Favourite Nursing Snacks

My body has now been providing the sole sustenance for our daughter for almost a year. That is incredible to me, and I am so happy/fortunate/grateful to have had a healthy pregnancy and to now be able to breastfeed her. Fortunately her feeding has gone mostly very well since the beginning.

My approach to postpartum diet is fairly similar to how I ate while I was pregnant: I’m not eating a great deal more than I normally would, but I am definitely not policing my eating. I like to think I eat fairly healthily normally, and I’m continuing to do that while also letting myself have pretty much as many treats as I want (within reason!). It’s a pandemic after all, and being a new parent is hard at the best of times let alone with no help and being stuck far away from your family.

Being up multiple times a night is no walk in the park, so if I want a snack, I have one. If there was ever a time to not deny oneself treats, this is it. The best of course is homemade snacks, but that hasn’t always been possible. I started off with some treats in the freezer and have had the occasion to make a few more, but would ideally like more time. Here are some of my favourites:

Homemade
Carrot cake loaf
Blueberry muffins
Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
Banana bread

Other
Corn cakes
Bananas
Nature Valley’s peanut and chocolate protein bar
Graze’s peanut butter and chocolate oat bites (can you sense a theme here?)

My own Project, Pantry, Purpose (1)

I’ve really been enjoying Jenny from Dinner, A Love Story’s Project, Pantry, Purpose series of posts throughout the pandemic.

Here’s how it works:
“1) Something you did/read/watched yesterday, no matter how boring it may sound 2) a pantry-based food or drink you might’ve cooked, no matter how simple 3) suggestion or recap of a more involved baked good or kitchen project, no matter how basic 4) moment of connection to the world outside our quarantined walls.”

Watching
We are captivated by “Indian Matchmaking.” There’s a lot I could say about the politics of this show (some of it highly disturbing), but I’ll leave that for now. At the end of these tiring days, it’s allowing us to unwind and relax before bed.

Project
Lately I’ve been missing baking and all of the time I used to spend in the kitchen. I’m trying to get more of it in.  With a newborn in the house, baking takes careful advanced planning (coupled with flexibility!). Sometimes H. & I do it together (fortunately he enjoys it!). Recently I made blueberry muffins (with store-bought, not self-picked berries….sigh). Up next are these I think.

Pantry
It’s summer (ish) and I’ve been drinking several spinach smoothies a week. They may sound revolting but I promise you are delicious: a couple of big handfuls of spinach, a dash of honey and tahini, a banana (best if frozen!), and some milk. Voila.

Purpose
Organized a donation to the local food bank. And on that theme, since I like to start my days now by looking at NS webcams, I figured why not buy them a couple of coffees to help keep the site going. It doesn’t make being away any easier but it allows me to keep living vicariously through the live streams.

LATTE
My first latte since March

Mini update: Soy Chicken Thighs & Quinoa-Chickpea Bowl with Tahini

I don’t have much time to post to my blog at the moment, but I have been trying the odd new recipe. I thought I would share these in the form of mini updates, most likely without photos.

The first is this chicken dish from the New York Times — soy-basted chicken thighs with spicy cashews. Oh boy. This was right at the limit of what we can handle right now in terms of prep time in the kitchen with a two-month old baby! It just about worked. I didn’t do any basting though, just used the recipe for the marinade. The roasted cashews went down a treat, and overall this was really good.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I like to cook: really healthy, but extremely tasty at the same time. The roasted chickpeas were a big hit with H. I am a tahini freak so it went down well with me. I did not crisp up the quinoa as it felt like one step too many, but I think it would be even better. Definitely adding this one to our repertoire of regular dishes.

June 2020 Favourites

Happy July, and happy belated Canada Day. There’s a lot more I’d like to say about the state of the world at the moment, but I simply don’t have the time to write it out. It will have to wait. In the meantime, enjoy this short list (I haven’t been on the internet as much over the past 6 weeks, nor had the time to read everything I’d like to!).

◌ Really want to try this bread!

◌ On motherhood.

◌ In reading, I enjoyed this and this.

◌ A perfect quote for these times if ever there was one…

Beautiful. Adding to my travel bucket list, which seems to be growing exponentially at the moment.

◌ Netflix viewing: Enjoyed the docs Becoming and American Factory. Liked season 2 of Dead to Me. We’ve been re-watching the pure joy that is Episodes.

Canada Day last year – canoeing in Ontario!

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Carrot Cake Loaf

This is a milestone post … my first one since becoming a mum! Baby A. joined us almost five weeks ago now! Time has flown. Life with a newborn is hard but also amazing.

