, and a friendly signal at that. I checked online, and guidance seems to be that babies shouldn't have anything in their moses basket/ crib/ cot until they're around 4 months - although I'm sure if you looked you could find contradictions to that as there's nothing like confusing and frightening new mums with contradictory guidance. Four months is about when Bedtime bear appeared in the cot.

Weaning supplies

Last time I was at my mum's, we popped to the local poundshop and stocked up on some of their weaning supplies, mini tubs and individual freezer pots have proved to be invaluable. They're all BPA free and dishwashable and are perfectly sized for a couple of rice cakes, or a portion of chicken and veggies. I use them every time we're out and about and they're cheap enough that if I do leave them somewhere in my sleep deprived state it's not the end of the world.

Bath toys

We were very lucky at Christmas and among other gifts Harry was given some bath toys - these include some penguin squirty toys from M&S (no longer on website) that we love - In part, thanks to his swimming, in the last couple of months Harry loves his baths and has made the connection between kicking and splashes. We now come out of bathtime just as soggy as him! Bath toys are his idea of heaven, and these squirty penguins make him splash and squeal in delight.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Weaning update #3 - fishcakes

We've been weaning Harry for a few weeks now, and I've started to think more widely than fruit and veggies. That said we did try baby rice and porridge but Harry turned his nose up at the former, and the latter ended up having milk on the ingredient list - a downfall of online shopping I'm finding.

Fruit and veggies have been a hit so far - everything has been sucked, chomped and liberally distributed around the dining room table (thank heavens for wipeable tablecloths) It's as though the control baby led weaning offers him is something he's embraced quite literally with both hands.

We've had a couple of gagging/ choking incidents which did for my nerves fairly swiftly, but I've pressed on as I don't want Harry to be the child in reception still eating purees because his mother's a nervous wreck. If you're weaning, or coming up to weaning there is a lot out there to read on the difference between the two and I would recommend it, as at first I panicked at gagging which I now know is unecessary.

Talking to my mum, she mentioned weaning me and said that my Grandad - he of this post  - gave her plaice to try me on as a first weaning food. Apparently I wasn't keen initially, but loved it the second time. I duly added some plaice to my online shop and last week cooked it up for Harry.

Baby fishcakes - dairy free

100g plaice fillet
2 baking potatoes, peeled
Olive oil

Boil the potatoes in water with no salt. When soft, rice them. Don't add any butter, milk etc - this is a recipe for a baby with a cows milk protein allergy.
Put the plaice fillet in a saucepan skin side down and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the fish is opaque - about 10 minutes.
Let the fish sit in the water until it's cool enough to handle - I gave it another 15 minutes, before removing it from the water and flaking the fish away from the skin. (I took this opportunity to do another check for bones)
Mix the flaked fish in with the riced potato and use a little of the fish cooking water to bring the two ingredients together. You could also use a little rice/ almond/ breast milk
Split the fish and potato mix up into little patties - about a heaped dessert spoon of mix in each one. If they're not already cold, put them into the fridge to firm up.
Heat up the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fishcakes until browned on both sides. Remove from the heat and let them cool before freezing.

I froze mine on a tray so that when they were solid I could tip them into a freezer bag and just take them out to reheat when we wanted one. When Harry's further on in his weaning I'd add something like parsley - but for now what was important was the 2 ingredients, that it was holdable (it's a word) by Harry and that it wasn't complete mush - hence the fish was just flaked.


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