Friday, 27 November 2015

Leftover Roast Chicken, Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto.

In an effort to enjoy cooking again I have been on the lookout for new recipes to try. Risotto is one of those things that I have never tried to cook myself, it always sounded high maintenance and faffy so I avoided it. However, it is one of Pauls favourite meals and zoe eats it regularly at nursery so I decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was, it is heavy on the stirring but in just 25 minutes I had a delicious and comforting dinner for the whole family (not to mention cheap!)

I loosely followed Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto recipe from his Veg Everyday book. I adapted it to our tastes and preferences but followed his rice to liquid ratio.


  • 120g risotto rice
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 500g carton of passata
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Leftover roast chicken
  • Ball of mozzarella

  • Salt and pepper to taste

    I started by blitzing the onion and garlic in a processor, until it was more of a lumpy paste, this is due to a fussy eater who doesn't like lumps of onion. You can skip this step and simply chop them if you like.

    Put the stock and passata in a saucepan on a simmer, keep it simmering while you get on with everything else, you want it to be hot when adding it to the rice.

    Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil or butter (your preference) for 5-10 minutes, until starting to go golden, then stir in the rice.

    Start adding the stock/tomato mixture to the rice gradually, I started with a couple of ladlefuls, adding more once the previous amount was absorbed. This took about 20 minutes from start to finish. You need to stay close by and stir every few minutes to ensure it doesn't dry out or stick to the bottom of the pan.

    Once the rice is cooked (give it a taste to see) add the roast chicken, I tore mine into strips.

    Then just before serving add torn up bits of fresh mozzarella and let it melt slightly.

    This recipe served two adults and a baby, with one adult portion leftover for lunch the next day.

    I will definitely be adding this to our meal plan again, I might even try a non-tomato one, as tomato + baby = MESS!!! What are your favourite risotto flavours? Inspire me!

  • Wednesday, 25 November 2015

    Our experience with Baby-led Weaning.

    Being a bit of a foodie, or at least a lover of food I was really keen for Zoe to love food too. Pretty much as soon as she was born I was googling weaning. I was totally clueless about when you were supposed to start introducing real food, I had images of pots of puree filling my freezer and shop bought pouches, as that is what I had seen friends and family do. However, lots of late night research led me to the phrase "baby-led" and I was intrigued. I had gone down the on demand breastfeeding route and this seemed like a natural extension of this.

    For those unfamiliar what baby-led weaning is all about I strongly recommend starting with the Gill Rapley book. Yes, most of the information is available online, but there is something about reading it all together in a book that cements the knowledge, and it puts it all into easy to understand (for sleep deprived mums) terminology.

    We waited until around 6 months, which was the advice I was given by my health visitor, the recommendations seem to change regularly but from my research I agreed that waiting was what was best for Zoe. The guidance said to wait until she could sit unaided, so at 24.5 weeks we took the leap and sat her in her highchair, offering her suitable bits of our meal. The first meal we shared was a Sunday roast. We offered her boiled carrot, broccoli, roast chicken, roast potato and yorkshire pudding. She played with it for quite a while before attempting to put it into her mouth but eventually she grabbed a bit of yorkshire pudding and we haven't looked back.

    For the first few weeks we kept offering her bits of our meals, usually just one or two meals a day. The majority of it came straight back out or made her gag, but from reading the book I knew these were normal parts of the process, and she was simply learning through doing. At this point she was still getting all she needed from her milk, so I wasn't too worried about quantity of food being eaten. Although, from her nappies I knew she was eating something.

    One thing that puts people off BLW is the choking hazard. I'm not going to say I never worried about choking, as its 100% normal (even with puree) to be scared. However, it is important to know the difference between choking and gagging. Gagging is normal, babies gag reflex is really far forward so in those first few weeks they gag a lot, despite the gagging Zoe would always go back for another go and didn't seem put off by it, so I took her lead. I did take a baby first aid course, and found this video from St Johns Ambulance really helpful in knowing what to do if she ever did choke.

