Macaroni Cheese

 

 

Macaroni Cheese is one of those things that I remember from school lunches. They used to come from the tuckshop in a little foil dish, with a perfect mound of cheesy-pasta-y goodness. The cheese on top was the best bit, and I’d do my best to eat the flesh and save the skin until last!!

These are a great toddler meal because you can just use leftover pasta sauce. Mix the sauce with some cooked macaroni, mozzarella and parmesan and bake in the oven until golden.

It’s really fun to deconstruct with little fingers!

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We *may* have made a large serve for ourselves for dinner the next night after sampling these little pots of delish!

 

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Cheesy scrolls (& risotto balls)

One of the Mums at playgroup had these hiding in her daughter’s lunchbox! They looked so yum… I just had to try them. They were super easy and I had to seriously stop myself from devouring the leftovers.

1. Take one piece of puff pastry (I prefer the yummy butter variety), thaw it a little, and smother it in leftover, homemade pasta sauce.

IMG_35442. Top with cheese.

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3. Roll the piece up and then slice into 1cm (or so) slices.

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4. Bake in the oven at about 200⋅C for about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.

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You could put all sorts of things in these. Spinach and ricotta would be yum!

I also found this fantastic recipe for pumpkin and bacon risotto balls. You don’t need to make the risotto in the traditional way, you just throw the rice in the oven with lots of water and it soaks up the water. I didn’t use stock, just water, and I made it with spinach and carrot. The little one loved them!

Making Baozi (BJ Bucket List #5)

Yes, this is super late. But we’ve moved countries, stayed in four different houses, are looking for our own place and I’m pregnant again! Sheesh. Nothing like keeping things interesting.

I’m sure you picked up from the last post that food has been a big part of this adventure for us. I’ve done quite a few cooking classes in our time here, mostly at The Hutong, but the one thing that seemed to have escaped the menu was baozi, or steamed buns.

Luckily, our ayi is a very good cook, so I asked her to teach me.

The hardest thing with ayi is to get her to teach you something from the start. I don’t know if this is a common ayi problem, but she wants to reduce my effort in the kitchen, so she pre-prepared the filling and dough. Annoyingly, I really wanted to watch that being put together, as it’s so much easier to replicate later if you get your hands dirty, however, she did tell me the recipe.

Baozi dough

  • 1+kg SR Flour
  • Add water until the dough comes together. Knead.
  • Allow it to rise for about half an hour.
  • The dough should be softer than jiaozi dough.

Baozi filling 

  • 500g minced meat (we used pork)
  • oil (we used olive oil)
  • sesame oil
  • fresh ginger, grated (or finely chopped if you can do it small enough)
  • Chinese five spice
  • ground cinnamon
  • pepper
  • spring onion, finely chopped*
  • tofu, finely chopped*
  • cabbage, finely chopped (salt and leave to sit to remove water)*
  • mushroom, finely chopped (香菇, xianggu)*

*Because I am not an expert chopper, unlike my ayi, I would use the food processor whizzy machine for these ingredients.

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The tricky part of this whole recipe is really the construction. Instead of rolling the dough traditionally, Ayi turned it around in her hand and poked a hole in the middle, teasing it into a donut shape!

She then broke the long “strands” into pieces. They were then flattened into circles, the filling was place in the middle and she magically shaped them with her hand, balancing the base in the palm of her hand and using her dextrous fingers to close the buns.

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This is one of mine… ayi’s were much prettier

Really, the magic is in watching the construction. It’s just too hard to describe. So you can find some short videos that I took here:

Donut Dough
Rolling circles
Filling baozi

We steamed these babies for 15 minutes.

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And they got the tick of approval from the little one.

Baby-led Weaning Journey – 11-12ish months

Woah. 12 months is almost here. Where did that time go? As we’re prepping for our big move, I’ve been a bit slack with cooking and blogging and the like. I seem to spend my few minutes of free time making lists and calculating costs. Fun.

Sadly for bubs, strawberry season is over. We stretched it out as long as we could, but those little red balls of deliciousness just aren’t as fresh and juicy any more. Ayi had a bit of a panic. “But she LOVES strawberries. What can I feed her now?” Following this baby-led weaning program, I really didn’t want to ever get stuck in a rut of feeding bubs the same thing at the same time (fearing a picky child), but it seems that ayi was stuck in one without me noticing.

(As much as it is wonderful to have an ayi, there are some hiccups… but I know…. MCP).

So I helped ayi through this difficult time (!) with some delicious seedless grapes cut in half, de-stoned cherries, mangoespeaches and stewed apples. All of which satiated the little one. “See, ayi? She can eat other things!”

