Monday, 28 February 2011

More than Mashed Banana - Baby Cuisine

As I'm posting this, I have a feeling it's appeal will be extremely limited to the handful of folk that normally keep an eye on this blog. Sorry peeps! It's an entirely selfish post, to enable me to record and remember the successful varieties and recipes of food I've been making for Mini-M. It's unlikely to inspire you to rush out and make it (unless you have a weird penchant for puree - or indeed a small baby), but bear with me - normal cakey/crafty service will be resumed in the next post - promise!

So, Mini-M is still very much non-dairy, which means that a lot of the exciting jars of baby food are off the menu. Apart from the fact that they are pretty expensive, there's only so much carrot and potato puree a girl can handle. And since we get our veg from a box scheme, we never know what we're going to get, so can't easily follow any of the published baby weaning food programmes (that and the fact that Ms Karmel truly terrifies me!!!).

I realised that I had built up a fairly weird and wonderful selection in the freezer, and couldn't resist the photo-op. Coupled with the fact that Mini-M seems happy to wolf them down with relish, I decided it was time to blog. So here goes...

Clockwise from top left:

Cherry Banana & Almond (makes 7 baby sized portions)
Wash and pit about 150g (a couple of handfuls) of cherries. Put into a small sauce pan with 2 tbsp ground almonds and about 100ml water. Simmer until the cherries are soft and take off the heat. Slice in 2 small bananas and then blend until smooth.

Carrot Apricot & Cinnamon (makes 7 baby sized portions)
Peel and dice 2 medium carrots. Chop up 6 dried apricots. Put carrots and apricots in a small sauce pan with 1/2 a tsp of cinnamon, and enough water to cover. Simmer until the carrot is soft, topping up with water as required. Take off the heat, allow to cool slightly, and then blend until the desired consistency is reached - I left this one quite lumpy as an experiment - Mini M still ate it.

Peach & Coconut (Makes 6 baby sized portions)
Drain 1 medium tin of peach slices in juice (not syrup). Add 2 tbsp of tinned coconut milk. Blend until smooth. This makes quite a runny puree, which I generally mix with some rice or porridge before feeding.

Apple & Pineapple (Makes 6 baby sized portions)
Peel, core and chop 2 eating apples and put in a small pan. Add 3 pineapple rings from a tin (again, in juice, not syrup). Add about 50ml water and simmer until the apple is soft, topping up with more water if necessary. Blend until smooth once cooled.

Parsnip Apple & Coconut (the white one just poking into the picture at the bottom) (makes 7 baby sized servings)
Peel and dice one large(ish) parsnip, or two small ones and put in a small sauce pan. Peel core and chop one large eating apple, and add to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of unsweetened dessicated coconut, and about 150ml water. Simmer until the parsnip and apple are soft, topping up with more water if required. Blend once cooled. The dessicated coconut will not blend away, but gives it some texture, which is good for introducing lumpier foods.

Spiced Celery & Potato (a tiny edge of this one is just visible in the bottom left corner) (makes 7 baby sized servings)
Finely chop 1 very small onion, or half of a larger one. Finely chop 1 big celery stick, or 2 smaller ones. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a small sauce pan, and sautee the onion and celery for a few minutes. Once they are soft, add a pinch of ground turmeric, a pinch of ground ginger, and a pinch of ground cumin and cook for a few minutes more. Peel and chop 1 large potato. Add to the pan, then cover with water. Crumble in a small piece of a baby-friendly stock cube (i.e. without salt or msg). Simmer until the potato is soft, topping up with water if need be. Mix in 1 tsp of chopped parsley. Allow to cool, and blend. I wasn't sure how well this would go down, as it had considerably more complex flavours and spices than Mini-M had previously had, but she seemed to really enjoy it.

