Alfresco dining the BLW way!

Alfresco dining the BLW way!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Busy Bee!

Had so much on lately but keep thinking up more things to a crazy fool!  I have just been making Ethan some more cheese and carrot pretzels for snacking but the thing is...I forgot the cheese...Oops!  Tasted them and although they are much blander, they are still very moreish...good to know the recipe still works when you miss a major ingredient out.  Since that homemade challenge though, I have found it easy to schedule in time to bake snacks for Ethan to eat ready for the next few days.  It's saving money as well as being healthier which is great.

I wrote my business plan today for setting up as a childminder.  It's helped clarify a lot of things in my head and reassured me that a lot of the information from the first briefing session last night went in.  The second briefing session is next week where we will fill in forms to become registered and find out about training.  It's scary to be setting up my own business but now I have Ethan I want to spend as much time with him as possible and go back to work in January with a heavy heart only lifted by the knowledge I will be being made redundant in the next few years and it's only 2 days a week til then.  

As well as that I am well on the way to setting up a Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity) support group.  I have a few fundraisers in the pipeline and will be going away to train as a befriender soon.  When Jack died we got so much support and it helped us not fall apart and find the courage to move forwards...if I can offer others a supportive environment where they can find healing and strength I will be so happy.  I feel like it's a vocation - my pain feels like it was meant to happen in a way so I could help others. 

Better get to bed...going to a maternity services liason committee meeting in the morning to represent Sands on the committee.  Then a relaxing afternoon with Ethan I think...he gets very cross if I don't take him to the park for a go on the swings every day now!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Caribbean Veggie Casserole

Ingredients: 1 onion diced, 100g potatoes diced, 3 carrots (175g) sliced, 400g tin of plum tomatoes, 250g cabbage, 1 large (175g) sweet potato, 1 large (100g) parsnip, 1 green pepper (capsicum), 2cm piece of fresh ginger or 2 tbsp of ground ginger,  2 tbsp of curry powder, 2 tbsp all purpose seasoning, vegetable low salt stock cube, teaspoon of chilli flakes/powder, 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, 10 allspice berries, 2 tbsp parsley, 2 tbsp fresh coriander.

Put all ingredients except stock cube in a large pot on medium heat.  Make up stock and pour into pot until all vegetables are covered. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a low heat for about 45 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. 

This can be quite spicey.  I served it with crusty bread but you could also serve with rice or cous cous.  The heat mellows a bit and it tastes even better the next day.  A lot of the heat is in the sauce but Ethan did not seem at all bothered by the spiciness.    

Tomato & Chard Pancake Bake

Ingredients: 1 onion diced, 300g chard shredded, half a yellow pepper (capsicum) cut into strips, 400g tin of plum tomatoes, 1 small sweet potato (150g) finely sliced (using a julienne slice if possible or failing that a peeler will do), 50g of hard cheese grated, pancakes made as per previous recipe, olive oil, clove of garlic and fresh basil.

Method: Place olive oil in medium heat frying pan or wok and fry onion until softened.  Add chard stirring.  Add tin of tomatoes, using wooden spatula to break up. Add sweet potato and then yellow pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes until all ingredients are done to your taste before adding garlic and stirring torn basil through.  Take one pancake and spread some of the tomato sauce into the middle before rolling up and placing in an ovenproof dish.  Keep repeating until all pancakes have been used, reserving a little sauce.  Pour the remaining sauce on top of pancakes and cover in grated cheese.  Put dish under a hot grill until cheese bubbles and pancakes crisp up. 

Ethan really enjoys this and the tomato sauce tastes surprisingly sweet.     


110g Plain (All Purpose) Flour, 200ml Whole (Full Fat) Milk, 80ml Water, 2 Free Range Eggs,

Grease a non stick frying pan with vegetable oil and once it is very hot add some batter.  You'll need to experiment a bit to work out the best quantity of pancake mix for the thickness of the batter, the size of the pan and the thickness of the pancake you like. Immediately tip the pan from side to side to get the pancake mix to evenly coat the base of the pan.  Keep the pan on medium heat. If the pan is hot enough, the pancake should take just 30-40 seconds to cook.  Flip the pancake (I do this with a spatula, safer and less chance of problems!) and cook the other side for around 20 seconds or so. Repeat process until you have used all the batter up. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Duvet Day!

