Food and Family – Part 2

From those initial yoghurt disguising days we have made great progress in Baby G’s foodie journey. I was surprised how soon a baby’s appetite develops, as lunch was quickly joined by tea and it wasn’t long before she was on 3 meals a day. Within 3-4 weeks we had reduced breastfeeding to just morning and bedtime and her diet was more or less totally based on food.

Baby Weaning

My main concern was to keep her hydrated during the day as she still wasn’t a big fan of the cup and drinking so we had lots of food with disguised liquids like weetabix, ready brek, yoghurt, chunks of melon and steamed pear and apple.

As we introduced Baby G to a range of vegetables we soon found that any starchy ones like potato, carrot and swede caused her a few digestive issues! So we tried to balance out starchy days with ones filled with fruit and fibre.

It wasn’t long before we looked to increase the variety in her diet and added pasta, something she clearly enjoyed having the ability to feed herself with.

Baby eating pasta

Then came the challenge of adding meat to her diet. This actually proved less of a challenge than I feared as Baby G wolfed down the beef stew she was given and the chicken and vegetable dinner was soon devoured too. However fish has become a different story – we tried both salmon and white fish and both have not been accepted by her ladyship. Any ideas for fishy dishes for my little one?

We do have days where food can be an issue and she refuses dishes she has previously eaten, but I am not sure whether this is to do with teething, the cold and cough she has picked up or indeed the food. We just keep trying lots of different foods at various times but now find she is most happy when eating the same food as we eat and at the same time. So as we embark on a journey of creating dishes suitable for all of us as a family I hope to share with you some of our favourites.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Food and Family – Part 1

Oh my goodness …. where does the time go? I can’t believe it has been a month since I last posted; I have been so busy I don’t know where the weeks have gone. Last night though I managed some quality me time and reflected on the recent hectic times. (Apologies now for the rambling nature and length of this post!! ;-))

Since having Baby G my focus on food has changed completely. Gone are the days of spending hours in the kitchen preparing feasts for family and friends, or a romantic meal for two. The feeding of Baby G became the main priority.

For the first six months I was the main source of Baby G’s nourishment, I had wanted to breastfeed from the start and initially set myself the goal of her first 3 months. I loved the special bond this gave us but it sure does mean life revolves around feeding, leaving little time for anything else to begin with. The 3 month milestone came and went and we continued on with breastfeeding, though as we approached 5 months I began to try and get Baby G to feed from a bottle, something she had done when she was just a few weeks old when times had required it. Then we struck a problem, it would seem that as she was now “older and wiser” she just flat out refused it – breast was most certainly best in her eyes!

So followed a stressful, tense and emotional few weeks trying all manner of times, cups, bottles and techniques to get Baby G to drink from anything other than me, all resulting in crying fits from my little girl. With a night out looming I got so stressed out at the thought of her going without nourishment when she wasn’t with me to the point where I was in floods of tears ……. in the end I went out and she was fine. It seemed she learned how to do without and just stock up before and after my time away from her. So for a few weeks we muddled through and then it became time to wean onto solid foods.

As a foodie I was so looking forward to introducing food to Baby G. I read up on how best to introduce solids to her diet. The River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, kindly given to me by Jo of Jo’s Kitchen as a present, gives you the information on all aspects of feeding including breast and bottle feeding, purees and Baby-led Weaning (BLW) in a clear and engaging way.

I was really interested in the Baby-led weaning method, where food is offered at “non-hungry” times and the baby literally feeds themselves. The benefits of this include allowing baby to experience a range of textures from day one, giving them control of how much they eat and aiding their development as they learn how to grip and pick up things. It sounded like the best way to develop Baby G’s relationship with food.

The first solid food Baby G tried was a piece of cucumber ….. mmmmm tasty!  Not so much a planned meal time for her, but she was sat on my knee whilst I was eating a salad and she just leant forward mouth open as I was eating …. a sure sign she was interested in food!

We tried a few other finger foods as per the BLW way, but at just 6 months old picking up food and hand to mouth co-ordination is certainly a challenge. The downside to this method is you never know exactly how much they eat, but because the fruit and veg have not been puréed their nutritional value is far greater. So we tried BLW but with the clock ticking for me to go back to work, it seemed impossible as it relies on milk as a back up and so with our current problem in getting Baby G to take milk from other sources I decided (and was advised by health visitors) to start introducing purées and spoon fed food so that Baby G would become less dependent on me, and dad, the childminder and grandparents could feed her whilst I was away from her.

We began with baby porridge and yoghurts and then introduced a variety of fruit and vegetable purées. The acceptance of these varied on a daily basis, one day pear might be devoured with glee, next time Baby G pulled a face like you were trying to feed her tripe! For a couple of weeks the only way we got her to eat fruit was by hiding it in her yoghurt – something she never refused. First a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt, then a 70/30 mix with fruit purée, slowly reducing the amount of yoghurt on the spoon until we even sneaked a couple of spoonfuls of 100% fruit. Shhhhh … don’t tell Baby G!!