Sweetcorn & Spinach (Makes 6 baby sized servings)
Finely chop 1 very small onion or half of a larger one. Sautee in 1 tsp oil until soft. Peel and chop 1 medium potato. Add to the pan and cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Add 2 tbsp sweetcorn kernels - either fresh or tinned (but in spring water, not salted water). Chop 1 very big handful of spinach and add to the pan. Add half a baby-friendly stock cube, and simmer until the potato is soft. Blend once cool enough. I added too much water, when I made it, which didn't evaporate off enough, so this was quite runny - so I just mix it with some rice flakes before serving.

Pear & Fig (Makes 5 baby sized servings)
Peel and chop 1 large pear, and put in a small pan with about 50ml water. Add 4 chopped dried figs and simmer until the figs are soft and the pear starts to break down. Blend briefly. This makes quite a runny puree, which is even runnier after freezing and defrosting, so I mix it with porridge before serving.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

A Creamy Dreamy Crunchy Sweet Daring Bakers' February

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

This was always going to be a tricky challenge for me: Panna Cotta is basically sweetened set cream, and florentines are full of butter, cream or condensed milk, and sometimes chocolate. And I'm still dairy-free. So I got a bit creative again, spurred on by my success with the dairy-free Joconde/Entremet last month.

After some extensive googling action, I came up with a recipe for Soya Milk Panna Cotta on the BBC Good Food Magazine website. But since I don't particularly like soya milk, I used Oatly Chocolate Oat Drink.

I also adapted a recipe for chocolate cherry florentines, again from the BBC Good Food Magazine website, substituting dairy free margarine for butter, and using 70% cocoa chocolate to coat it. Instead of almonds I used oats, to try to link back to the original recipe given in the challenge, and because I didn't have enough cherries, I chucked in some dried apricots too.

Because it was thinner than cream, I think the oat milk set with a firmer set, which meant it was possible to make some tiny heart shaped panna cotta, using a silicone chocolate mould. Since I made it around valentines day I went a bit heart-crazy and cut hearts out of the florentine, and served it with a red raspberry compote (made by mashing a cupful of frozen raspberries with 1 tbps oat cream, and 1 tbsp icing sugar)

Then later in the month I was browsing through Delia Smith's How to Cheat at Cooking, and I found a recipe for coconut lime jellies, which are very similar to a dairy free panna cotta. My original recipe was actually supposed to have coconut milk in it along with the oat milk, but when I opened the tin it was a weird grayish blue colour and smelled seriously nasty, so needless to say it went down the sink and I continued on with just the chocolate oat milk. But I was still intrigued by the possibilities of the coconut version, and since I had a packet of lime jelly in the fridge I decided to give it a go.

I served it with some mango and lime sauce that was loitering in the fridge, and it was lovely - the perfect way to finish off a meal of spicy beef satay noodles in which I was a bit generous with the chili - very cooling! I didn't have a fresh lime for the jelly so just missed it out, and it was still delicious. The jelly set beautifully - wobbly but not too firm, and so unbelievably easy! I'll definitely be making it again.

Coconut & Lime Jellies (from Delia Smith's How to Cheat at Cooking) (serves 4-6)
  • 1x135g block of lime flavoured jelly cubes
  • 1x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime (which I missed out and it still was fab)
  • 150ml boiling water.

Pull the jelly block apart into cubes and put in a bowl. Add the lime juice and zest and 150ml boiling water. Stir for a few minutes to completely dissolve the jelly. Pour in the coconut milk and mix well. Divide between 4-6 mini pudding tins or ramekins. Leave to set in the fridge for several hours, ideally over night. Enjoy!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 8

Posting a day late due to a hectic Friday, and since it's quarter past 11 on Saturday night, and my eyes are getting very sleepy, it'll be a swift one!

Saturday 19th February
Hmm... what can I take photos of in our bedroom, last minute before bed? A carved wooden head brought back from a holiday in Poland about 10 years ago!

Sunday 20th February
Mini-M in the sling, and wearing Jono's hat to keep her warm at a car boot sale, at far too early o'clock for a Sunday morning.

