It’s been a while between drinks …

Oh dear, it’s been more than two years between posts! That is a while between drinks, sorry dear readers (if there are any of you left!)

So, a quick update:

  • Abby is now 4 1/2!! Eek! She’s awesome in all ways, and challenging in all ways, as all pre-schoolers should be!
  • We have a second daughter, Emily, who’s almost 19 months, who is similarly awesome but challenging – I think this explains the lack of posts!
  • We bought a house! It has a lovely backyard, but my growing attempts have been largely unsuccessful –  I tried to replicate the awesome passionfruit vine that grew of its own volition in our previous place, but sadly it has had limited success thus far. We have had some lovely strawberries and blueberries, but we have also had possums, who are quicker than we are 😦
  • I have continued cooking and freezing!! Mostly for my two voracious eaters – they are very keen on their food, which is great, but makes it feel like we have two teenage boys in the house on occasion!!

Feeding an 18 month old

Emily loves food in general, and I did a similar use of purees and a bit of baby-led weaning with her. Breakfasts, she loves porridge, hot, cold or in between, and she can feed it to herself which is great! She also loves Weetbix, toast, and fruit, so she gets a pretty good amount of variety – she will eat two serves of Weetbix and two pieces of toast in a sitting!

Lunches, she loved soup (I didn’t try that early enough with Abby, who isn’t a fan), so for about a year, she had a veggie soup for lunch every day – literally whatever veggies in the fridge, a bit of ginger, some veggie stock and some canned beans, blitzed up in the Nutribullet and then put into a Sinchie reusable pouch. I’d make a big batch, freeze them, and then she’d eat them directly out of the pouch after they defrosted a bit in hot water!!

This was a great way of ensuring lots of veggies and liquid for lunch – add a cheese stick, some fruit and some bread and avocado and she was very happy! Of course, about a month ago she became more picky and won’t have the soup anymore – oh well, it was good while it lasted!!

Dinners, she loves to feed herself, so I used to make purees of meat and veggies ie chicken, beef, lamb, whatever we’d been eating, and give them to her with couscous or pasta – again, great to freeze and use! She is now going through a picky phase, though, and seems to have taken against these nice easy meals! So I’m separating things out a bit and seeing how she goes, she loves meat and some veggies, but is teething and picky!

Go to foods are all the dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt), bread, berries, bananas, crackers, eggs – the usual toddler fare! I’m trying to get her to eat more veg by themselves – she loves peas, but comes and goes with all others.


Feeding a 4 1/2 year old

Abby is a great eater, but eats a little less than Em, which is funny! She also prefers meals separated ie meat and veg and carb separately rather than soups or stews or curries – they like to make it harder for me! Breakfast is Cheerios or weetbix or porridge or toast.

Lunch – last year Abby started at a preschool where we have to pack her lunch – so annoying! Luckily though she is happy to have the same thing every day – an avocado wrap, strawberries, cucumber, crackers with Laughing Cow cheese, and something baked if I’ve got it, ie muffin or cookie or pancake. Recently she’s rejected the cheese, however – any hints on a protein that I could include, bearing in mind that the centre is nut and egg free?

Dinner – pasta and sauce is acceptable, as is pasta by itself with meat (chicken, kangaroo, lamb, sausage) with veggies on the side. She is pretty good with veggies, likes broccoli, carrot, sweet potato, cucumber, tomatoes, corn.

She loves sushi, scrambled eggs, crackers, fruit, pancakes – the photo below shows my attempt to make butterfly-shaped ones using cookie cutters, which were a bit deep so made it hard to cook the second side – any tips for lower shaped ones?

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So that’s my food update for the moment – I haven’t baked bread in a while, my starter sadly died due to lack of use, and my garden is sorely lacking, but I will get there! And I will attempt more regular updates 🙂

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Chickpea. Neither chick nor pea. Discuss.

I’ll spare you the usual apologies for length between posts, but I will give you the sad update on my garden – neglect has finally claimed most of it, alas!!

With the exception of the daffodils, who continue to defy the odds by springing cheerily from the ashes on an annual basis, and the society garlic and passion fruit vine, which both appear to be doing well despite no intervention from me, the rest of the garden is in a sorry state. I think I will have to abandon the yearly attempts at blueberries, due to the inconsistent weather beating the poor little buds off the stems before they can even create the berries!! And my forgetting to water the avocado plant (and not noticing how much sun we were having) appears to have had a terminal effect on it 😦

I believe that having a more accessible garden will yield better gardening results, so am hopeful that the next place we live in will have such a garden, and that my future gardening reports will be more positive!!