Spoon Feeding

It took a couple of weeks but soon we were in full flow with a range of fruit and veg purees without the need for a yoghurty disguise. And so began her foodie journey!

How did you find weaning? Any tips or tricks you’d like to pass on?

I’ll be back soon to tell you how we’ve progressed.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

Baking Bread at Loaf Online

Apologies for the delay between posts but I have returned to work and it’s been a bit of a shock to the system after being off on maternity. Whilst I have been doing some work during my maternity in and around Baby G’s naps and feeds, now she goes to a childminder for 2 days per week. I try not to miss her too much and get some work done, with try being the operative word!

Not satisified with a day job, a baby to look after I all the rest of things that fill my life I have also setting up my own papercraft business as an Independent Stampin’ Up! demonstrator. My other interest apart from cooking is crafting, and being a demo is now becoming a big part of my life.

So that’s where I’ve been and why I haven’t yet told you about the completion of one of my 2011 resolutions. This year I wanted to learn to bake real bread and I particularly wanted to go on a course at Loaf Online. Once word got out on twitter that me and Jo of Jo’s kitchen were going, we had a few other tweeps interested and so organised a Midlands Food Bloggers (and friends) course with Tom Baker of Loaf Online. Now I’d previously been to Loaf Online as part my first foray into the food blogger world and so knew what to expect and was really excited about the reality of learning how to bake good bread, and what’s more consistently good bread.

The day began with some fresh bread (naturally) and tea and coffee whilst Tom explained what we would be doing during the course. It sounded like we had a lot to do … ciabattas, white loaves, wholemeal rolls, fougasse, brioche dough and not forgetting pizzas for lunch!

As Tom demonstrated the perfect kneading technique we learnt how to ensure consistent good baking with a few tips and tricks like the right oven temperature and weighing your water amongst others.

Then it was our turn and in pairs we set to work on making our dough’s. I loved how “hand’s on” the course is, as getting the right dough mix and knowing how the feel of it changes as you knead is really the key to good bread. Plus we had Tom there to check we had kneaded it enough and had a good dough to prove.

Bread course

Once the dough’s were made and left to prove, we were taken outside to Tom’s clay woodfire oven to prepare fougasse and pizza’s.

Tom built this oven himself (wonder if can get hubby to add one to our garden?!) We were shown how to make fougasse with it’s distinctive slits and then set to work to make our own. The hardest bit for me was trying to get the bread into the oven with the peel – it’s all about a confident sharp shove apparently!

Our fougasse were flavoured with the morrocan spice blend Ras el hanout and once baked put to one side to kick start our  bread bounty that we would take home at the end of the day.  Then it was on to lunch and we each to prepared a pizza to share with the group. 

During the day we also made the dough for the ciabatta,  which we all found quite tricky to work with due to the wetness of the dough, but it was good to do this on the course so you can get a feel for how wet it really “should” be. (oh yes, I did sit there smirking when the contestants on Great British Bake off seemed perplexed about the wetness of the foccacia dough!)

During the afternoon it was time to bake the loaves, buns and ciabattas we had prepared and the last job of the day was to prepare a brioche dough which we would take home to bake the next day.

It was a great day and I can say it made me feel more confident in baking bread at home.

Thanks to Tom and all the other MFB tweeps that attended for a really enjoyable day.

Mad about Baking

I have always been a keen cook but tend to stick to savoury dishes and until recently my baking skills have been limited to my trusty carrot cake and a few cupcakes, or a couple of loaves of bread. However, with a date with the Derby Clandestine Cake Club looming I need to up the anti with my baking skills, and adding fuel to the fire is my weekly addiction to The Great British Bake Off so I have decided in the next few weeks to practice lots of new baking treats …… but where to start?

I do have a decent collection of cookbooks but quite often when I want to get creative in the kitchen and not sure what to cook I get out my trusty aid …… google! With a quick look at the BBC Good Food page and a search on UKTV food I was still at a loss at what to cook and went on the hunt for more recipe ideas.

I found this recipe at Baking Mad and decided to give it a whirl.

Chocolate Gingerbread

200g Molasses Sugar
4 eggs
50g Chocolate (Plain 65% cocoa solids)
75g butter unsalted
4 tbsp Yoghurt
pinch salt
225g plain white flour
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
pinch black pepper

Whisk the eggs and sugar until combined. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven. Stir in the yoghurt. Gently stir into the egg mixture.

Sift the dry ingredients together and gently fold into the chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour the mixture into a 23cm/9 inch greased square tin and bake for about 45 minutes Gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF until cooked through.