Monday 21st February
Bunny had a trip through the washing machine, as it was getting a bit crusty around the ears.

Tuesday 22nd February
Alphabet Spaghetti - 42p well spent :o)

Wednesday 23rd February
My paper hearts for the Thing-A-Day challenge

Thursday 24th February
Do you have any idea how hard it is to take a picture of yourself, wearing a baby in a sling, and holding a hand mixer? Very! But the cakes turned out yummy, even if the photo didn't.

Friday 25th February
Mini-M with her favourite toy - a sock - excellent for chewing, stretching, waving etc etc etc.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Almond Milk & Almond Cake

Since I can't have dairy at the moment, and don't like soya milk that much (small understatement) I've been looking for alternative milk substitutes. My favourite so far is Oatly Oat Milk. It is lovely and even comes is a very very yummy chocolate flavour. But it's not cheap.

And the other day I saw almond milk in a wholefoods shop, which was even less cheap, but the idea sounded nice. So after a bit of googling I decide to give making my own a shot, and I'm glad I did - it is so quick and easy, and definitely a fraction of the cost of buying it.

I just took 1/2 a cup of almonds (with the skin on) - i.e. a big handful, 5 dates - i.e. a small handful and a pint of water, put them in the liquidiser, and blended them. I then strained the liquid through muslin set in a sieve, and the resulting liquid is the almond milk. Job done! But left in the muslin was a kind of wet ground almondy daty pulp, that I couldn't bring myself to throw away.

So I made cake! Just a regular sponge recipe tweaked to include the almonds.

Almond Milk Left-Overs Cake
2 eggs
100g butter (or in this case dairy free sunflower margarine)
100g soft brown sugar
50g self raising flour
the almond/date pulp from the almond milk recipe above (about 100g)

Option 1) stick it all in the food processor and blitz.
Option 2) Cream butter and sugar, add eggs with a little bit of the flour and beat, then mix in the rest of the flour and ground almond mixture.
Pour into a greased 8in (20cm) cake tin and bake at about 180C for about 25 mins.
I covered mine with ready made chocolate icing, because I was in a hurry, it is dairy free, and tastes nicer than home made dairy-free 'butter' icing! But a proper butter icing with a hint of lemon would also be ace I think!

Friday, 18 February 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 7

Can't believe it's Friday again, and I've managed 7 weeks of daily photos without giving up - and it's becoming second nature, so things are looking likely for lasting the distance.

Saturday 12th February
Mini-M eating the sponge in the bath. It is a favourite for chewing unfortunately!

Sunday 13th February
Curved stonework on a disused railway tunnel on the Warriston Path during an early morning buggy walk - Mini-M hasn't grasped the concept of weekend long lies just yet.

Monday 14th February
Valentines Day kirigami heart I made for my better half

Tuesday 15th February
Close-up of the Merchant Navy memorial outside Malmaison at the Shore, Edinburgh

Wednesday 16th February
The view along our balcony - making it look a bit like we live in the 'hood! But we don't, honestly!

Thursday 17th February
My Valentines card: "We go together like teen girls and vampires" :o)

Friday 18th February
Swing Bridge at the Shore, Edinburgh

Monday, 14 February 2011

Nothing says 'I Love You' like experimental cake!

Super fast Valentines post while Mini-M naps...
How do you say 'I Love You' to your Valentine: chocolates, flowers, perfume, champagne, candlelit dinner? Nope - obviously you say it with a heart shaped parsnip and caraway seed cake!!! It was an experimental recipe to say the least, but it looks good. And it smelled lovely whilst baking. How does it taste - no idea! I'll have to wait until my long-suffering other half comes home from work.