That’s the growing – on the cooking and freezing front, the slow cooker really came into its own during winter, with chicken, lamb and beef turning into wonderful meals with minimal intervention – there’s something very satisfying about putting everything in a pot before you head off to work, then having an enticing aroma greet you when you return!! We would then eat the results for multiple meals, on pasta, couscous, in pies, in tortillas – very versatile!!

Abby, in the way of toddlers, sometimes likes our food, sometimes rejects it out of hand, so I continue to make meals for her and freeze them so there’s always something healthy on hand for her.  She is a big fan of spaghetti bolognese, and I have found that our recipe, with the addition of a number of extra veggies food processed into it, can pass muster for us all, so I make up a big batch, with zucchini, carrots, broccoli, spinach and whatever else is lying around in the mix with the mince, and we all enjoy it!! I crossed the line by adding bok choy to one batch, however – it gave it an odd taste, so I’m sticking to mediterranean veggies from now on! My pro tip for freezing meals for toddlers? Freeze the leftover rice or pasta in with the meal itself, so it’s all ready to go when you want it – you’d be amazed how well it defrosts, and you have a complete and balanced meal!

She is a great little eater, liking fruit and veggies by themselves as much as in curries, bolognese and the ever-popular frittata, so we are very lucky – our only complaint is that she isn’t a big fan of chips or nuggets, so when we eat out, we have to ensure that there are other options, ie if we order her schnitzel, mash and peas, she is likely to only eat the peas!

She has also been known to eat broccoli and zucchini raw, and there was an enjoyable dinnertime where she repeatedly called for ‘more broccoli’ – not something you usually hear from a toddler, I’m sure – we know we’re very lucky!!

Her favourite snack/addition to a meal is chickpeas. For a few months earlier in the year, she demanded chickpeas for every meal, even breakfast!! I only complied for dinner, creating a mix of chickpeas, veggies, garlic, veggie stock and canned tomatoes, which she very much enjoyed. After a break of a couple of months, the chickpeas are back in favour – she’ll eat them straight, (ie drained and rinsed from the can), and likes them added to other meals – I actually have to put limits on how many she can eat at one sitting, as surely too many can’t be good for the digestion!

I know, I know, parents reading this will want to kill us – don’t worry, we do know how lucky we are, and try to appreciate it while it lasts!

I also tried some creative chickpea cooking – the results were a bit crumbly, but still eminently edible, although I enjoyed them more than Abby did, she’s a purist, just wants the chickpeas by themselves!! The recipe for these cookies is from One Handed Cooks ( http://onehandedcooks.com.au/recipe/chickpea-cookies/), who I heartily recommend for all food baby and toddler!

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So I will leave you with a picture of Abby eating – I can’t believe she is already two!!

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Her fork handling skills are quite good, and she can drink from a cup without too many spills, so she’s really growing up! She’s very chatty, loves talking and singing and all music, and has varied interests ranging from the garbage trucks to her dolls to the Mickey Mouse club!

I think in the absence of any successful gardening adventures, I might use her as the ‘grow’ part of the blog for a while!!

 

An ode to fritatta

Hello all! Yes, it’s been a while between posts – I think I might have been overly ambitious thinking I’d have lots of time to post with a young one! A’s in a pretty good routine, we’re still doing 2 naps a day, although sometimes it’s more one morning nap then an afternoon ‘rest’ but not nap – she’s probably transitioning to one nap, but we still find her morning nap good for all of us, and enjoy our lunch outings, so we won’t transition just yet! 

But we are all in transition – I’ve just started a new job, J’s just started his PhD, and A has just started daycare 2 days a week, so lots of big changes for us this year! The rambling about nap time relates to how much time I actually have – she’s on the go most of the day, requiring supervision and/or interaction, especially in the crawling to walking transition, so I find I only have time in her nap time, when I’m often napping myself, showering, or cooking, so blogging has fallen to the wayside!

The garden alas hasn’t changed much – the random weather has not been great for planting, or my existing plants, like my poor blueberries – turns out blueberries are not self-pollinating, in that they need two plants to pollinating each other, so I’ve now got two, but sadly the storms trashed my original plant, and the new one has only produced a few little berries – as usual, holding out great hope for next year! I think the location of the garden and the hardness of the stones  makes it hard for me to remember and be inspired by it at the moment – my rosemary died again! But the mint is happy, as is the society garlic, so I’ll get some more herbs going again, and leave the more intense gardening for a while.

