Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Cherry and almond buns

Cherry and almond is a classic pairing, and one of my favourites. Buns are another favourite, but not something I either buy or make often. This weekend we had Comic Relief, and a visit from the in-laws so I thought I'd make something for us to have over cups of tea. Cherry and almond buns were born - as a bonus they were entirely made up of things I had in the cupboards.

This recipe is dairy and soya free - and although it contains eggs, they are cooked in something so for our allergy profile (as it were) they're fine. For your family they might not be. I should just say that Harry isn't eating these, just me. Don't tell my Slimming World group. 

I like cooking with marzipan, chopping it up into cubes and putting in the freezer the night before you want to use it means it keeps it's shape in whatever you're baking and doesn't turn into an almondy splodge.

Glace cherries are one of my favourite ingredients - and a fond memory of my childhood. To stop them sinking to the base of your buns, it's important to rinse them thoroughly in a colander or seive, dry them on kitchen towel and dust them with a dessertspoonful of your dry ingredient mix.

Cherry and Almond buns (serves 8)

150g plain flour
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g vegetarian margerine (Vitalite and Pure are both veggie brands)
100g caster sugar
150g glace cherries (plus one extra per bun)
150g yellow marzipan
1 large egg
Almond milk - this is a variable amount, but the most you should need is 150ml

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Seive both flours and the baking powder into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flours until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
Stir in the caster sugar, cherries and marzipan
Add the egg and using a wooden spoon mix to start to form the dough. Add the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon and mix gently to bring the dough together. it takes about 4 tablespoons for mine to come together, but it may take more or less for you.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly flours surface and split into 8 portions. Roll them into balls
Line the baking tray with parchment paper and put the buns on with a good amount of space between as they will spread

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until you touch the bun and it doesn't squish under gentle pressure

When you take them out of the oven, cool on the tray for 15 minutes or so, and then transfer to a wire rack.

Enjoy with a cup of tea (and my envy until such time as I can have it again).

Monday, 16 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday

I thought Spring had sprung last week - I divested myself of my winter coat, donned my sunnies and ballet flats, happily enjoying the sunshine. My thoughts turned to warmer days, lighter evenings and lots of time in the park with Harry. Then of course the weather caught up with me and it turned freezing again, and once again my attention was taken by baked potatoes, casserole and comfort food.

Harry and I are pretty much in our stride for our weeks, between Playgroup, Rhyme time, and Hartbeeps we have a busy time of it. Sometimes fitting in naps and meals mean things go slightly awry, but it's a learning curve. This week we have all of those things and Harry's weigh in at the Health Visitor clinic. It's a nervous time. Almost as nerve-wracking as mine, but for the opposite reason.

Breakfasts - porridge and fruit for me, Harry's having porridge or pancakes or toast at the moment as we're off eggs.

Lunches - I've got minestrone soup that I made at the weekend. Syn free and delicious. I really do like it.

Suppers -

Monday: Leftover ham and veggies with baked potatoes

Tuesday: Ham, egg and potato wedges

Wednesday: Ham, egg and mushroom omlettes

Thursday: Root veg dhaal (will blog this week) with rice

Friday: Leftover dhaal with roti

Saturday: Freezer surprise

Sunday: It's our first wedding anniversary and to celebrate, we're treating ourselves to a Dine in deal from M&S.

Baking wise I made Cherry and almond buns (post up next) at the weekend and those, plus some wonderful dairy free Welshcakes from Mark's mum will probably mean that I don't lose any weight this week!

Here's holding on for more sunshine next week - as always, don't forget to hop on over to At Home with Mrs M to see what everyone else is up to.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Weaning update #5 - A development in the world of porridge fingers

It's happened that my post on Porridge fingers is one of the most popular of late. It ticks over daily and is hopefully helping lots of other Mums and Dads with inspiration for breakfast.

Harry doesn't just have porridge for breakfast, but it is one of his favourites. However, he doesn't like to be (read refuses) spoon fed, so I tend to stick to said porridge fingers. I do have a consistency issue with them, I'm not sure if it's just me, but sometimes they set rock hard, others they're still squishy. Harry's not bothered - even when they're solid he happily rubs them on his gums and I try to suppress a flap and go to make some toast! Truth be told, I'm a bit funny about Harry's allergy - I'd rather go without and eat the same as him, so I've been making us both baked porridge for the last week or so as it sets nicely and can be sliced into fingers for him, while I happily eat (probably too much of) it.