I'm pretty exhausted this week.  After being away for the whole weekend, crazy old me had organised a cake sale for Tuesday so I spent Monday baking.  The cake sale went really well and raised nearly £50 for the Sands (stillbirth & neonatal death) support group I am starting.  Even better than that though, I now have a committee formed so the wheels are in motion to get off the ground.  There is a desperate need for such a group around here so I am humbled by and very grateful for the response.  Sometimes help comes from unexpected places as well as from those people in your life who you know are there for you.

Ethan Bear is a bit off his food this week (due to having a nasty cold) so not much going on food wise.  He has had banana, bread, broccoli and cauliflower but has not been as experimental as usual.  I am making chard lasagne tonight so hopefully he will try that.  Recipe and photos to follow!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Homemade Challenge Debrief

Just spent the weekend in the Midlands as my sister was getting married and then her gorgeous baby  Matthew was getting baptised so a very busy and lovely time was had.  From the point of view of the homemade challenge...well it's a bit impossible to do when you're not at home but Ethan ate quite well most of the time which was amazing seeing as we stayed in a hotel Friday & Saturday night.

Having the tupperware tub full of carrot and cheese pretzels meant if Ethan wanted a snack I always had something to hand plus I took a stash of his favourite food of the moment - bananas! Dinner on Friday was a carvery and Ethan tucked into lots of vegetables, roast turkey, cauliflower cheese and some melon. The buffet breakfast the next morning meant he had toast, scrambled egg, sausage and satsuma segments.  Ethan happily ate some of the pretzels for lunch followed by a banana but there was a bit of trouble at tea time.  We were tired and hungry in a strange town (Walsall) looking for something to eat.  Frankie & Benny's was fully booked, Pizza Hut had long waits plus a rowdy party of 8 year old girls and we couldn't find any other restaurants.  We ended up in that shrine to all that is wrong with consumerism McDonalds.  Me and Stevo had burger and fries each and offered Ethan some of our buns.  EBC did us proud...he point blank refused to even taste any of the bun!  We both looked at what we were eating through Ethan's eyes and realised if he didn't even register it was food then we probably shouldn't be eating it either.  So we left there and Ethan was getting a little grizzley so we bought him some corn thins and he was well excited as he hasn't had them in months.  Today he had some toast for breakfast and a banana followed by some breadsticks and tomato pieces at his cousin's baptism.  I bought some apple rice cakes for him in Asda for convenience.  So we are back home and I feel pretty proud of how Ethan mainly ate very healthy food on our little mini break. Staying in hotels with no facilities for preparing or cooking food limits you massively but it is possible to do a mainly homemade/fresh food weekend away with a little planning.   Next time I would take a knife and a chopping board though.  Looking forward to reacquainting myself with the cooker tomorrow!      


Friday, 5 November 2010

Day Four of the Homemade Challenge

Still doing well and have just baked two batches of carrot and cheese pretzels (with added fresh basil which makes them even yummier!) as won't be near by cooker all weekend.  I am getting pretty nifty with the pretzel shapes now but did half pretzels and half shooting star cookie cutter for variety.  I used the food processor to mix everything tonight and it turned out so much better than by hand...I wish Ethan Bear didn't hate the noise of that thing so much or I would use it more often!   Am loving my silicone bakeware from Aldi...if you have one near you I would recommend seeing if they have any left - it's a couple of quid and nothing sticks to it so it's one less thing to have to scrub at after you've finished baking - everything just slides off.

We had roast duck for dinner and Ethan LOVED it! The cauliflower cheese side dish went down well too.  I love to see him sitting there tucking into the same dinner as us, he seems so grown up.  I had to shred a few duck bits up as they were slightly too chewy and we had a few gagging and coughing up moments but mostly Ethan just showed all our guests what a grown up boy he was eating everything put in front of him with relative ease.  