Time in the kitchen has obviously changed a lot over the past 5 weeks. I will write a separate post on that, but for now I wanted to quickly share a recent baking “win.”

When H. came home recently with a giant bag of carrots I had a craving for carrot cake. I also thought that a carrot loaf or muffins could double as a healthy(ish) nighttime snack when I am feeding — I’ve found I am often hungry in the middle of the night and crave something that’s sort of a treat, but not too sugary,simple, and easy to eat. I found the recipe via Google. I decided to double it and make two loaves, one of which I froze.

This loaf comes together really quickly (important when time is tight!). I halved the sugar, left out the nuts, and did not make the cream cheese frosting. Both of us were impressed with this loaf. It’s moist and flavourful and not sickly sweet. It’s also dairy-free without the frosting (the fat is oil rather than butter). For the first new recipe I’ve tried since becoming a family of three, it is a definite win. I’ll be adding it to my regular repertoire of easy baking recipes.

No pic this time!

Eating in Lockdown, part 2

It’s hard to believe another 4+ weeks have gone by living in this new normal. I’m still keeping track of what we are eating each day. As usual the bolded dishes are those I made for the first time.

Day 28 / Monday April 13th: Spinach salad
Day 29 / Tuesday 14th: Leftover fettucine (from 12th), with side salad
Day 30 / Wednesday 15th: Cauliflower fritters with side salad
Day 31 / Thursday 16th: Pizza (homemade, from freezer)
Day 32 / Friday 17th: Chicken & bean rice bake
Day 33 / Saturday 18th: Chilaquiles
Day 34 / Sunday 19th: Soba noodle salad (from Ottolenghi’s Simple)

Day 35 / Monday 20th: Spaghetti
Day 36/ Tuesday 21st: Leftover spaghetti
Day 37 / Wednesday 22nd: Scrambled eggs with cabbage & peanut slaw
Day 38 / Thursday 23rd [Grocery day]: Chicken thighs with rice and peanut sauce (from Bon Appetit)
Day 39 / Friday 24th: Pizza
Day 40 / Saturday 25th: “Green goddess” mac & cheese
Day 41 / Sunday 26th: Couscous salad with feta, spring onions, and tomatoes

Day 42 / Monday 27th: Mackerel with leftover couscous salad & kale Caesar
Day 43 / Tuesday 28th: “Green goddess” mac & cheese
Day 44 / Wednesday 29th: Shakshuka
Day 45 / Thursday 30th [Grocery day]: broccoli buttermilk quinoa
Day 46 / Friday 1st May: Cashew nut chicken
Day 47 / Saturday 2nd: (Store-bought) ravioli with side salad
Day 48 / Sunday 3rd: Kale Caesar pasta salad

Day 49 / Monday 4th: Rice bowl with tahini-ginger sauce
Day 50 / Tuesday 5th: Scrambled eggs with spinach salad
Day 51 / Wednesday 6th: Mushroom arancini
Day 52 / Thursday 7th [Grocery day]: Hamburger helper casserole
Day 53 / Friday 8th: Rice noodle salad with peanut sauce & veggies
Day 54 / Saturday 9th: Spinach salad
Day 55 / Sunday 10th: Pork schnitzel with potatoes and salad

Getting ready for baby

Ever since I have entered the second half of my pregnancy I have been looking forward to batch cooking and baking in anticipation of those early, hard, sleep-deprived days. I enjoy both cooking and planning (and being prepared!). Once covid-19 descended, I took this a lot more seriously. Things now look a lot different. We won’t have any help whatsoever: my mum is no longer able to come after the baby is born, as planned. I think I’ve placed even more emphasis on being prepared because it makes me feel like I’m in control — and I am in control of precious little at the moment!

In an ideal world I wanted to have enough meals for 3-4 weeks. But we simply don’t have the space for that. I would love to have a deep freeze right now, but space is always at a premium in the UK’s tiny dwellings with very little storage. We are fortunate that we have acquired a second freezer — our old one from when we lived in Germany. However, in an ideal world I’d still like more space.

We easily have enough for about 12 days of not-having-to-think meals, and some additional ingredients that will require little preparation. If we eat some of this stuff in the meantime, my plan is just to replace it with leftovers as we go. The freezer is now jam-packed with regular items and made-in-advance meals.

Here’s what we have made:

Kale and bacon quiche — 2 meals
Homemade pizza (H.’s specialty) — 3 meals
Green goddess mac & cheese — 2 meals
Lasagne — 2 meals
Spaghetti sauce — 2 meals
Buffalo chicken & quinoa bake — 1 meal
Pork schnitzel — 1 meal

We also have some frozen vegetables, meat, ravioli, bean burgers, and a few treats (leftover cinnamon rolls, muffins, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies) on hand. And that’s it. That’s our freezer capacity.