However, the baby food cooking and freezing definitely continues! I still make a fruit purée to mix in with natural yogurt, Weetbix and milk for A’s breakfast, although sometimes she has overnight oats, sometimes pancakes if I’m in the mood! So breakfasts are pretty standard and easy, cos we’re all half asleep!

As she is a big fan of finger food, and I’m a big fan of being able to eat as well, I like an easy lunch option that I can make in big batches, freeze, then easily defrost and have it ready to go. Enter the frittata! I was not a big fan of frittata as a youngster, and I can’t say that I love it now, it’s a bit too eggy for me. However, it is the perfect way to get lots of veggies into a toddler with miminal effort! Here’s how:

  1. Process/grate whatever veggies you have – I use to grate, now I save time and energy by using my little hand held processor, it would be even better with a bigger one! Any veggies will work – I usually have 4-5 in there, like baby spinach, zucchini, carrot, kumera, capsicum, broccoli, kale – whatever you want to use up!
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    Grated veggies pre mixing!


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    Defrosted serving of frittat ready to be devoured!

     
  2. In a different bowl, beat together 4-5 eggs – I’m sure you could use the non-egg  substitute if there are allergies.
  3. Then add 1-1/2 cups of flour to the eggs and beat well –  it depends how much veggie you have and how wet it seems, the flour will bind it together, so add  more if needed.
  4. Then add 1 cup of grated cheese and the veggies, mix together, pour into a baking tray, flatten down and bake for around 30-35 mins at 180 degrees.
  5. Voila! Once it cools a bit, I cut it into little squares suitable for toddler hands, then divide it into portions and freeze them, so there are plenty ready to go! I find it makes around 12-15 serves!

 

So that’s our lunch staple – I usually add some cucumber, some bread with avocado or peanut butter, a cheese stick and some fruit, and little miss is very happy!

And she can feed herself the frittata, so I can eat too! Win win all round! I’m still enjoying sneaking veggies into things, although I will also  need to keep encouraging her to eat them in their natural state as we go on!

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Oh yeah, love that fritatta!

Baby food

So, folks, it’s been a while between drinks over here at the blog, the usual reasons (baby, winter, general slackness!), and also because I have been taking far more photos of my baby than my garden! 

Winter has not been kind to my garden or my enthusiasm for gardening – as I reported last time, I planted a couple of new crops, which never went anywhere, and then it got colder, and darker, and I preferred to nap when my baby napped rather than struggle with difficult crops! So, the garden is not up to much – the society garlic, kale, avocado plant and chives still continue cheerily, but everything else isn’t up to much – when spring arrives, so will my enthusiasm! Also, having a crawling baby who puts everything in her mouth is hard to garden with, especially on the cold hard cobblestones in our backyard – I don’t think having her start to walk will make it easier to garden during the day when she and I are home alone, but as the evenings lengthen, I can hopefully attend more to my garden while my husband attends to her 😊

   
   
However, despite my gardening hiatus, my cooking and freezing has continued unabated! My pressure cooker gets a regular workout, as it is definitely cosy warming stew-style dinner weather! I follow some recipes when I have the ingredients or the interest, but my go-to dinner is:

– sauté some onions and garlic, 

– brown the meat (some type of shank or stewing meat, usually red meat rather than chicken, as I haven’t tried to coordinate veggies and chicken yet), 

– then put whatever veggies are on hand with some stock, some herbs, some tinned tomatoes and the meat back in

– cook for about half an hour on high pressure. 

It makes enough for us to have for dinner a couple of nights in a row, and then a few meals for the baby too!

I find that even though I’m currently home on maternity leave, having a small human who depends on you for everything, ie food, entertainment, sleep and waste disposal, doesn’t leave much time for creating gourmet meals from scratch every night! I also prefer to nap when she naps or do other things rather than always making dinner then, so find double up meals such as in the pressure cooker invaluable, especially as they often taste even better the next day when the flavours have developed!

So, baby food – Abby is almost 10 months old now, and we started giving her solid foods around 5 1/2 months. We initially started with veggie purées, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, then added some fruits, apple, pear and banana, and avocado. Once she got used to it, and went up to 3 meals a day, then we started on meats and finger food such as steamed veggies, fruit, cheese and bread.