It's that time of night again...the boys are both in bed so I'm off to collapse is a heap beside them to do it all over again tomorrow.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Day Three of the Homemade Challenge

Today has gone really well.  Ethan is still loving his chewy breadsticks and they last longer than the shop bought ones and are less likely to disintegrate all over the place.  I did get a bit sad when a homemade pretzel fell from Ethan's hand whilst we were out with the buggy in a way that I wouldn't care with processed stuff and then I realised the main bonus of homemade stuff.  You know they are made with love.  I cared when I rolled and shaped each one of those in a way a machine in a factory doesn't (some might say couldn't! ;O) ).  The main difficulty with switching to homemade seems to be the need for planning so there are enough snacks to hand for when Ethan wants a little nibble of something (which is quite a lot!).  In the tupperware tub we have carrot and cheese pretzels, breadsticks and now fruity fingers but supplies could do with restocking so tomorrow I will bake some more.  Baking is a real pleasure, a nice way to unwind after a day spent chasing my little monkey and a way to be creative and useful at the same time.  But it's pretty exhausting too so up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire go I!

Fruity Fingers

These taste absolutely blinding and happily contain no refined sugar so they are a very healthy treat for little bears!  Refined sugar is bad because it sends our blood sugar levels sky high in an instant (unlike naturally occurring sugars like those found in honey and fruit juice) whilst containing no vitamins, minerals or nutrients.  Freshly squeezed orange juice is best as it won't have any refined sugar added to it - you can squeeze it out the orange yourself and know exactly what's in there!

Prunes are dried plums (which makes them sound much nicer!) and contain high levels of vitamin A (good for eyes, skin, hair and growth), B and C as well as fibre, magnesium, calcium, potassium, protein and carboyhdrate. 

Makes about 20 fingers depending on size you cut them into.

Ingredients: 120g/4oz butter, Juice of 4 Oranges, 2 Free Range Eggs, beaten, 250g/8oz grated apple or carrot, 2 Bananas, mashed, 180g/6oz Self Raising Flour, 120g/4oz Dried Prunes (with no stones) chopped into slivers.

Method: Preheat oven to 200'C/ 400'F/ Gas Mark 6.  Place butter, orange juice, eggs and flour in a mixing bowl and blend together using an electric whisk.  Fold in apple/carrot, bananas and prunes.  Add a little flour if need be until spoon stands upright in mixture.  Turn into a square cake or brownie tin and level.  Bake until golden, about 25-35 minutes.  A skewer will come out clean when ready.  Cool slightly before scoring into fingers.  Allow to cool completely then divide into fingers using a sharp knife.

Pancake Lasagne

Makes enough for 3 adult portions and 2 baby ones

For the pancake batter: 110g Plain (All Purpose) Flour, 200ml Whole (Full Fat) Milk, 80ml Water, 2 Free Range Eggs,

Cheese Sauce: 25g Unsalted Butter, 25g Plain Flour, 200ml Whole Milk, 50g Grated Cheese.

1 Carrot (75g), 75g Chard, 100g Cabbage, 100g Cauliflower, 100g Passata, Grated Cheese to top, Bunch of Fresh Basil, Vegetable oil for frying.

First mix together ingredients for pancake batter and leave to cool in fridge.
Chop carrot into thin sticks and cauliflower into trees and stir fry for a few minutes.  Shred cabbage and chard and add to pan cooking for a few more minutes until just cooked.
Grease a non stick frying pan with vegetable oil and once it is very hot add some batter.  You'll need to experiment a bit to work out the best quantity of pancake mix for the thickness of the batter, the size of the pan and the thickness of the pancake you like. Immediately tip the pan from side to side to get the pancake mix to evenly coat the base of the pan.  Keep the pan on medium heat. If the pan is hot enough, the pancake should take just 30-40 seconds to cook.  Flip the pancake (I do this with a spatula, safer and less chance of problems!) and cook the other side for around 20 seconds or so. Repeat process until you have used all the batter up.  Set pancakes aside whilst you make cheese sauce.
Place butter in a saucepan over a high heat, add flour and mix together to form a paste.  Slowly add milk stirring continuously and then add cheese.  Keep stirring until a thick sauce is formed and remove from heat. 
Add stir fried vegetables to cheese sauce. 
Put two pancakes (depending how many you have got from your batter) in bottom of lasagne or casserole dish, add a layer of cheesy vegetables, then a layer of pancakes, then some passata and torn basil leaves.  Repeat the process finishing with a sprinkling of basil and cheese on the top layer of passata.  