Baked porridge

Half mug of porridge oats
1 Mug of almond/ oat milk (this is a recipe suitable for a CMPI and soya free, obviously use hwatever milk you can tolerate)
1 pear grated
Handful of sultanas
1/2 tsp ground ginger

The night before mix up the porridge oats, milk, grated pear, ginger and sultanas in an ovenware or pyrex type dish (basically it needs to go in the oven and not crack)

In the morning check your mix, you want it to be wet, but not lots of extra milk sloshing around in the dish.  Add more if you think it's a bit dry. 

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees C, and pop the porridge in for 15-20 minutes. You want all the milk to be absorbed and the top to be light golden.

Serve, sliced into fingers for the baby - or in a bowl for a grown up. Non dairy and soya allergic people can add some milk, yoghurt etc...

  • Apple and cinammon
  • Dates/ chopped figs instead of sultanas
  • Nuts if you're not feeding a baby
  • Spoonful of peanut butter and mashed/ sliced bananas
  • If it's not sweet enough you could add sugar/ honey/ maple syrup or golden syrup. I think demerera sugar would be brilliant sprinkled on top before you bake it. Again, not idea if you're using it as a weaning recipe 
  • Berries would be fantastic - I'm just waiting for them to come into season (and get cheaper) so I can make this with rasperries and blueberries. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Weaning update #4 - our essentials

Penelope's Pantry: Our weaning essentials

Weaning is going well in our household - from brocolli to bolognaise sauce, parsnips to pancakes most things are explored, worn, and eventually eaten. As is the way with baby led weaning, I'm not entirely sure how much is going in, and I'm OK with that. When I worry, I remember that he still has all of his breastfeeds that he did before (and sometimes some extra) and "food is fun until they're one"

I googled furiously before we started weaning, and put together a little kit of our essentials so thought I'd detail them below, in case they're useful to you. 

What I have noticed though is that we have some things that I have come to totally rely on - they've all been bought by us and I've whittled them down here to our essentials. Before you write a list or start shopping there are some other things we've had to develop too...

An aversion to mess - Seriously. If you don't have this. Develop it. If you're the sort of person who lives in a show home - be prepared for some serious cleaning. Although I'm typing this and someone will tell me just how clean and tidy their baby is at weaning and it'll be just mine who grins massively and lobs steamed sweet potato fingers at the newly decorated wall.

Antibacterial spray and j-cloths are your friend (Milton spray is currently on 3 for 2 at Sainsburys). Also, wipe things up while they're soggy if you can. For some reason steamed carrot sticks weld themselves to any available surface, and porridge becomes concrete like when cold. Seriously - it could be used as a building material on Grand Designs

Enthusiasm - whilst it might not seem thrilling if you or I happily chew on some apple, or suck enthusiastically on a strip of roast chicken, I think it's important that my baby knows how well he's doing. We also make sure to include Harry in conversation at mealtimes (when possible we all sit up to the table together). It's probably too early for much of it to sink in, but it's a habit we wanted to get into straightaway.  We also eat pretty much the same thing as Harry which I think helps him understand about eating as a family - it does mean that poor M is dairy and soya free when he doesn't have to be, but I encourage him to eat pizza when he can to make up for it.

Resilience - there are days when Harry refuses my lovingly cooked pancakes, or the dairy free yoghurt I've searched high and low for. And it's not personal, nor is it permanent. Much like you or I, Harry has days where he's just not as hungry and sometimes he needs to try things a couple of times. Sweet potato is a case in point - he hated it first time, but loves it now. In fact the only thing he repeatedly refuses is Weetabix.

Camera - your baby will dye himself purple with blueberries (yes, really. And I gave them to him twice because I didn't learn the first time) Or smother himself with bolognaise with such gusto that a jetwash inspired bath seems likely to be the only way to get him clean.  Whilst you might not want to share these with the world, I implore you to think ahead to the baby's 18th birthday and what wonderful decorations these will make.

Highchair - Originally we were going to get the Ikea Antilop highchair, but were able to choose a Christmas present, and decided to future proof a little way, with this chair from John Lewis that adapts to a toddler chair and table. Whatever you buy, make sure it's easy to clean!

Bowls and spoons -As I didn't have any plastic bowls we picked up some of the Tommee Tippee Explora ones - although marked as for 7 months plus, we've used them since the beginning. To be honest I mainly use the tray of the highchair, but rely on the bowls for porridge, porridge fingers and when we have stewed fruit.

Spoons - I initially got wrong - as we weren't going to do purees, these ones were a silly purchase as the handles are too long for Harry to use himself - I pre load spoons of porridge, bolognaise etc for him to aim at his face mouth. I ended up buying these ones, which are much easier for him to use.

