Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The last feed.

A very important part of feeding the family over the last eighteen months included breastfeeding my daughter.  There are many good reasons for breastfeeding, and most women can breastfeed when provided with the right support to do so.  For me the right support has included: great friends, Facebook groups, proactive midwives, sheer determination and the quiet, ongoing support of my husband. I'm lucky also to live in New Zealand where many people have worked hard to implement the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative - reducing the amount of formula advertising and making hospitals work hard to promote breastfeeding. 

I am incredibly happy that I managed to get this far, and that my second daughter has never had a bottle of formula.  In the beginning I hoped to get to six months, then one year, then leave my daughter to wean herself.  I have loved breastfeeding, hated breastfeeding and resented breastfeeding.  I have never been away from my daughter for longer than six hours.  Breastfeeding is hard work, and it has definitely impacted on my family's daily routine.  My oldest daughter became used to entertaining herself for the last half hour of the day while I fed her sister.

I didn't think that the last feed would drop so soon, but recently, while sleeping off a migraine, my husband just tried putting the baby down at her usual bedtime without milk.  It worked.

A few nights later we had the last feed.  I'm not surprised it was a middle of the night feed.  I hauled the much-used tripillow onto my lap, latched and commenced feeding.  It was quiet  (as it should be at 3.45am) and I was very aware that this was likely the last feed.  The Poppet patted me a few times as she fed - one of her ways of showing affection.  She grabbed my breast gently and tried to rub it between her thumb and forefinger (like babies do when rubbing blankets or labels). We changed sides and all I could hear was her occasional swallow.  Too soon she came off and I held her upright against me.  Her little head dropped sleepily onto my shoulder, and her arms became dead weights.  In a couple of minutes I could tell by her breathing that she was asleep.  I put her carefully back down in her cot and quietly shut her door as I left the room. 

For eighteen months she has either received all, most or some of her nutrition from me while being held closely.  I've heard people say that food equals love.  Often when I put a lot of effort into making good meals for my family to eat I think this is true.  However, it is no more true than when breastfeeding your baby.  The food your body produces transfers to the baby while being held.  Just beautiful, and over too soon.

PS:  I write this knowing that just about any blog post a mother writes on any aspect of parenting, and in particular breast/ bottle feeding will generate a lot of comments.  These comments are usually salvos in the 'Mummy wars' where there are no winners, only hurt feelings.  I'm not criticising different feeding decisions, just writing about my experience :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear Nigella: thanks for pomegranate ice cream.

I was reading cookbooks while eating breakfast this morning.  Every now and then I need a bit of inspiration so I go back to the books and take a look at what is around.  With many of Nigella Lawson's recipes I've found that more of some of her more exotic ingredients are now available where I live.  When I came across pomegranate ice cream I knew that I had a good project for the day.

Nigella's No Churn Pomegranate Ice-Cream is perhaps the dreamiest recipe that I've made in awhile.  It has four ingredients and as long as you can get hold of two pomegranates then you are in luck.  I found some in my local supermarket this morning and quite cheerfully added two of the overpriced fruit to my trolley.

After getting home I put the baby to sleep in the pram and my daughter and I got out my mixer and tapped out the pomegranates, measured the icing sugar, squeezed the lime and then added a bottle of cream.  Some poor memorising of the recipe meant that I purchased a 300ml bottle of cream instead of 500ml.  The mixture tastes amazing anyway, and my only regret is getting too small a bottle as it has reduced the amount of ice cream available for the family!  The resulting creamy mixture is fragrant, marshmallow-creamy and a perfect pink.  My daughter and I cannot wait the four hours required - we have scooped some into a tiny container that is already half frozen an hour later.

I think that this would form the basis of a rather amazing Eton mess:  add crushed meringues, some macerated fruit salad to the unfrozen mixture and you would have a very elegant and delicious dessert.
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Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

I keep trying to celebrate holidays with meaning to our family in ways that the children can understand. This often means using food, crafts and stories. Food is quite easy to understand for kids. Duck is a special occasion food in our house so we decided to introduce the kids to duck pancakes.