    By the time Zoe was 7 months she was on 3 meals a day, and clearly enjoying her food.

    Now Zoe is in nursery two days a week and we get a lot of comments from her key worker about her love of food, and how she's not at all picky and will at least try everything she is offered. I thought I would share a list of first foods we gave Zoe when starting weaning to help anyone starting out;

    Boiled carrot - cut into fingers, so she could hold it in her fist which a bit sticking out to chew. I boiled until soft, but not so soft that it would fall apart.

    Roast sweet potato - Zoe goes wild for sweet potato, I roast large wedges or fries for her.

    Porridge fingers - A great first breakfast finger food, if you don't want to offer too much bread at first. There is a recipe in the BLW cookbook but we followed this recipe we found online and it worked great.

    Raw cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks - Zoe loved gumming on raw veggies, especially straight from the fridge. Not a lot got eaten in the early days but its good to give different flavours and textures early on, and Mango - One of Zoe's early favourites was mango, cut into fingers/slices with a bit of the skin left on to make it less slippy to hold on to. She would suck every scrap of flesh from the skin with great glee!

    Melon - As above, Zoe inhales melon. It was a good early food as the skin provides a better grip.

    I would definitely recommend baby-led weaning to anyone, however I would say, do what works for you. We did the occasional bit of spoon feeding with yoghurt or weetabix (because OMG mess!) but still followed her lead with it. Do what feels right for you and your baby and you can't go far wrong.

    Monday, 23 November 2015

    Meal Planning Monday - 23rd November

    Following on from last weeks whinge about how disorganised my life is, I am back on the meal planning bandwagon and determined to stick to it. The way my schedule works at the moment means that Zoe eats at nursery all day Monday and Tuesday, so I don't need to worry about her on those days.

    I am actually looking forward to each of these meals this week, lets just hope I remember to get everything out of the freezer the night before.

    Monday: Chicken & Mozzarella Risotto - This is an adaptation of a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe from his Veg Everyday book, but with added leftover roast chicken.

    Tuesday: Pork Chops with garlic mash and veg - I love adding some roasted garlic to my mash, makes it a bit fancy with very little effort.

    Wednesday: Lasagne or Chilli - I have minced beef so will do either a lasagne/bolognese or chilli, depending on how I feel on the day.

    Thursday: Salmon fried rice - A firm favourite in this house, with a bit of chilli and ginger, and a dash of soy sauce.

    Friday: Homemade Pizzas - I haven't made these for ages, but its so easy and cheaper than a take away.

    I have a load of lunch related things like sandwich meat, baked potatoes, soups, spaghetti or eggs on toast etc... And for breakfasts we'll be having english muffins (Zoe's new favourite thing), or toast.

    This weeks weekly shop came to £38 from Aldi.

    Sunday, 22 November 2015

    A lesson in being thankful.

    I've started buying lottery tickets again. I've never been a big gambler or lottery player, but with the current economic situation a big influx of cash would be very useful right about now... (childcare is HOW MUCH!?).

    My problem with the lottery is that each and every time I buy a ticket I am absolutely convinced I am gong to win. I spend the money in my head, I browse Rightmove for the ideal house, I plan holidays, I imagine who I will gift money too and how... So, as you can imagine, when I inevitably don't win I am devastated and watch the dream house and holidays float further and further away. It actually a really disheartening experience, which leaves me feeling pretty deflated. I need to remind myself about all of the wonderful things we have, things that money can't buy.

    So here it is, my things to be thankful for, something to look back on when my numbers don't come up...

    1. Family - I don't have the biggest family in the world, immediate family can pretty much be counted on one hand, but the ones I do have are the absolute best. Paul is my best friend in the world, while he can infuriate me beyond belief at times I couldn't imagine life without him in it, and hope I never have to. Together we created the single best tiny human in the whole universe. My sister, where do I start? I am struggling to put in to words how much she means to me; everything. My Auntie Hilary, the best great Aunt Zoe could ask for! The in-laws who welcomed me into their family with open arms... I am incredibly lucky and thankful, I am a better person for having these people in my life.