It took me a while to get comfortable with her feeding herself, as I was worried about choking, and when they gag, it can be quite scary! But she’s a great little eater, and certainly enjoys feeding herself, so we do a mix of mashed foods and finger foods nowadays for most meals.

The freezer is your best friend when it comes to baby food, because you can make larger batches and then freeze, so there’s always something on hand! I freeze her food in these little silicone icecube trays, the ones I use are Heinz, the bottoms are easy to pop out, which makes it easy to then put the little cubes in plastic bags or containers in the freezer, and then use the trays again for more food! 

  
What does she eat? Well, I’ll do a few posts breaking these up, and try and take more photos so it’s more interesting!

We try and make a mix of carbs, protein and healthy fats for each meal, and portion sizes are still something that I find a bit confusing. For breakfast, it depends on who is feeding her (my husband and I, neither of us morning people, take it in turns to get up with her around 7am and look after her in the morning).

If it’s me, I make extra porridge from my own serving and she has that with some fruit and Greek yogurt. If it’s my husband, Weetbix (the kids ones with less salt, there are mixed messages about salt before the age of 1, so we try and reduce it or avoid it), still with fruit and Greek yogurt. To save time and effort, when I make my own stewed fruit for my breakfast at the start of the week, I mash a bit up for her and then freeze it in the trays so there are easily accessible little cubes for us both! As it’s currently winter, and I try to eat seasonally with fruit, it’s pears, rhubarb and apples, and some prunes in hers to keep her regular! Also, to save money and effort, I have started making her yogurt in the EasiYo maker – to try and delay a love affair with sugar (I still struggle with mine!), we give her Greek yogurt rather than sweetened, and so far so good, she’s happy to eat it mixed with things in breakfast, or mixed with fruit later in the day as a dessert! So I make a batch of plain, then also separate some out and mix with fruit to use for other meals!

Sometimes she’s super keen on breakfast, sometimes she’s not – as breastmilk is still supposed to be a major component of her nutrition til age 1,  I give her a breastfeed first thing if I’m up, so she’s not then as hungry for breakfast til a bit later, whereas we switch it up if my husband is up. She is also becoming very independent and keen on feeding herself, which I’ll talk more about with the other meals, so I’m trying to think of nutritious breakfast finger food – we did pancakes the other day, which weren’t the greatest success, because I foolishly decided to make a big batch at the same time as trying to feed her, which meant I was distracted and she was frustrated, especially as I put the fruit purée on them, making them hard to grasp for her! I have frozen them and given them to her plain as part of breakfast and had much more success, which is good – that’s a tip I have learnt about baby feeding, if at first you don’t succeed, try again at a different time before ditching all your hard-cooked food!

  
Obligatory cute baby photo –  this is her eating breakfast a couple of months ago.

 So, suggestions for finger food breakfasts? What should I put on toast at that time of day?

I blame climate change …

Really, it must be climate change that is affecting my garden, can’t possibly be baby-induced time pressures and forgetfulness!

The reason I blame climate change is because the weather has been crazy here over summer – alternating between sweltering and stormy, my poor plants haven’t stood a chance! I even planted zucchini and kale with the best intentions, but they didn’t even sprout because the weather was so random!

My lime tree produces tiny limes that then fall off before growing to edible size – any tips? It’s been happening for a few years now – I try to add compost and citrus food, but it doesn’t help!

Our passion fruit vine is vining up the fence nicely, but no passion fruits. I have already shared the sadness of my poor blueberry plant, as the winds took all the flowers in a storm, so again, no blueberries for us!

On the upside, the marigolds that I planted last year to help the tomatoes are going fm great guns!

The kale I planted 2 years ago keeps springing eternally with almost no encouragement, you can see it in the back of the above photo! And the pretty purple flowers are my society garlic plant, always happy and lovely in my salads! 

And in news  of things I’ve actually planted in the last few months, my tomatoes are growing nicely, so we’ll have a cute little crop.

So that’s the current garden status – trying desperately to triumph against the elements and my lack of attention!

I will be back next week with cooking and freezing news – apologies for delays between posts, with a gorgeous little one who is so keen on the world that daytime naps are the enemy, I often focus on eating, showering or napping when she finally succumbs, but will have more regular posts, probably indoor focused as my gardening is even less likely to succeed as we enter winter! And that’s ok, because I’m nurturing a gorgeous little human instead 😊



For auld lang syne

So, another year comes to a close. I started this year by starting this blog, because I wanted a new hobby, a creative outlet and a way of discussing and sharing my other hobbies with other like-minded people.