A Rough Guide to Baby Led Weaning

Not very long ago if you'd said baby led weaning to me, I would have stared at you blankly so I thought I would include a little explanation about what it means.  Basically, it is all about letting your baby feed themselves and trusting that (provided you offer a selection of healthy food) they will pick what they need.  If baby doesn't seem hungry or to want a particular food then you don't stress or try and play games involving aeroplanes and we hope this will lead babies to develop a healthy attitude to food that is not connected to emotions. 

As is the current advice in the UK, solids are not offered until 6 months and by the time your baby is ready for solids they will be able to feed themselves.  The 3 signs to look for are...being able to sit upright unsupported, being able to bring objects up to their mouths and whilst watching you eat becoming interested in food.  Days before weaning officially started with Ethan he grabbed a piece of flatbread from my plate at a restaurant and ate it whilst I had kittens!  The first few times are pretty scary...I was convinced Ethan was going to choke but he was absolutely fine picking up food I put in front of him and eating it.  With BLW there is no need for purees or spoons (or bowls for that matter...if I give Ethan food in a bowl, the food gets tipped out and the bowl gets played with!) you just chop up fruit and veg and offer if it in little sticks big enough for baby to hold in their hand and  chew on (you will soon work out the right size for your baby if you see them struggling cut bigger or smaller).  In Ethan's first week he ate cucumber (brilliant for teething), mango, pancakes, pasta, noodles, cheese, avocado on toast, banana, spaghetti bolognase, baked beans on pitta, scrambled egg, sweet potatoes, strawberries and curry!  It's a myth that babies only like bland food...Ethan always has a bit of what we're having now and he loves most things.  We don't buy in bland cheese specially for him, he digs into the mature cheddar with us and you won't find a bigger fan of his Dad's curries.  I can heartily recommend Baby Led Weaning: Helping Your Baby to Love Good Food by Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett.  Here's a description of the book:

"Contrary to popular belief, there is no research that supports the current mainstream view that babies should be weaned by being spoon-fed purees. Self-feeding allows babies to use their natural abilities to explore taste, texture, color and smell. It encourages independence and confidence by allowing them to experiment with foods at their own pace and helps to develop hand-eye coordination and chewing."Baby-led Weaning" is a practical and authoritative guide to introducing solid food, enabling your child to grow up a happy and confident eater. It shows parents why baby-led weaning makes sense and gives them the confidence to trust their baby's natural skills and instincts. With practical tips for getting started and the low-down on what to expect, "Baby-led Weaning" explodes the myth that babies need to be spoon-fed and shows why self-feeding from the start is the healthiest way for your child to develop. Your baby is allowed to decide how much he wants to eat, how to eat it and to experiment with everything at his own pace. Baby-led weaning is a common-sense, safe, easy and enjoyable approach to feeding your baby. No more purees and weaning spoons, and no more mealtime battles. Simply let your baby feed himself healthy family food."

One thing to bear in mind is that babies gag reflex is quite far forward in their mouth when BLW begins so you may get worried thinking that baby is choking on something when actually they are just clearing their mouth because it's overfilled.  If baby is coughing and making a lot of noise then just leave them be - they are dealing with it.  Always feed your baby sitting upright in a high chair or on your lap as this will ensure that they are able to cough anything up that is too much for them.  Avoid feeding babies nuts,  cut cherry tomatoes and grapes in half.  If they are actually choking then babies will not make any noise and will be unable to breathe.  In this instance follow this advice:

  • Lie the baby face down along your forearm or thigh, with their head low. Support their head.