April 2020 Favourites

Day 51 of self-isolation. Sigh. Some days are definitely easier than others. Here are some of the things I’ve been enjoying.

Loved this piece in the Guardian.

◌ NYT’s guide to flour.

◌ Another lockdown performance!

◌ I want to join a book club just to spend hours talking about this book.

◌ A very sobering listen.

◌ I continue to enjoy reading Elizabeth Minchilli’s lockdown recipes and menus.

◌ We jumped on the Tiger King bandwagon and all I can say is….wow. But it’s The Last Dance that really has us glued! This is a masterclass in documentary-making.

Beautiful piece by Prune restaurateur Gabrielle Hamilton.

This is so spot on.

 

Reflections on 9 months of no alcohol

NB: I wrote most of this before the pandemic hit and have decided to post it anyway.

Before becoming pregnant I anticipated that I would find not drinking for 10 months somewhat challenging. Though I would never classify myself as a big drinker, I definitely enjoyed the ritualistic comfort of alcohol — particularly red wine. I thought I would really miss it. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised: giving up alcohol has been far easier than I thought it would be.

I am not going to weigh into the debate on whether or not drinking in pregnancy is safe or not. I did quite a bit of research and long ago came to a conclusion that feels right for me: generally I’ve abstained, but the occasional small glass or few sips is fine. By this I mean, I had a small glass of wine a couple of times at Christmas, a small glass on NYE, and several sips here and there (usually from H.’s glass), but in general I am most comfortable with not drinking much more than that.

And, to be honest, it doesn’t taste the same: the few times I have had some wine, I can only really taste (and smell!) the alcohol. With beer, I just taste carbonation and bitterness. The smell of alcohol is really off-putting, to the point where if H. has a glass of rum I need him to keep it far away from me.

At home, I have usually stuck to water. Other times I’ve had Cawston Press juices or sparkling drinks. Eisberg sparkling “wine” has also been surprisingly palatable. When I could go out (obviously not anymore), my go-tos were ginger beer, alcohol-free beer, or cranberry juice. My favourite ginger beer is Fentimans (sooo gingery) and my favourite beer Krombacher Pilsner 0%. The best “mocktail” I’ve come up with is mixing Fentimans ginger beer with sparkling water and a huge dose of lime juice. This is what I drank on NYE and honestly it was so good.

It has not always been easy. There are definitely times that I wished I could have a drink, like at Christmas, in Valencia, and oh, maybe a whisky or two to settle the nerves in the time of a global pandemic. But it’s been really easy to say no and I think a lot of that has to do with what happens biologically to the body in pregnancy — I simply don’t want it. I can’t explain it better than that.

Not drinking has allowed me a LOT of time to think about alcohol from a cultural perspective, and I have really appreciated the chance to do so. Drinking is such an ingrained part of the culture here and despite huge advances in non-alcoholic products I really do feel for alcoholics and people who abstain. My empathy and understanding has increased with this group massively and I am grateful for that.

Pork Ramen

A couple of weeks ago it was H.’s birthday. I spent a lot of the day in one of the places I’m happiest — the kitchen. I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast (post coming) and in the evening we had pork ramen and cheesecake. It was a very indulgent day, but if you can’t have an indulgent birthday in lockdown, when can you?

I had never made ramen before but have always wanted to try it at home. I took the opportunity when we had leftover pork from a roast we had made the week before. It was pork shoulder with a beautiful crackling. We saved the juices from the roast which made the perfect base for the ramen. In fact, I wouldn’t attempt this ramen again without a really rich base — homemade or high-quality bone broth.

I used a combination of recipes found online — mainly here and here — but sort of also just made things up as I went along. To the broth I had, I added half a stock cube, some water, soy sauce, chopped ginger, and chopped garlic. I just kept tasting and adjusting.

I simmered the leftover pork in the broth for around 10 minutes, but given that it was already cooked, it didn’t need much. When it came time to serve, I cooked the noodles (which I happened to have on hand, bought when I could still go shopping!), and put them in the bowl first. I then added the broth and pork. For toppings I had half a boiled egg, spring onions, sesame seeds, shredded carrot, and mushrooms.

I am really happy with the way this turned out. Most importantly, the birthday boy loved it too. It might have been beginner’s luck! I think the key was the broth base — it was very rich, which was really necessary in order to create that restaurant-like depth of flavour.

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