Parsnip & Caraway Cake
  • 1 parsnip grated (approx 200g)
  • 180g Self Raising Flour
  • 80g Soft Brown Sugar (Light Muscovado would also work)
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 1 tsp Caraway Seeds
  • 120g Margarine (I used dairy free sunflower, but any would work)
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 2 eggs
Cream Margarine and Sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs. Stir in the flour, orange zest, caraway seeds and bicarb. Once combined, mix in the grated parsnip. Pour into a greased 20cm (8in) cake tin. Bake for about 25 mins at 170C. (I have a rather feisty fan oven, so for a less ferocious one, you might want to up the temp to 180C). Cool in tin for 5 mins before turning out.

This makes quite a stiff mix, and bakes with a crunchy top - not like a regular sponge cake. If I make it again (all dependent on how it tastes...) I would add in the juice of the orange as well as the zest to loosen it up a bit.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Better late than never: World Nutella Day

Saturday 5th February was World Nutella Day. Which made me both happy and sad. Happy that such a concept existed. Sad that I couldn't eat Nutella. But I decided I'd honour the day anyway and make Nutella brownies. Just that I forgot on the 5th, and made them on the 6th instead... and didn't get round to posting them until today, the 11th. So depending on how you look at it I was either 1 day late, 6 days late... or possibly about 359 days early for next year.

Anyway, these brownies apparently were quite tasty. In fact very tasty. My other half took them to his work, and although he claims he did, I'm still not sure he shared them with his colleagues...

They are also insanely easy to make, and you can do it all with 1 bowl & 1 tablespoon - none of this measuring and weighing and sieving and mixing and weighing and mixing etc etc etc. Which is lovely and fun in its own way. But sometimes you just want a quick baking/chocolate fix, and these fit the bill perfectly.

Nutella, Marshmallow & Cherry Brownies. (Makes about 18 mini brownies)
  • 1/2 a 400g jar of Nutella
  • 5 tbps plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small handful mini marshmallows
  • 1 tablespoon broken glace cherries

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a mini muffin tin (or two) with paper cases. Mix flour, Nutella and egg in a medium bowl. You don't need to sieve the flour - just beat hard! Mix in the marshmallows and cherries. Dollop into the prepared tins. Bake for about 12 mins. Job done! How easy is that!!!!

A Picture A Day: Week 6

A bit of an improvement in the weather this week has hopefully meant a bit of improvement in the photo taking! It has been a long week - not in a dragging on sense - but in a hectic one, and last Friday seems an age ago. Here's a snapshot...

Saturday 5th
I spent doing a herbal skincare workshop taken by Anna Canning of Floramedica. Here are the goodies we made - 'Love' tea, oatmeal rose and mint bath soak, cinnamon and clove infused massage balm & neroli sea salt scrub. Lots of fun!

Sunday 6th
Family portrait - taken on self timer as the light was going, but at least we all have our eyes open!

Monday 7th
Mini M getting stuck into some broccoli at lunch time

Tuesday 8th
A painted gable end at the corner of North Junction Street and Ferry Road, Edinburgh, with scenes depicting the history and culture of the area.

Wednesday 9th
This week's last minute photo, taken 5 mins before bed - of the origami cranes I made last year which hang in our living room.

Thursday 10th
I was very lucky to spend 2 days at a work-related conference this week - getting my brain in gear for April. It was held at Dynamic Earth, and this was taken on the Royal Mile as I was waiting for my bus home.

Friday 11th
Signs of spring - buds on the briars on the Water of Leith path during a damp buggy walk.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Thing-A-Day 2011: Kirigami Hearts

A post today that is high on the picture count and low on the word count.

I'm participating in the Thing-A-Day 2011 challenge. It's described as its organisers as 'The yearly creative sprint" and is now in its 5th year. Participants are challenged to do something creative every day for February, and post to a communal blog. If you'd like to see what everyone is up to, then hop on over to

I've chosen to go with a theme, and am making kirigami hearts. Kirigami is the Japanese art of paper folding and cutting to create beautiful filigree designs, and while I'm definitely not at the level of paper artistry of the masters, I'm hoping that if nothing else I'll improve as the month goes on!