  • Give up to five firm slaps to the baby’s back between the shoulder blades with the heel of your hand. (The heel is between the palm of your hand and your wrist.)

  • Stop after each slap to check if the blockage has cleared. Look inside the baby’s mouth and remove any obvious blockage. Do not poke your fingers into the baby’s mouth unless you can see and reach the blockage. You may push it further in.

  • If the airway is still blocked, give up to five chest thrusts.

  • Stop after each thrust to check if the blockage has cleared.


    Baby led weaning has been a really fun and positive experience for all of us.  Meal times are a fun shared family experience and one we look forward to.  3 months since we started and I can't imagine feeding Ethan any other way.

    Tuesday, 2 November 2010

    Day Two of the Homemade Challenge

    Ethan seems to have been enjoying the fruits of my labour. He has loved chewing on the homemade breadsticks which last a lot longer than shop bought ones as they are more chewy.  He's also had quite a lot of fruit today.  He had one slice of orange but then made protesting noises on the high chair so I offered him a banana and he smiled and munched that like there was no tomorrow.  It was funny to think he was getting so grizzley cos Mummy had given him the wrong type of fruit, little diva!

    I ended up making cheese and carrot pretzels this afternoon after I'd made a carrot cake...can you tell carrots are in season here?!!! Apart from bananas (which are great for Ethan and he loves so they are staying!) we eat very seasonably in this house.  In the fridge we have a bit of swede leftover, parsnips, carrots (yes even more...!) and we did have a butternut squash.  On my list of links I have a site where you can check what's in season and what's at it's best so you can decide what to eat.  It's fun to do it and stops you eating the same fruit and veg all the time and getting stuck in a rut.  It's all great experience for baby too...I still get very excited when Ethan Bear tries something new although he just takes it all in his stride.   

    Tomorrow Ethan is going to get some of Stevo's gorgeous curry leftover from today.  That's the thing with our meal plans for the week, they normally go a bit all over the place but Stevo offered to cook dinner tonight to give me a break so I wasn't gonna argue!  It's good to have a rough idea how the week is gonna pan out but the mood can take me completely off on a tangent...organised chaos I call it :)

    Cheese & Carrot Pretzels

    Ingredients: 250g/9oz plain flour, 25g grated cheese, 1 grated carrot, 25g/1oz butter, diced, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 100ml/3 fluid oz whole milk.

    Preheat oven to 200'C/400'F/ Gas Mark 6 .

    Mix flour, cheese, carrot, butter and baking powder in a bowl with your fingers until well combined.  Add milk gradually mixing with a metal spoon until a dough forms.

    Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead for a few minutes.

    Roll dough out to form a rough rectangle about 25cm x 18cm (10" x 7").  Cut dough into 12 - 14 strips about half an inch wide and roll between your palms.  Tie into a pretzel shape.  Place on a baking sheet and cook for 10 - 12 minutes until a crusty layer forms on outside.

    These keep well in an airtight container but are very moreish so probably won't last that long!  Ethan loves them and the funny shapes fascinate him.  You could substitute grated carrot for grated parsnip, courgette, apple or bung in some poppy or sesame seeds.  Enjoy! 

    Monday, 1 November 2010

    Meal Plan For This Week


    Breakfast - Creamy Apricot & Apple Oats

    Lunch - Butternut Squash Soup and Breadsticks

    Dinner -  Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognase

    Snacks - Homemade Breadsticks & Orange Slices

    Breakfast - Boiled Egg

    Lunch - Banana

    Dinner -  Stevo's Gorgeous Curry

    Snacks - Homemade Breadsticks & Apple


    Breakfast - Cheesy Bread Balls

    Lunch - Carrot & Swede Pieces Steamed

    Dinner - Cauliflower Cheese

    Snacks - Homemade breadsticks & Banana


    Breakfast - Banana Bread

    Lunch - Cheesy Bread Balls

    Dinner - Roast Duck with Roast Potatoes, Parsnip and White Cabbage


    Breakfast - Sausage Pieces

    Lunch - Apple & Breadsticks

    Dinner - Carvery

    Snacks - Sultanas

    Beef Casserole

    400g lean beef cut into chunks (can be substituted for any other meat or butter beans)
    Olive oil
    1 Onion sliced
    1 tsp of Paprika
    Bouquet of Garni (or bay leaf, thyme, majoram, basil and oregano)
    3 Carrots sliced
    200g of new potatoes (or whatever you have in) cubed
    125g of butternut squah (or pumpkin or sweet potato) cut into large chunks
    150g of cabbage shredded
    1 tin of plum tomatoes (400g)