Leave in the tin for 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack to become cold. Store in an airtight tin.

I really enjoyed making this and it was a simple start to my new baking adventures. Baking Mad has lots of fabulous recipes for me to venture on to and has a handy search function so you can search by word, ingredient, preparation time or by type of cake with categories such as Posh Puds, Celebration cakes or even Cake Stall Bakes. I shall definitely be seeking inspiration for my Clandestine Cake Club bake from there.

What are your favourite baking treats to make?

Baby G’s Naming Day

Oh what to do ….. this was a question I pondered for quite some time. A Christening was not on the cards due to a lack of religious belief, but a Naming Day … well what was it and would it be suitable?

Naming ceremonies are secular (non-religious) ceremonies, yet their origin is from the Catholic faith which celebrate the day of the year associated with the Patron Saint of your name. I remember from my time in Spain that traditionally your name day was more important than your birthday. .Nowadays naming ceremonies can be organised like civil weddings, with a number of venues nationwide  able to hold a naming ceremony and The British Humanist Association (BHA) can arrange a special ceremony to welcome your child. But that all seemed a little over the top when in essence all I wanted was the chance to celebrate the safe arrival of Baby G and ask 3 special people to be “godparents” to her.

So after a little look on the internet in parenting forums I found that many people decided to host a party at home and then speak a few words or read a poem to express their thoughts on their new addition to the family. Perfect I thought …. just what I wanted!

So we invited close family and friends round for a small and intimate party which actually coincided with Baby G’s six month birthday, not that she’ll be getting two birthday parties every year you understand! ;-) Though she did get spoilt rotten by those who came and clearly loved her new toy!

Obviously the gorgeous pretty dress from Mama’s and Papa’s was perfect for riding around on. We found a poem and prepared some words to say to the godparents together with 3 small gifts.

I opted for a cold buffet so we could enjoy the party rather than spend time serving food. It featured all the usual suspects – ham boiled in the Hairy Bikers style, home smoked salmon (more of this on another post!), homemade quiche and scotch eggs courtesy of the in-laws, pizzas from my sis-in-law, salad and bread rolls and a cheese board featuring a range of English cheeses.

The pièce de résistance was a cake I had specially made by Nouskie Noo’s. They are a local funky cake company who make occasions cakes specific to your requirements. I wanted the cake to feature Baby G’s name, birth date and asked for the design to feature the Zeddy and Parsnip characters from the nursery range we have from Mama’s and Papa’s.

The cake was a rich chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream, but you can opt for all kinds of combinations. Vanilla, Lemon, Carrot, Coffee, Fruit cakes plus many more, with all kinds of buttercream – chocolate, caramel, or maple syrup to name a few.

 It was a lovely memorable day with many special moments and one that we will always remember. I’m so glad I chose to celebrate it in this particular way and spend time with close family and friends. Surprisingly Baby G even managed to last the whole party in one outfit – so she obviously approved too!

Thanks to Nouskie Noo’s for doing such an amazing job with the cake. You can find them on Facebook or Twitter too.

Fresh from the Oven – Carrot & Walnut Bread

This is my first entry into the Fresh from the Oven challenge which encourages bakers to test their boundaries and venture into new recipes one loaf at a time. This month the challenge was set by Sally of My Custard Pie who wanted to assist vegetable growers with the over abundance of vegetables in their season by using them in bread. She made some gorgeous looking courgette cluster rolls and whilst I was tempted to give them a go I was suffering with an abundance of carrots in my vegetable rack. Normally these would be transformed into my infamous carrot cake but I thought I’d try a bread with carrot.

After a quick google I found this recipe on the ever faithful BBC GoodFood site.

Carrot & Walnut Bread

350g plain flour
150g wholemeal flour,
1tsp salt,
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
150g carrots, peeled and grated,
handful of walnuts, toasted and chopped
300ml low fat Greek yoghurt
125ml semi-skimmed milk

Pre-heat the oven to 230C. Mix the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then stir in the carrot, walnuts, yoghurt and enough of the milk to make it a soft, quite sticky, dough.

Tip onto a floured surface and form a flat ball, put on a baking sheet, slash the top and bake for 30 minutes until risen and cooked. Listen for the hollow sound as you tap it.

This was a really enjoyable. Perfect with some strong cheese or even just slathered in some butter.

Thanks to Sally for hosting this months challenge and I’m sure I’ll be back next month.

Hasta la proxima / until next time

La Rosilla and Gazpacho

I’ve been having Spanish withdrawal symptoms as not been there since I got pregnant so to bring a bit of Andalucian sunshine to my blog Lynsey from La Rosilla has popped over. Originally from the Midlands, Lynsey moved over to Spain with her family and opened up a Country House Supper Club in the mountains above Malaga. She also does Gourmet Tours and Cooking Classes –  so fabulous and I’m so jealous! ;-)

Anyway, over to the lovely Lynsey …..