But what to do with 28 cut and folded paper hearts.... well I'm giving them away to friends an family, and their families and friends via my Facebook, thus spreading the February love.

Here's a quick run down of my first 8 days, and one extraneous close up that actually came out in focus and I am very proud of!!!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Mango Salsa with a Secret Ingredient

It's been a busy weekend in the kitchen this weekend. And for once I remembered to take photos of at most of the results, which will hopefully keep me blogging through this week and beyond.

First up is Mango Salsa with a "Secret Ingredient" which without further faff, I can reveal as Bottlegreen Lemongrass and Ginger Cordial. And as weird as that sounds, it really adds a lovely depth of flavour. Here's my recipe.

Mango Salsa (serves 3-4 with cold meats, or as a condiment)

1 under-ripe mango
2 small or 1 large tomato (again, not too ripe works really well)
a 2 inch chunk of cucumber
A large handful of parsley (once chopped, about 2 generous tbsp)
1 scant tbsp olive oil
1 scant tbsp white wine vinegar
1 scant tbsp lemon juice
1 scant tbsp ginger and lemongrass cordial

Finely dice the mango, tomato and cucumber and put in a non-metallic bowl then finely chop the parsley and add along with the chili. Pour over the 4 dressing ingredients. Add a pinch of salt, mix well and leave for at least an hour before serving for the flavours to mingle. Best served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge.

We ate it with breaded lemon sole, wedges and broccoli, but it would go very well with grilled chicken, salmon, cold meats... anything really. It's a fab combination of spicy, sweet, tangy and crunchy, easy to make, and you aren't left smelling of onion and garlic for days - win!

Friday, 4 February 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 5

It's been a miserable, rainy and windy week, which means photo taking has by and large been an indoor activity. So this week's offerings sadly lack sunsets, panoramas, or indeed natural daylight. Here the are...

Saturday 29th
We put up a new kitchen shelf unit to fill a bit of otherwise dead space. It's actually a DVD storage unit, but fits perfectly! When I say 'we put up' I really mean my better half put up, and I filled it with kitchen junk.

Sunday 30th
I made my first ever eBay sales and parceled them up ready for sending

Monday 31st
View of the approaching rain (which soaked me before I made it home) from the incredibly scenic baby changing facilities in John Lewis

Tuesday 1st
Puddles. On our balcony. Thanks to the horizontal rain

Wednesday 2nd
Mini-M and I played with 'Photo Booth' now that my Mac is back from the Apple doctor

Thursday 3rd
Mini-M trying very hard and not quite managing to crawl (cue frustrated crying)

Friday 4th
In the high chair, with spoon, ready for lunch

That's it for this week - hope February is off to a good start for all of you!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Baby Workwear!

For once this is a makey rather than a cakey post. Believe it or not, I do make quite a lot of stuff - most often, my husband will probably vouch for, I make a mess. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is a creative mess! In fact I am taking part in the 2011 Thing-A-Day challenge. In its own words, it is "The yearly creative sprint" where participants are challenged to do something creative every day for the whole of February, and the results are posted on a communal blog. I'm going to be making kirigami hearts (cut and folded paper) which should be manageable whilst the M-ster naps. Once I've finished I'll pop all the pictures up here - maybe even in a slideshow, if I can get that technical.

Anyways, back to the matter in hand. Way way back in Spring last year, when Mini-M was still a Mini-bump some friends and I got together along with some fabric pens, and a multi-pack of white baby vests to create some customised clothing for the imminent arrival. Much fun was had, and because she was such a teeny baby when she arrived, they still fit! Score. Whilst I was changing her the other day, I thought I'd snap a couple of pics of the one I decorated.

In case you're questioning the weird design for a baby girl a) we thought she was a boy, and b) I'm an engineer, and a couple of the patterns we did were sort of engineer-y. This one would obviously be for client meeting days....

Please ignore the grungy looking carpet... we will hire a vax one of these years!

Proudly showing off the fact that she has no teeth, but ridiculously long eyelashes!


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