When we’re feeding her (her two arvo/evening meals) she continues to have a wide variety of things. I’m trying more and more to save a serving of what we cook the night before so that she has a new meal to try. Lasagne and other pasta based dishes are definitely a fave! And hommous is also popular. We try to keep a supply of veggie slice, lentil cakes and banana bread in the freezer for a quick go-to. (If you are looking for more recipes, I try to pin them all on this pinterest board).We’ve had a little bit of meat recently. Not a whole lot. Mainly because we usually cook vegetarian at home and I’m always a bit dubious of restaurant meat (for her), but when we spend the money on a nice cut, we should share a little with her I guess!

  • I’m always on the hunt for new ideas and recipes…What do you keep stashed in your freezer for feeding baby? Drop a comment below…

She also loves Bellamy’s baby porridge, which Grandma brought over from Australia for her. And she can feed it to herself now with a spoon. The only tricky bit is the last few bits stuck in the edges of the bowl, but Mummy and Daddy can help with that.

Yesterday we also discovered pears. Super ripe and squishy and much easier to eat than fresh apple.

Our only unsuccessful dish recently was noodles. I don’t think she minded the flavour, but they were super tricky to eat. She kept getting them stuck on her fingers and arms and it was too hard to get them in her mouth. I suspect I need to improv my cooking of noodles and perfect my noodle-to-sauce ratio.

I also recently bought a snack cup that I have attached onto the pram. This is great for going out as it is great entertainment trying to get the little snacks through the lid, and also is great coordination practice.

It is so wonderful to see her turning into a real little person. She has discovered a great game. When she has finished eating, she now feeds all the leftovers to me or Daddy. Yes, some may be half-chewed, or be a mix of fish and yoghurt, but it’s such a cute game! And I feel it (hopefully) discourages the wasting of food.

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Patiently waiting whilst Mummy does some cooking. 

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I just had to snap this…. I thought it looked so cute! A mini-meal! Steak and veg.

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Mmm….IMG_2945

And almost all of it went down! She was having a bit of trouble biting through the meat strips, and also bit her tongue in doing so, so cut them up into smaller pieces and then she fed herself.

So, after 6 months of BLW, I can definitely say that we love it! It makes our lives so easy when we go out, and we spend so much less time prepping food. The only thing that we didn’t follow, according to the book, was breast-feeding on demand. We stuck to our 4 hourly feeds during the day, which has now been weaned down to two feeds (1 morning, 1 evening). I can highly recommend it to anyone!

  • Her first birthday is coming… do you have any great baby recipes for birthday parties? Drop a comment below…

Chocolate beetroot cake

A little while back I saw a facebook status about a beetroot cake and I was instantly intrigued… it’s been on the back of my mind for a while, and I finally got around to trying one. I looked for a few recipes online and decided on this one by Nigel Slater on the BBC website.

It was the kind of cake that took quite a few dishes, but it was worth the effort. I made it for our playgroup this week.

I mean seriously, combining dark chocolate and beetroot, two of my favourite things?????? So cool. The beetroot makes it quite earthy, and so moist.

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This recipe is taken directly from the the BBC website:

Ingredients

  • 200g/7oz butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g/9oz cooked and peeled beetroot (I boiled 2 – I have no idea how much they weighed)
  • 200g/7oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 4 tbsp hot espresso
  • 135g/5oz plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 5 free-range eggs, separated
  • 190g/6½oz golden caster sugar (I substituted this with brown sugar)
  • crème fraîche or double cream, to serve

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in cake tin with a little butter and line the bottom of the tin with a disc of baking parchment.
  2. Blend the beetroot in a food processor to a rough purée.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water), then pour in the hot coffee.
  4. Stir in the butter in small pieces and leave to soften. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa together in a bowl and set aside.
  6. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks in a bowl until frothy. Stir the eggs into the chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in the beetroot.
  7. Whisk the egg whites until still peaks form when the whisk is removed. Fold in the sugar.
  8. Fold the sugar and egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool in the tin, then serve with crème fraîche or double cream.

Baby Led Weaning – zucchini slice and potato cakes

 

 

I find it hard to give the little one a balanced diet. Well, it’s not difficult. I just sometimes forget. It’s easy to make a one big serve of something, freeze it, and then she’ll eat it for the next few days. And then I suddenly think, “Aiya! She’s been eating the same thing for three days!!”. Bad parent.

So, I’m making an effort to keep a variety of things in the freezer. Here are two recipes to share!