Summer Sun in Spain, brings with it copious amounts hectic lifestyle. Visitors, family, friends, ferias and fiesta. Over indulgence, is inevitable , eating late in the evening to dine in the cool, is more pleasurable and often we sit until the early hours watching the stars and waiting for the last cicadas to rattle, and then peace falls on the mountain.

To compensate our bodies for the, late nights, extra vino, Tinto Verano & Mojitos we partake in, nature supplies us with a bounty of fresh ingredients to give ourselves a health kick, our necessary 5 a day, and a feeling of righteousness well for a short time anyway ;)

Gazpacho is the Spanish Summer Soup, filled to bursting with freshness, ladened with vitamins. from vine ripened toms, juicy cucumbers, home grown Olive oil, and peppers, each household, will have their own recipe or take on the dish, will add different toppings and enjoy at different times. I find many of my visitors to La Rosilla, say “I don’t do cold soup” but when they take a sip, all preconceived ideas are lost, and the taste ‘Summer in Spain’.

La Rosillas take on Gazpacho.

GazpachoServes 4 – Will keep well in the fridge in a jug, for a refreshing drink.

2 kilos of Ripe Toms, Peeled and quartered saving the juice, but not seeds
2 Cloves of garlic chopped
2 slices of stale bread crusts removed
8 tbsp Olive Oil
4 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
1 cucumber peeled
1 green pepper de-seeded

Soak the bread in a little cold water. Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend till smooth. Add enough ice cold water to make a soup consistency.Strain into a jug if you want a very smooth soup.Let stand in fridge for a few hours for flavour to develop.

To serve, pop in an ice cube, top with finely chopped pepper & cucumber. I like to add a basil leaf, a drizzle of oil, and a dash of vinegar.

Buen Provecho.

Thanks to Lynsey for the guest post – check out her blog here

Watching the weight comfort food

A few weeks ago Vanessa Kimbell of Prepped! fame, tweeted about the idea of a gourmands diet and within a few hours she had gathered together a team of foodies all with a want to lose a few pounds. I so wanted to join in, a delicious diet no less, and would have done so, but dieting and breastfeeding do not go together and I couldn’t compromise Baby’s G growth for the sakes of a few pounds.

I did decide however to try and introduce some healthier meals into our eating regime, not only to benefit my waistline but also to increase my intake of fruit and vegetables. July had been a month of foodie extravagance with lots of dining out for birthdays and a post baby treat of a meal at Loves with fellow foodie Jo of Jo’s Kitchen (we will review soon on the Midlands Food Bloggers community blog!) so we decided that August would be a “eat healthy” month in the aim to kickstart a better lifestyle change before winter comes along and all I crave is comfort food. I also had in mind that as Baby G is about to embark upon her own eating regime I need to lead by example right?

The changes me and hubs agreed to are:

  • no takeaways
  • eat more vegetables and fruit – try for the 5-a-day at least.
  • eat less sweet treats, including resisting the co-op Truly irresistible Chocolate cookies, something I got addicted to .
  • no fast food restaurants.
  • no drinking during the week, and only a glass of wine or two at

Now the first 2 weeks of August we began with good intentions but with more birthdays and Baby G’s naming day and a lot of party food left over we have admitted defeat. This week we set to start again on our Delicious Diet.

So I dug out my Weightwatchers Pure Points Cookbook – not something I would normally buy but it was picked up from a charity shop for a £1 – and tried to find something that would satisfy my urge for a homely comforting dish without all the calories. I spotted a recipe for a cottage pie and decided to give it a go.

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie350g extra-lean minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed,
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
250g mushrooms, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
425ml beef stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
225g carrots, peeled and diced
450g potatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp half fat crème fraîche
salt and pepper

Dry fry the mince in a non-stick pan until browned and crumbly. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, mushrooms and cumin, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the stock and the tomato puree. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring pan of slightly salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes and carrots until tender. Drain and mash well with the crème fraîche and seasoning.
Spoon the mince misture into an ovenproof dish, spread the mashed vegetables over the top and back for 25 minutes.

Cottage Pie

I understand the need to reduce the meat to make it less calorific but not sure I am fully on board with the addition of red pepper, I think next time I will be adding more mushroom and onion and omit the pepper. I liked the gentle spicing and flavour of tomato, and was quite happy with the mash topping, but hubs said it wasn’t a proper cottage pie as the beef mix did not taste meaty enough.

It was good for an alternative to a family favourite though and I’m sure we will continue to use this recipe where we want comfort but without the calories.

Hasta la proxima / until next time