The first half of the year went well with my garden, my cooking, my freezing and my blogging. The second half of the year, not so much on all fronts.

However, I am ok with that, as the reason for all of that is my gorgeous daughter. That was also a goal of 2014, one which I am very happy we were able to achieve with minimum fuss (well, the pregnancy bit, anyway, life with a newborn is maximum fuss!)

Now our bub is 11 weeks old, and we are starting to feel a little bit more like parents, understanding her a bit more, and enjoying her developing personality with her smiles and cute noises. My long-neglected garden finally got a backyard blitz yesterday, as the cat naps Abby likes to take during the day don’t leave much time for the type of cultivation (and weed removal!) required. With the generous babysitting of grandparents, Jon and I were able to fix the garden back up, remove all the weeds and dead plants, and make it feel like a nice place again! Before and after shots below.

Having a baby has taught me patience, to embrace the chaos, and that sometimes you need to press pause on things, change your goals, and that’s ok. My garden has not had my attention, and that, combined with some crazy weather (heat followed by storms followed by cold followed by storms followed by heat) has led to the sad demise of plants such as my broad beans, who grew beautifully, then succumbed to Robert Downey mildew before we could harvest enough for a meal – specimens below.

I also haven’t been able to cook or blog much, partly because of lack of time, partly because of lack of energy while I processed this massive change! But again, that’s ok! Life is what happens when you’re making other plans!

New Year’s resolutions? I will keep blogging, and will return to my gardening and cooking, but with the understanding that having these activities forcibly scaled back by another amazing creation is definitely worth it! I’ll try not to become too much baby blog, but will share some highlights (or poo stories, if you want those, we’ve got plenty!)

The garden is surviving well – new tomato plants are thriving, as are strawberries – from a pre-bought plant rather than seed, something which again is ok as cultivating from seeds was a bit beyond me over the past few months! I planted some zucchini and kale yesterday, so we’ll see how we go! Some herbs are on the cards for the new year, maybe some lettuce – I am scaling back my plans to focus on things we will eat and that are low maintenance for the time being, so I feel less guilty about not being able to focus so much on the garden!

And cooking will also return, I need to make more snacks for me that are less sugary (breastfeeding makes me starving and a sugar monster!) and have more nutrition, and as the little one calms down more in the early evening, fancier meals will return! But again, the change is good, and it’s all about short-term adaptation for long-term gain.

So Happy New Year, thanks for sharing 2014 with me, and being understanding, and I look forward to more adventures in 2015!

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Growing, cooking and freezing of a different kind

There has been a long delay between posts, and while there are multiple reasons, I think the longer I left it, the more epic I thought the next post needed to be, which makes it harder to start again! So, here is the small post that will restart me on regular posts again, sorry!

As you know, I’ve been growing a different kind of plant, a baby-shaped one! To stretch the metaphor, the baby was growing and cooking for most of this year, and the last few weeks of pregnancy really made it hard for me to cook or garden, as bending down or lifting things became a real challenge, with a large watermelon blocking my movements!

Our gorgeous baby girl Abigail was born in mid October, and I must admit, my life has been a bit on freeze since then, as dealing with a newborn, however cute she is, has been quite the shock to my system and way of life. I think I naively assumed that while the baby would impact on what I do, that I would be able to return to normal programming fairly quickly, because all babies do is sleep, right? Well, they do that, sometimes, when it suits them, but they also feed a lot, and as I’m breastfeeding, and recovering from a C section (little bub was breech for quite a few months, so no way of dislodging her otherwise!), it’s all quite tiring and overwhelming. I know that the first few weeks are tough, everyone says it, everyone’s been through it, but it is quite another thing to actually go through it yourself.

So my garden is definitely suffering, it’s getting watered, but not much else, ie weeding and staking have fallen by the wayside, because again, bending is a challenge! In terms of cooking, we prepped a few things before the birth, such as spaghetti sauce, burrito mix, soup and some snacks, a recipe for one of which I will share in the coming weeks, and froze them, so that’s been quite handy, as being tired and then thinking about cooking isn’t high on the list!

Once things settle down a bit, I will do some more posts about my poor garden (some storms and heat have not been kind) and some cooking I’m doing, and will probably reflect a fair bit of motherhood as well, because I hear that no-one has ever blogged about that before! 😉

To leave you with a couple of photos of the angel (when she’s not being a demonic crying monster!)

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