Sunday, January 29, 2012

New ideas from the good old Women's Weekly

I've been desperately trying not to cook the same old things for dinner every night since the new baby was born almost three months ago - I even bore myself when home-made pizzas roll around for the second time in a week. It's easy to fall back on old ideas even when you're not a little bit sleep deprived and trying to please a highly critical three-year-old. On this basis, I've been trying to slip in something different at least every couple of weeks when I can muster the enthusiasm.

That said, a couple of the new recipes that I've tried recently have been pretty expensive just because of one or two ingredients (salmon, lamb cutlets) so I decided to check out the Women's Weekly "$ Smart Cook" during a recent trip to the library even though it looks pretty lame and mumsy. The good thing about Women's Weekly books is that all the recipes are triple tested and they almost never use ingredients that are hard to find. The bad thing about Women's Weekly books is that they are pretty repetitive (this one has two recipes for fish pies and chilli con carne and three for rissoles) and include some things that you've been served up at school camps and may subsequently choose never to eat again (tuna mornay, sausage casserole).

I haven't actually made any of the recipes from the book but it did at least give me some inspiration. They had a felafel recipe which I thought wouldn't fly with the toddler but it inspired me to invent some new hidden vegie meatballs that turned out to be awesome and were very well received when marketed as "mini burgers". I'd serve them with tzatziki but it seems toddlers may prefer them with tomato sauce (ew).

Lamb and felafel kofte (meatballs)

500gms minced lamb
1 packet felafel mix*
Olive or vegetable oil to shallow fry
Tzatziki and cous cous to serve

Make felafel mixture according to packet instructions (the packet I bought just needed water added and to stand/soak for 15 minutes). Mix lamb mince into prepared felafel mixture and shape into small balls around the size of a golfball - it should make about 16.

Heat the oil over a medium-high heat and fry meatballs until golden brown on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with cous cous (add some sultanas, dried apricot and pinenuts if desired), tzatziki and greens.

Serves 3-4

*Felafel mix can be found in the health food aisle of supermarkets but is often very difficult to find! It's made up of ground yellow split peas, garlic and herbs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tips on expressing breast milk

*Please note this is a very niche post for those interested in how to use an electric breast pump and is not necessarily recommended to anyone not interested in my boobs*

I thought it might be handy to share some tips on how to successfully use an electric breast pump as I think most people who have had a go would agree that it is pretty hard work! Although I was originally quite doom and gloom about how much breast milk I could make just expressing with a machine (as my baby just cannot attach successfully) I have been producing about five times more than I did with my first bub and am now feeling pretty proud that I can produce most of what my new baby needs (about 500 mls per day).

I've learnt quite a lot about what works for me and it seems very much at odds at some other advice that I found in books and on the net so here are my five key points about what has worked for me in the hope that it might be handy for others:

1. Don't express too often and wear yourself out - most advice that I've read suggests that you should express as many times as is physically possible to keep your supply up. What I have found is that I get about the same amount of milk whether I express 8 times a day or 4 times a day. The only difference is that I have spent twice as much time at the pump if I go eight times and I feel super grumpy about how little I can get done. My boobs also tend to get pretty sore if I am expressing too often.

2. Massage, massage, massage - it doesn't take long to work out where all the milk ducts are and it is really worth giving them a good massage throughout the time you are expressing as it seems to make a huge difference to what you get out. It also helps to avoid getting close to mastitis - you certainly know when you get a hot, sore patch in your boobs and it is really important to get the milk flowing.

3. Make sure you are all set up - I find that I am much more willing to spend a full 20 minutes or so expressing if I have something to read/watch and some water and the baby is all set up either sleeping or keeping busy. Getting the milk out takes time so it is worth finding ways not to make the time tolerable!

4. Make sure you are not racing - a trap that I sometimes fall into is trying to express some milk before someone comes around or before I need to leave the house. When I do this I tend to only make a little bit and then feel really uncomfortable until I can pump again. It is better to try and allow more time than you need and not have to panic about how long it takes for the milk to get flowing.

5. Don't worry about it - while the advice you get given as a new mum is the very blunt "breast is best", sometimes it is just not going to happen. This time round I decided from the start that I would just express as much as I could and whatever would be would be. This has worked much better for me than last time around when I saw all the lactaction consultants and took all the supplements that are meant to increase your milk supply. I will always wonder whether all that worrying played a part in my supply not coming in but either way, it was not good for my state of mind and just got in the way of me enjoying the new baby.

I am totally aware that this advice just relates to my experience of expressing full time and may not work if you are just trying to express a bottle or two around breast-feeding. If you need more info about expressing and storing breast milk a couple of useful and far more comprehensive sites are:

Good luck!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thank you Mr Lightyear

I'm not really sure how it happened but sometime over the past year our three-year-old Leo developed an extreme obsession with superheros (or soup-ette heroes as he would say). It doesn't really matter which one it is, or whether he's seen the superhero on tv or in a movie, as long as the character is wearing a cape, and underwear as outerwear they must be cool - god help us if he ever comes across Lady Gaga.

I was recently led to realise that these superheroes can use their powers for good or evil when I noticed that the supermarket sells bags of Buzz Lightyear apples and pears. You have never seen a three-year-old get so excited about fruit, and especially not small and tasteless sundowner apples and packham pears. So consequently I got to smugly walk through the supermarket with a toddler in the trolley whining "Can I please have one of the apples NOW!!".

On the flipside, there are also Toy Story branded icy-poles that cause the same level of excitement and are plastered with "contains real fruit" (which I assume means grape juice concentrate or similar) as well as Wiggles biscuits, muesli bars and ricecakes etc etc. None of these things are especially bad, but it is super irritating trying to sneak past them when you're trying to get to the nappies or tinned fruit.

Despite this, I am grateful that the mega-zillionaires at Disney Pixar have chosen to use their immense branding power to sell something nutritious for once. This means that now I can always tell Leo that we've got a Buzz Lightyear apple in the bag and know that I'm reaping the benefits of the marketing geniuses - to infinity and beyond!