    Preheat oven to 170'C/325'F/Gas Mark 3.  Fry onions in olive oil in casserole dish until soft.  Toss meat in flour and paprika before adding to casserole dish and browning.  Add tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, squash, cabbage and just enough water to cover.  Bring to the boil.  Add bouquet of garni.  Remove from heat.  Cover and place in oven for 1and a half - 2 hours.

    Ethan loved getting stuck into this and had a banana for dessert!

    Creamy Apricot & Apple Oats

    2 tbsp porridge oats
    3 tbsp of whole milk
    3 tbsp of water
    1 tbsp of natural yoghurt
    75g of sliced dried apricots (or sultanas or other dried fruit)
    1 small eating apple

    Combine all ingredients except for apple in a bowl and cover and store in the fridge overnight.

    Just before serving, grate the apple and stir into the oat mixture.

    Serve cold or if the weather is a bit chilly (like it is now in England) warm gently.

    Homemade Breadsticks

    Flour is a great source of calcium and iron.  It is also a source of B vitamins, protein and carbs. 

    200g Strong White Bread Flour
    1 tsp fast action yeast
    half a tsp sugar
    half a tsp salt
    150ml warm water

    Measure flour into mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix until dough is soft, smooth and comes away from sides of bowl.  Turn dough on floured worktop and knead for about 2 minutes, adding more flour if need be.  Return to bowl.  Cover bowl with a damp tea towel, plate or clingfilm/gladwrap and leave at room temperature until doubled in size (around an hour).  Turn dough onto floured surface, knead for about 2 minutes and divide into approximately 30 small plum sized pieces.  Roll each one into a long thin stick using the palms of your hand.  Cut into smaller sticks if you like.  Place sticks on a baking sheet (silicone or greased or floured) and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes.  Bake in the oven at 200'C/400'F/Gas Mark 6 for 15-20 minutes until they start to brown.  I think a small child could probably make their breadsticks look more professional than mine but they taste pretty yummy and I like the fact they are all odd shapes and sizes.  If you store these in an airtight container (once cooled) they will keep for a week. 

    These are more chewy than your average breadstick so you might want to break off a bit at a time to give baby to avoid them ending up with a big ball of dough in their mouth that they have to spit out!  Ethan loved them :) 

    Day One of the Homemade Challenge

    Ethan Bear loves breadsticks so I thought I would make them for day one of the homemade challenge.  Only problem being the recipe I have calls for a whopping two and a half teaspoons of salt.  The first batch I made blindly following the recipe but when they were done I had a nibble and was shocked at how salty they tasted.  If they are almost too salty for me Ethan Bear won't be having any!  So I changed the quantity to half a teaspoon of salt to see what would happen (with much trepidation after being told salt is important in bread making as it stops the yeast going crazy) and the answer is...the dough was more stretchy and I needed loads more flour when shaping it into breadsticks.  The low salt ones stretched out a bit more in the oven which resulted in slightly fatter breadsticks, not much of a problem there then!  The lower salt ones did not look as pretty as the high salt ones (mind you the high salt ones were not works of art either!) but the benefits of losing the salt outweighed any problems.  It feels good to know exactly what is in Ethan's breadsticks this week and I am amazed at the simplicity of it.  It's mainly flour and water.  Flour is a great source of calcium and iron so a very healthy snack for little bears.         

    For breakfast tomorrow Ethan is having creamy apricot and apple oats.  Photos will follow but for now here's the recipes...