Bibs -We were given lots of bibs when Harry was born that we hadn't really used, but quickly discovered that little bibs are of little or no use - the only way forward when your baby is intent on dying himself and everything around him purple is a long-sleeved, coverall bib.  Have I ever written on here about how much I love Aldi -  their baby event had 2 long sleeved bibs  for £2.99 - until then I'd only found them for £4.99 each.

Beakers -  Harry is a little baby and has difficulty lifting his beaker when it's full of water as it's too heavy and if it's half empty he struggles to lift it high enough to get the water out. He's not managing a Doidy cup yet either - although he is very good at watering the wall/ splash mat with it. We've implemented a hack to get around this and pop a mini tupperware container with it's lid on inside the beaker, then fill it up with water and put the lid on. Harry can then lift the cup and happily drinks without difficulty. I'm sure that bigger babies might not have this issue, but if you have a littly like me, it might just be useful. The hack comes courtesy of M - I knew there was a reason I married an engineer!

Splash mat -We didn't buy a splash mat - a few years ago I picked up an end of roll peice of pink oilcloth from Cath Kidston. It works perfectly. As would an old shower curtain, waterproof tablecloth... anything really. I guess what I'm saying is look around at what you have before you shell out for something expensive that's labelled up as a splash mat. 

They're our hints and tips - I'm no expert, and might be way off the mark for other babies, but these work for us and hopefully they'll work for you too.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday: using what we have

It's a bit of a quiet one in the Pantry this week. Between one thing and another I realised I needed a quieter week cooking wise, so have hauled much of this week's meals, or the makings of those meals out of the freezer - the bonus of this being, most of our shop was veggies which made it lovely and cheap!

Harry's eating is going from strength to strength. He got to grips (quite literally) with pasta last week, eating fusili bolognaise from his tray with aplomb. We had our dietician appointment and his cows milk and soya allergy seems to have extended to eggs now. I'm hoping nothing else will come up, and the dietician was great, really helpful in terms of my calcium and iron levels. We've got a couple of suppliers for dairy and soya free yoghurts, cheese and cream to try, so I'll be reporting back on Harry's feelings about those. And mine.

I also baked bread this week - our normal bread now has soya flour in it and so M kindly hauled the breadmaker (I know, it's just easy) down from the loft for me, and a 50/50 wholemeal has already been made and heavily sampled.

I'm going to try and do an SP week as my weightloss needs a bit of a boost. My stumbling block will be the fruit I think, but the rest should be straightforward enough.

Breakfasts: Unsurprisingly mainly porridge for Harry and I - he's off eggs in their natural state, so the frittatas aren't going to be remade for now, but as he's OK with them in things I'll do a new lot of pancakes this week. There's always the new bread aswell.

Lunches: I made a split pea soup at the weekend, so that's me sorted. Harry likes it so we'll have it together (his favourite seems to be my Sweet potato and ginger soup) and he can have bread to dunk. Alternatively I've got some more tomato pasta in the freezer.


Monday - Meatballs in tomato sauce with pasta for M, and with Kale for me

Tuesday: Leftover pasta

Wednesday: Butternut squash dhaal with rice

Thursday: Leftover dhaal with roti if I can manage to make them

Friday: M's parents are visiting so a Shepherd's pie (with a swede topping for me) with veggies

Saturday: Sausages, baked potatoes and veggies

Sunday: Roast gammon with lots of veggies, roasties and cauliflower cheese.

That's our week - a straightforward one, with lots of meals based on things I already have in. What are your go-to meals? That you always have ingredients for to hand and don't need to think about much. Let me know in the comments below

As always, don't forget to hop on over to At Home with Mrs M and see what everyone else is up to.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Meal Planning Monday: where is the Spring?

The sunshine this week had me fooled here and there - I expected it to be warmer, but no - Harry and I are as wrapped up as ever! We're in need of a change in the weather, I need it to be warmer. It's all systems go this week in the Pantry, as well as our normal baby groups, job hunting and Brownies, we've finally got Harry's allergy and dietician appointment and I'm hopeful for and looking forward to getting some support with his milk allergy.


Breakfasts - as always, porridge and fruit for me, and a selection from this post for Harry.

Lunches - in the absence of having any fresh soup made up, there's some split pea in the freezer which I'll pop out and retrieve tomorrow. Hopefully enough for a couple of days lunches at least and then the plan is to make a ham and pea soup with some of the leftovers from Tuesday night's supper.

Dinners -

Monday - I made a vegan vegetable lasagne - using the Deliciously Ella suggestion of pureed butternut squash instead of cheese. That worked beautifully, but her suggestion for the ragu seemed a little flat so I made my usual bolognaise, just with lots of lovely veggies instead of mince. We have the last portion for supper tomorrow.

