30 Jan 2014

Recipe: Bacon & Vegetable Soup

When it comes to soup I'm very much of the opinion that bunging it all in a pan and hoping for the best is a valid recipe, however when I do find a good combination I like to write it down in my recipe file. I love this one, it has an almost minestrone flavour to it, but without the pasta. Perfect for a cold winter lunch time!

Makes: approx 8 servings
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: approx 1hr (until vegetables are soft)

3 rashers of bacon sliced up (I prefer smoked)
4 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 parsnip, diced
1 leek, chopped
250g red lentils
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 litres chicken stock
Garlic granules, salt & pepper to taste

1. Fry bacon in a large pan with a little oil
2. Add potatoes, carrots, parsnip, leek and lentils and fry for 3-4 mins until starting to soften
3. Add tomatoes and chicken stock and simmer for approx 1hr, until vegetables are soft
4. Season with garlic granules, salt and pepper and serve with warm crusty bread.

24 Jan 2014

Recipe: Hummingbird Bakery Banana Loaf

When I first met Mr M he mentioned that he loved Banana Bread. In an attempt to impress him, I decided to bake some for him but it turns out that Banana Bread is my baking nemesis and it turned out to be more like Banana Pancakes. Not to be deterred I've tried numerous recipes over the years without much success, even if the bread rose properly in the oven, it would deflate when I took it out to cool. The pancake was always tasty but could never accurately be described as a loaf of bread!

Eventually I found the recipe for Hummingbird Bakery Banana Loaf and it turns out this is the one recipe for Banana Bread that I can actually do! It's really tasty and is always popular in our house. Again this recipe is from my trusty Hummingbird Bakery book.

Banana Bread & a cup of Ringtons finest!
Makes: 8-10 slices
Cooking time: 1hr

270g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g peeled bananas, mashed
280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
140g unsalted butter, melted

1. Grease a 23x13cm loaf tin and dust with flour. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F
2. Put the sugar and eggs in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well incorporated. Beat in the mashed bananas.
3. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix it thoroughly until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients ar well mixed.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

23 Jan 2014

Is breast always best?

When we first found out I was pregnant we attended a group meeting, before we even 'booked in' with the midwife. The purpose of the meeting it seems was to tell us to stop drinking, smoking and taking drugs (worrying they think people need to be told this?!) and to drum into us the mantra that "breast is best". Personally I felt it was a little early in the process to be lecturing us on the virtues of breastfeeding, at that stage all Mr M and I wanted to know was what would be happening from a care perspective over the next 9 months, not be guilt tripped into thinking I would be a bad mother if I didn't breastfeed.

From the beginning of my pregnancy I've heard about nothing but the benefits of breastfeeding and how it will give my baby the best possible start in life. Not only will it help with Baby's immunity but it will apparently make him smarter, make him a better eater when weaned and just generally make him a healthier person in the long run. To top it off they bombard you with info about how it will help protect me from cancer and osteoporosis etc but will also help me to bond with the baby and get slimmer quicker. If all this is true then clearly breast is best but I'm not entirely convinced that it is always the best option for everyone.

Since day 1 I've always known that I wanted to breastfeed if I could but I was also aware that it's not as easy as you'd think. I have many friends who've given it a go and struggled, deciding that they were better off in the long run formula feeding their little ones, so I went into this with a sensible attitude that I would give it a go but if it wasn't for me I wouldn't let the breastfeeding brigade make me feel guilty. Despite this I think I still had a slightly romantic view that it wouldn't be that difficult and was convinced I would be able to do it. Not only was I determined to give Baby I the best start possible I could but I also had selfish reasons for wanting to feed him myself such as the weight loss and just the general convenience of not needing to sterilise bottles and prepare formula. Breastfeeding should in theory make life easier for me right?!

As it turns out breastfeeding is not the easy option at all. Nobody really warns you about the pain of sore, cracked, bleeding nipples which is seems is inevitable for most. Learning to latch baby on properly is not easy and even once you think you've got the hang of it and it gets more comfortable, baby can often have different ideas and you end up in pain again. People definitely do not warn you of the pain you feel when your milk comes in and you end up engorged!

Perseverance is definitely key and it does get easier with practice but even 6 weeks in I do still struggle with feeding some days and have considered giving in many times! By the end of most days I don't feel I have enough milk for my baby and he can feed for hours and still be really hungry which has led to me giving in to formula and giving him a bottle a night. BUT despite my sensible attitude before baby arrived and the fact that I feel no guilt whatsoever giving Baby I a bottle of formula, I've found I feel guilty when I admit to people that I've chosen recently to combination feed, almost like it makes me a bad mother!  And this is the reason that I disagree with the mantra that 'breast is best', if I feel guilt when I'd prepared myself for not being able to feed my son, how must other people feel when they've had nothing but the guilt trip and not got the benefit of knowing other people who've not been able to feed their babies?! Personally I feel that the NHS need to rethink their approach, yes encourage people to breastfeed if they can but also give them the support they need if it's not the right option for them. Breastfeeding is not easy and it's not always possible, they need to start acknowledging that rather than pressuring new mothers into doing something that is not right for them or their babies. I will definitely keep feeding my little chunk myself for as long as I can, topping up with the odd bottle of formula because that is what works for us but that doesn't mean I believe that breast is best by any means!

16 Jan 2014

Recipe: Hummingbird Bakery Traditional Brownies

We had friends over for dinner last night and at the request of Mr M I baked our favourite brownies for dessert. I used the wrong size dish, it was a lot smaller and deeper than the recipe states and as a result they were a lot more gooey than normal but still delicious!  I also didn't bother with dusting with icing sugar but served them warm with Carte D'Or Vanilla Ice Cream and fresh strawberries, nom nom nom!!!

I got my recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cook Book (one of my favourites for baking!)

Makes:  12
Preparation Time:  15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

You will need 33 x 23 x 5-cm baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
175g unsalted butter
325g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 eggs
icing sugar, to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
3. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Finally, stir in the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until flaky on the top but still soft in the centre. Be careful not to overcook otherwise the edges will become hard and crunchy. Leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, to decorate.

I got my copy of the Cookbook from the Book People at work a few years back and it's one of the best recipe books I own, full of delicious naughty treats which always go down well with the in-laws!

13 Jan 2014

Baby I's first trip to Whitley Bay Beach

This afternoon consisted of a trip to the beach at Whitley Bay. Once again I think the fresh air knocked him out as Little Chunk slept through the whole thing!

8 Jan 2014

First trip to St Mary's Lighthouse

Today we took Baby I to St Mary's lighthouse for the first time. St Mary's has a special place in our hearts as Mr M and I got married here almost 3 years ago. Baby I slept through the whole thing but it was lovely to walk around, pushing the pram while telling him about our wedding day (even if he was completely unaware of the whole thing and I was talking to myself really!!)

5 Jan 2014

First trip to the seaside!

This afternoon we took our Little Chunk to the seaside at Seaton Sluice for the first time, Bella enjoyed playing on the rocks with Mr M while I stood with the pram and watched. It was a little chilly so we didn't stay long but it was good to get out and about with the pram. The only downside was that we had to go down quite a steep hill to the rocks, which was fine on the way down but hardwork pushing the pram back up again! ;-)  All good practice for when I attempt Buggy Blitz when I can start exercising again though!!