Zucchini Slice (inspired by the recipe on pg 67 of Donna Hay magazine, Issue 65)

  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 900g veg (zucchini*, eggplant, broccoli), grated
  •  100g cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (to cut down on eggs)
  • a handful of basil, chopped
  • 2 cups of SR flour
  • pepper

Fry the onion and garlic until golden. Mix all ingredients together and bake in the oven until golden brown – about 40 minutes.

*For those of you in Beijing, I used 西葫芦 instead of zucchini.

Potato Cakes

    • 1.5kg/5 potatoes, shredded (squeeze well, or leave to drain)
    • 2 eggs
    • 150g flour
    • pepper
    • 2-3 tblsp cheese (I used some parmesan)
    • 5 cloves of garlic

    Mix it all together. Drop balls into a fry pan and flatten them with your spatula.

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Both were very popular with the little one! Let me know if you try it out too!

Baby Led Weaning Journey – 6ish to 9ish months

I was introduced to the concept of ‘Baby Led Weaning’ by a friend here in Beijing whilst I was pregnant. She recommended that I read: Baby-Led Weaning, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

As I read the book, the concept started to make more and more sense. In my mind, I could see how this process could lead to more independent, less fussy eaters in the long run. A parents dream, right? Also, I can all-too-easily remember how picky my younger sister was, and I’m pretty damn sure I was an annoying, very simple, plain eater as well. I was immediately attracted to how this method requires less food preparation. The basic idea is that your baby ends up eating what you eat. This means no prep of mushy foods.

So, at six months we gave it a try. We sat Adella down in her bumbo chair with some sticks of steamed vegies. Watching her slowly bring the snacks to her mouth and realising that they weren’t just an inanimate object for chewing on, and were instead to be swallowed, was fascinating. We put a wide range of foods in front of her and let her pick and choose and munch as she likes.

These are the foods that she has tried so far:

  • 1st month: steamed carrot and broccoli, bananas, apple, bread, hummous, crackers
  • 2nd month: pikelets (made with banana instead of sugar), strawberries, mandarin, salmon, breadsticks
  • 3rd month: pumpkin, yoghurt, mango, pineapple, lasagne, pasta, lentil cakes, chicken

My favourite has been strawberries. From the first one, she just loved the sweetness. And within about a week, she had totally worked out how many bites she had to take out of one before she could safely put the rest of it in her mouth.

It seems like a lot of people get scared because of choking hazards, but instinct always seems to kick in. Her gag reflex brings anything too big back to the front of her mouth. In almost three months, I think I’ve only pulled two things out of her mouth. Even so, it took a little while for me to totally relax, but I made sure I never panicked. I feel that our emotions affect our children so easily.

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It’s not all perfect of course, there are some challenges. One of the main ideas is that you encourage your children to sit down and eat with you, so that you are eating as a family. On our current schedule, this is kind of tricky. We do our best to sit down with her though, and at least have a snack. We also don’t have a table to eat around. This is making us sound like quite a dodgy family, but we always eat around the coffee table. We used to have a dining room table, but since Adella arrived, we had to reshuffle our furniture and the dining table got dismantled. However, our plan is to have one again when we move soon. Ah, apartment living. So, for now, the Bumbo chair has been doing a great job, but the little one’s thighs are getting a little podgy and it’s getting harder to get her out of it! We have ordered a high chair, and it’s on its way. It’s also a challenge to find crackers and things that have no nasty ingredients in them. I have become very aware of ingredient lists on packages now.

And, eating out in China can be quite funny. In general, people are quite fascinated by the process. Sometimes they panic, thinking that the crazy foreigners don’t know how to feed their baby. Also, there’s a definite lack of high chairs in local restaurants. We have a portable one, but it can only cope with tables of a certain depth, and for some reason, tables here always seem to be really deep. Often the hygiene standards of tabletops can also be a worry. Using plates or bowls is no good, as eventually it will go flying. I made some cute eating mats out of oilcloth which we try to use, but stopping them from getting pulled or thrown is the challenge. I’m on the lookout for the appropriate size peg to attach them onto tables with.

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My pikelet recipe:

  • 1 cup flour (I usually do half/half with white and wholewheat)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (because I don’t have SR flour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 mashed banana (to replace 1 tbsp sugar)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • unsalted butter for frying

Also, here is a great Lentil cakes recipe. I made mine with dill and parsley.

I also have some references on my pinterest board.

I have some great videos of her eating too. I haven’t worked out how I want to share these yet, but I will link it here when I do.