If you can find a decent sized Asian grocer you can buy duck pancakes frozen. They are though the easiest bread to make so google yourself a recipe - it is usually flour and boiling water!

Finely chop some cucumber and spring onions in two inch length slices. Get yourself some plum sauce - I like a thick dark savoury sauce (tonight I used Watties Bit On the Side Plum). Some prefer the thin, pale orange plum sauce that you can purchase at Asian food stores.

Buy or cook a lacquered red duck. Shred the meat.

Spread the plum sauce down the middle of the pancake, add shredded duck (a bit of skin, a bit of flesh), cucumber and spring onion. Fold up the bottom and then the sides. Eat.

Happy Year of the Dragon.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

My first cheddar.

Tonight my husband bought me home his dessert from work - a cheese platter. It reminded me that I had a cheese to check - my first hard cheese. My red-waxed beauty has finished aging in the refrigerator.  I've been a bit scared to check it actually; a heat wave in my storage cellar (garage cut into bank) killed off my blue cheese and I was concerned as to the impact on my cheddar.

While making generally unhelpful comments my husband caught the cutting of the cheese on video.  I was so pleased to cut through and see a beautiful cheese! I cut a slice and checked: smell - like cheddar; texture - like cheddar; colour - white.  I'm pleased to confirm online that cheddar is supposed to be white!  The taste - quite sharp.  Time passed quite quickly and the cheese aged for nearly three months.

There were a couple of drops of moisture that came out of the centre - too much moisture can apparently ruin the cheese and I will remember to dry the cheese for a bit longer next time.  I did dry it a little longer than the recommended time - but perhaps the temperature played a part in this?

I had the best time making this cheese.  It has been my most satisfying cheese to make to date.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stone fruit overload/ Upside down plum cake

I do love a great deal. When a daily deal site offered half price off a 7kg box of mixed stone fruit, delivered, I was in. It is quite a lot of fruit actually, perhaps a little more than I appreciated.  It is quite tricky to get through it all as there is only so much stone fruit each family member can eat before being felled by a sore stomach!

I don't want to waste any fruit, but am forced to concede that the summer heat is trying to claim the fruit. I didn't want to preserve any of this batch either, as the fruit, while cheap, was not cheap enough for me to pass up the opportunity of eating the fruit fresh.  I remembered the recipe below from a recipe I copied out long ago.  I made it quite a few times about three summers ago and can't think why I haven't made it more recently.  This is delicious and simple, as long as you have a heavy oven proof frying pan.  I have an incredibly heavy cast iron pan that I hate cleaning that is perfect for this recipe.

Turned out on to a plate.

In the skillet.

Upside-Down Plum Cake

Use a cast iron skillet (23-25cm) * You could substitute with something similar but it must be something that can be used on the stove element and in the oven.

185g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
9-17 plums (these will be cut in half and placed on the base of the pan - you need enough to fit)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (room temperature)
250ml buttermilk (room temperature) (in a pinch you can use milk, buttermilk just tastes heaps better)

Heat the oven to 175C. Melt 60 grams of the butter in a 25cm skillet on a lowish heat. Sprinkle the brown sugar over evenly and leave for three minutes.  Arrange plums cut side down in the skillet.  Remove from heat.  In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl cream the remaining butter and sugar.  Add vanilla (i used vanilla syrup with seeds, could use extract) then eggs, one at a time.  Add buttermilk then fold in the dry ingredients gently.  Carefully spoon the mixture over the plums.  Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  To remove, run a knife around the edge and turn out on to a plate, fruit side up.  Serve with yoghurt or cream.

  •  Refrigerated products are best at room temperature for baking - the ingredients come together better and can 'curdle' if one ingredient is too cold.
  • Do not add too much vanilla - I tend to go heavy with vanilla as I feel it benefits most recipes.  It does not benefit this recipe.
  • I cooked for 45 minutes then turned off the oven and retrieved about an hour later.  The cake was cooked through and still warm enough to easily remove from the pan.
  • If your pan isn't very deep or the mixture comes nearly to the top before cooking then place a tray underneath to catch the overflow! 
  • This dish is really best served warm and on the day made.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

School Hols and cooking.