    2. Health - I may not be a size 10, or the fittest person on the planet but I have a strong and healthy body. In Pregnancy and since having Zoe I lost a fair bit of weight, not entirely intentionally but a combination of breastfeeding, healthier eating and a heck of a lot of walking while carrying an increasingly heavy baby has had an effect. My main goal in terms of my 'health' is to have a good sense of self worth and confidence in how I look and while I know a lot of people would look at size 16, make-up less, tired mum and not immediately think #bodygoals I am really happy with how I look AND feel right now. My main concern is being a strong role model for Zoe, I want her to grow up with self confidence.

    I love this post from Brittany Gibbons which ends simply with the line "How do I teach my daughter to love her body? By loving the hell out of mine." Could not have said it better myself.

    3. Friends - I really have some of the most wonderful friends, from people I've known since middle school who I may not see very often, but when I do its like we've never been apart. To people who I met only recently but I can't imagine my life without. During pregnancy and maternity leave I have been lucky enough to meet some incredible women, strong, like-minded Mums who have been my life-line. I really struggled going through these last two years without my Mum, not having that person to turn to with questions, the person that raised you and who I aspired to be as a Mum. So I will be eternally grateful to my friends for filling that void with their awesomeness.

    4. Cake - This has been a rather intense post, so how better to end it than with cake? Because. Cake.

    Wednesday, 18 November 2015

    Wear all the babies!

    Anyone who follows me on instagram or facebook will know that slings and 'babywearing' are a big part of my life. I do get a lot of questions and people asking for tips, so I thought I would post a little backstory to our experience with babywearing. (I am trying really hard to avoid using the phrase 'babywearing journey' as it makes me cringe a little)

    I used a sling for the first time when Zoe was 2 weeks old. I had a few friends who had used stretchy slings and I was keen to try it, especially when Zoe was having her colic-y moments in the evening. I bought a cheap stretchy from a lady on FB, it wasn't a brand one and I really didn't know enough about them to know which were the best to get. If I was to have another baby I would definitely buy a branded one like a Hana or Moby, mine isn't the most supportive or comfortable. It is completely safe, just having tried other stretchy slings since I can see how much better other makes are.

    I watched youtube videos to learn how to use it and gave it a go. I instantly fell in love with wearing Zoe, she felt so close and safe, but I had my hands free to eat, do housework (ha!), or just to give my tired arms a rest. It really was a lifesaver in those early "4th trimester" weeks and I do feel that Zoe really benefited from being cuddled in close.

    By the time Zoe was about 3-4 months my stretchy started to feel less supportive and I wanted to see what else was out there. I joined a local Sling group on facebook and my eyes were opened to the vast array of options. I am really lucky that where I live there is a HUGE babywearing community. There are lots of sling meets and I started to venture out to meet other slingy mums and try out different carriers. We eventually settled on buying a Hop Tye, which is a brand of Mei Tai carrier, it has wide wrap straps which I preferred to the padded versions in terms of comfort.

    I loved our Hop Tye, it was so soft and supportive, with lots of adjustable bits to tailor as Zoe grew. It was very easy to take on and off and I felt confident using it daily. You can do back and hip carries in a mei tai but to be honest by the time Zoe was big enough to experiment with them we'd already moved on to other things. In terms of size and comfort I can still carry Zoe in a Hop Tye now comfortably, so they do last well, but I discovered the world of wraps and stopped reaching for my Hop Tye as much.