Tuesday - Sainsburys have their ham joints on special so we're going to have roast gammon, roast potatoes and veggies

Wednesday - leftover ham, with eggs, baked potatoes and peas

Thursday - Ham and mushroom omlettes

Friday - Tomato pasta (I made double last week and have frozen the leftovers)

Saturday - I've got some chilli in the freezer so think I'm going to defrost and bake that in a butternut squash - much like this recipe.

Sunday - Leftovers

Nothing madly exciting this week - but lots of warming, keeping you going type dinners. As always, be sure to pop on over to At Home with Mrs M and join up with all the other planners to see what everyone else is up to.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Weaning breakfasts for a CMPI baby - pancakes, porridge fingers and frittatas

That's a bit of a mouthful for a post title, but to coin a phrase, it does what it says on the tin. I've been asked a few times lately what I give Harry for breakfasts given his allergies (dairy and soya). These are our go-to baby led weaning breakfasts at the moment, so I thought I'd do a summary post as a kind of touch point for anyone looking for inspiration generally or for CMPI babies specifically.

Harry is still breastfed, but following an appointment with the paediatrician where he commented on how run down and exhausted I looked, it was suggested that I give myself a break and instead of expressing every day, supplement with nutramigen. Anyone who knows me will know that I railed against mixed feeding in hospital - I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed, but after 6 months something had to give and supplementing with one bottle a night, and using formula for Harry's food hasn't been the end of the world. I'm still a bit sad and wish things were different, but he's doing really well and that's what's important. Not what I want, what's best for him.

I am now completely dairy and soya free, and the formula we're using is Nutramigen which we get on prescription. Harry is still sick on the formula, but nothing like he was before I was dairy free and he's rarely sick on breastmilk now.

Anyway, onto meals. Breakfasts are my favourite meal to do for Harry. I tend to stick with porridge and fruit for my breakfast so it's nice to be a bit creative with his. We rotate his options as I try to keep things interesting for him. Yes, I know I'm probably overthinking this.

Easy breakfasts: 
  • Toast (read the ingredients) with Pure spread
  • Fruit bread (read the ingredients) with Pure spread
  • Ready brek made up with Nutramigen and half a small banana mashed in
 Cooked breakfasts:
  • Porridge fingers - I've already posted the recipe I use for these. Harry loves them. Loves feeding himself with them and seems to really enjoy the variations. I've done sultanas, blueberries, just banana, and spiced them with cinammon, sweet mixed spice, or a little nutmeg. Again, we're using Nutramigen for these.
  • Pancakes - I've posted the recipe I use for these on Instagram but see below for the details
  • Frittatas - these are completely dairy free, and I pop in whatever we have in the fridge, so little bits of chopped ham (obviously watch salt intake if you're using ham), or cooked mushrooms are Harry's favourites. If I had some peppers I'd lightly fry those too. Recipe to follow in the next post. I'll add the link here.
 Fruity additions:
  •  Half a banana - I think that Harry's not always keen on the taste of banana, but likes holding it and chomping on it.
  • Pear slices - with pear I make sure it's nice and ripe, and I leave the skin on so he can hold it as Harry doesn't eat the skin, just sort of sucks the pear away from it
  • Apple slices - I tend to eat Granny Smiths, or if I can find them at this time of year, Russets - Harry likes both of these, but likes to suck and chomp on Granny Smiths when his teeth are hurting him.
  • Lightly stewed mixes of any of the above, but left lumpy so he can feed himself if I pre-load the spoon.  If I'm stewing the fruit I tend to do so in a little water and add some chopped prunes as apples especially can be quite tart and as I know that Harry has a sensitive tummy I don't want to aggravate it. He loves anything with prunes in!

Baby breakfast pancakes

I make a batch of these (around 11 from this much mix) at a time and freeze them, separated by squares of greaseproof paper so that I can grab one in the morning and pop it in the microwave to defrost while I drink my coffee and Harry and I have a little play.

For this recipe you will need: 

1 mug - any mug will do, but you need to use the same one
Frying pan - I use a non-stick one
Whisk/ beaters/ stick blender

1 mug self raising flour
1 mug oat/ almond milk or your babies formula/ breastmilk
1 apple or pear grated
1 egg

In a big bowl, add the flour, milk, grated fruit and egg
Whisk together until bubbly
Put your non stick pan on the heat (I spray with fry light to get it started) and when warm add 2 tablespoons or so of mixture. I can fit three pancakes of this size in my pan
Cook until the top is bubbly, then use your spatula to flip them over, and again cook until bubbly.
I often cook each side again for a minute or so to make sure they're cooked through

Variations - we've added blueberries, slices of banana, and sultanas all with success.


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