I'd been looking forward to the Sweetheart's first school holidays. However, I have learnt that for a stay at home Mum the school holidays increases your workload a fair amount. Days alternative between busy and blissful to chaotic and horrid.  When my husband arrived home this evening I was standing in the hallway with my hands covering my eyes, the Poppet crying in her cot and the Sweetheart waiting very patiently for me to come and read to her.  With young children the days are long!

 I'm a bit under the weather and quite tired.  I didn't feel like bothering with cooking so I made a perfectly healthy dinner the make-do mum way: buying it. I bought a  pack of sashimi and a large chicken bento for lunch today. The children devoured the sashimi pack. The bento came home* with us and has just provided dinner for three.

I suspect that the food experiments are on hold for another 3.5 weeks (hanging out for 7 February)!  Even getting to a point where I can release the Poppet from my leg long enough to prepare dinner is an achievement on busy days.

The sweetheart nabbed the salmon out of the sushi!

* If you are a parent you are probably quite used to hauling weird stuff through town in your pram. The people at the table next to us couldn't take their eyes off me as I transferred the uneaten food into a container and put it in the tray off the pram. Beats carrying it from my perspective.  It is not by any means the weirdest thing that I have carried in there.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012


One of the blogs I subscribe to belongs to Ruth Reichl.  Ruth is a very gifted writer with the most amazing food knowledge and experience.  I first read about her in the Sunday Star-Times.  It contained an excerpt from her recently published book, Garlic and Sapphires.  To summarise, while the restaurant critic for the New York Times she adopted a number of characters and dressed up when she went to review restaurants.  She did this to determine what the service and food was like for the actual person attending - not just an influential food writer.  In many cases the gap was startling and reflected poorly on a number of restaurants who did not deserve to be in the 'hospitality business.'  The account is amusing and insightful and for those of us who haven't lived in New York a good introduction to the restaurant business.

Anyway, Ruth was discussing food trends for 2011 and the one I didn't recognise was 'Sliders.'  Two seconds of internet research later and I had my answer: tiny meatball sandwiches.  Basically, cocktail or two-three bites worth of hot meatball sandwich. 

I liked the idea of making something tiny and my friend's annual New Years Day BBQ seemed like a good idea.  My Make-Do Mum version was a little simpler.  I started with the intention of making meatballs but as the day got away with me I made tenderised steak versions.

Slider method Make-Do Mum style:

Make tiny buns.  You can probably find some commercially but I thought that it would actually be easier to make some.  Most of the online meatball slider recipes I read specified a garlic flavoured bread.  I roasted some garlic and had the best intention to knead it into the bread on the second rise.  This didn't happen because I forgot.  I used a standard breadmaker recipe (used three cups of flour) and divided the dough into fifteen segments.  I brushed with milk and sprinkled some poppy seeds over the top.  I could probably have gone a little smaller - making about twenty if I'd been a little less slapdash.

Filling.  The filling is obviously whatever you want.  I caramelised some onions with balsamic drizzle and the last of my avocado oil.  Once caramelised I drained the excess oil and mixed the onions with mayonnaise and some roasted garlic.  I fried some tenderised steak in the drained oil and once cooked cut into small pieces.  Each slider contained the onion mayonnaise, meat and baby spinach.  Because they had to travel each slider was held together with a small skewer then transported via tupperware and pram around the block to join the other food at the BBQ.

I would definitely do these again for parties or pot-luck (shared meals).  I'd like to see how mini I could go!

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Christmas leftovers/ dinner platter

I can't work out why I didn't come up with this earlier.  This is the ideal Make-do Mum meal.  If I had a rating system it would probably get five stars.  You know how you have all those leftover items from Christmas (in my case ham and unopened hummus/ pate)?  Well if you arrange them all on a big platter and add some crackers and fresh rye bread then you have an awesomely social meal where everyone can have a little something that they like.  The baby loves capsicum, ham and fresh peas while her big sister enjoyed the celery, smoked salmon and rye bread.  It was the perfect non-dinner dinner.

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