    I knew I wanted to try woven wraps pretty much as soon as I saw people using them at meets, they looked so pretty and also really diverse in the different ways you can use them. I was a bit intimidated by the world of woven wraps, there are so many acronyms and figuring out what to buy and what was a good price etc... Is a minefield. Luckily I found a lovely group of wrap wearing mums to guide me through and put up with my many "Is this a good price?" messages. I also booked onto an 'introduction to wrapping' course with a local organisation called Parenting North East. This course was amazing, and really helped build my confidence. The photo above was taken in the loos during the course, its my first ever kangaroo carry.

    I also participated in a 30 day wrap challenge on facebook and instagram, which was basically trying a new carry everyday, some were awesome, some not so much. It definitely help me to practice all the basics daily and I found my go-to carries that I use all the time. I'm even quite tempted to do the challenge again now I am a more confident wrapper, would anyone be interested in participating?

    So that brings us to today really, I have recently purchased a Connecta, which is a buckle carrier, but this is mainly for other people to use when carrying Zoe. I am also in the market for a ring sling. I can feel a second post coming on!

    I have recently completed my peer support training with the school of babywearing, so can now volunteer at local meets and enable others to fall in love with carrying all the babies!

    So, I just wanted to conclude by sharing a little safety information from the school of babywearing along with this post, specifically the TICKS guidelines; Tight, In-view, Chin off chest, Supported back. These are the basic priciples of safe babywearing. You can read a bit more about it here.

    Do you baby wear? I'd love to hear your experiences!

    Monday, 16 November 2015

    Zoe's Christmas List.

    Although technically this isn't Zoe's first Christmas, she was 17 days old last time and had zero clue what was happening and couldn't really enjoy anything except boobs and naps. This year however I am beyond excited to share the joy and magic of Christmas with her. Growing up Christmas was a BIG DEAL in our house, we went full on tacky with decorations, ceiling streamers, flashy lights and tinsel up the wazoo. Board games were mandatory and christmas morning was the absolute best! I can't wait to do all these things with Zoe (minus the tacky ceiling streamers and tinsel) and see her face light up on Christmas morning.

    With her birthday being so close to Christmas this list will be split between the two, we're not crazy extravagant.

    1. I am a sucker for wooden toys and I love this little bike and trailer from Early Learning Centre. We got it second hand from a local facebook selling site (brand new condition). It reminds me of the bikes in Santa Claus the Movie; although lets hope this one wasn't made by Dudley Moore and doesn't fall apart when she rides it for the first time.

    2. I bloody love Boden baby clothes, if only I had the money she would wear nothing else. We've bought this gorgeous intarsia cardigan which I want her to wear on Christmas day itself.

    3. Happyland, this was something I had never even heard of until recently. Whilst researching what to buy for Zoe I surveyed all my friends with kids and 99% of them said Happyland. Apparently its something they play with for years, so we grabbed this super cute fairy treehouse on sale for £20.

    4. This wooden kitchen walker is so cute! I came across it when Jules from Butcher Baker Baby posted that she'd bought it for her little ones birthday. I was dying to get her a kitchen, so she could follow in my foodie footsteps but was put off by the "suggested" age kids play with kitchens. So when I found this I couldn't resist.

    5. DUPLO! Now I am pretty sure this one is more for me. I love playing with lego and duplo, its so imaginative and fun. Similar to the happyland stuff it'll last a while too, I mean if I still love it at 29, its a pretty good investment.

    6. Annual Pass to the Centre for Life. There are loads of great places in and around Newcastle to take kids, from national trust, to Seven Stories children's book centre. I spent ages weighing up the pros and cons of each before settling on the centre for life. Given the fact that we don't drive we ruled out national trust, as a lot are quite rural. The Centre for Life has more activities for Zoe's age range, and a few friends have a pass so we can go for play dates.

    So these are her "main" presents. I may have gone a bit nuts on smaller gifts, although I am very bargain savvy so despite having an overflowing cupboard full of toys I haven't spent more than £100!

    What's on your Christmas list? I might do one of these posts for me too, give Santa a few hints. lol

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