29 December, 2006

Savoury Carrot & Cinnamon Rye Bread

Since I'm downstairs with baby during the day, I figured I'd really get into the role by doing something creative in the kitchen. So, I whipped out the bread machine my ex-company gave me as a gift a while ago and started experimenting. It was surprisingly easy to make great bread. I'll share the 'keepers' with you.

Savoury Carrot & Cinnamon Bread
This bread is wonderfully aromatic and makes the house smell fantastic. If I ever decide to sell up, I'll be baking this when people come around few viewings. Oh, and it tastes fab too.

Just throw the following ingredients into the bread machine and bake on the wholemeal bread cycle. This recipe makes a 1.5lb loaf and I recommend a dark crust.

1 cup strong white flour
2 cups rye flour
1 cup water
1 large carrot, finely grated
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp yeast

07 December, 2006

Tahina, Pecan & Cardamom Cookies

I don't usually bake cakes or cookies, so I thought I'd share one of my few baking recipes. These cookies are just so quick and easy to make, and taste so good, that even I make the effort every once in a while.

1/2 cup unsweetened tahina paste
110g butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup pecans
2 whole cardamom pods
1/2 tsp baking powder
Greaseproof paper baking sheets

1. This recipe goes very quickly, so start by preheating the oven to 160C (325F).

2. Cream together the butter and the sugar (easier if the butter is at room temperature first).

3. Add the tahina paste and vanilla.

4. Seive in the flour & baking powder.

5. Chop the pecans into small pieces (or you can put them into a small sandwich bag and bash them about a bit with a rolling pin) and add them too.

6. Split open the cardamom pods, to reveal the black seeds inside. Grind the seeds into a fine powder with a pestle and mortar (discarding the outer green husk) and add to the bowl.

7. Mix everything really well until a dough is formed. Divide the mixture into 30 small balls.

8. Line a baking try with the baking sheet and space out the balls 3-4 inches apart. You'll probably need to bake them in batches.

9. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before moving them on to a wire rack to cool. If you touch them before this, they will fall apart.

10. Allow to cool (they really do taste better cool!) and enjoy. They really are wonderful!

06 December, 2006

Hairum Scarum

For the past three weeks my hair has been falling out. It's everywhere! I'm constantly picking hairs off baby and sweeping up dusty hairballs. After hubby picked out a few from dinner the other night, I started wearing a headscarf around the house. I'm now wearing it out and about as well, since I've gone extremely thin on the top. It is upsetting. I have read that some hair loss is normal 3-4 months after giving birth, but I think my case is a little more extreme. The doctor prescribed Zinc & B6 but it doesn't seem to be slowing down the shedding. Every time I run my hand through my hair, 4-5 hairs come out. I really hope it all grows back, even though it's bound to take months.

I have an appointment with a dermatologist next week which I hope will allay my fears about my hair staying this way. While I'm still at home with baby it's not too much of a problem, but I will need to start job-hunting in 2 months time and I don't think bandanas will give the right impression at a job interview. I've been debating whether or not to try wearing a wig until my hair grows back. There are some gorgeous ones out there that would probably look better than my own hair (which always curled the wrong way even when I had a head-full!), but I'm not sure how I'd explain the change from a fabulous wig back to my normal hair (or vice-versa).

If anyone has any tips, advice, experience of after-birth hair loss or wearing a wig, drop me line!

19 November, 2006

Adzuki Bean Chilli

Since I'm a de facto "stay-at-home mom" I though I'd share my most recent culinary triumph, vegetarian adzuki bean chilli. I bought some adzuki beans on the spur of the moment last week and this was the result. It kicks ass.

Adzuki Bean Chilli
250g adzuki beans
2 large onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic
4 medium carrots, diced*
1 large red bell pepper, diced*
1 cup basmati rice
1 large tin diced tomatoes
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric*
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp sweet paprika*
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander*
1 tsp tabasco (or a much as you like, I like a lot)
* Optional. Add it if you have it, but it will still turn out great if you don't.

1. Prepare the beans
Soak the adzuki beans in warm water for at least 4 hours (or you can put them in water in the fridge over night). Change the water and boil them in 5 cups of fresh water for 40 minutes. Add 2 tsp of salt and boil for another 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain.

2. Prepare the rice
Wash the rice well in a few changes of water. Add a little over 1 cup of water and 1 tsp salt. Leave to soak for 10 minutes. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer on a low flame for 5 minutes (don't lift the lid!) and then turn off heat and leave, covered for another 10 minutes.

3. Make the chilli
Heat oil. Add the spices, stir, and add the onions, carrots and red pepper. Add the prepared adzuki beans. Add the tin of tomatoes and the same quantity of water. Stir. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add tabasco and stir. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add rice and stir well. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes and take off heat. Leave covered to allow the rice to soak up the sauce. Serve.

Now tell me how you'll never bother with a meat chilli again. I won't!

04 November, 2006

Day Tripping

On Friday we had our first real family day out. Hubby, myself, baby and a good few tons of baby equipment. I never understood why such small babies need so much stuff. Now I realise they don't - we do. Babies would generally be quite happy to stay home until they could get up and start exploring by themselves. The massive amount of fuss, packing and arguing is the price we pay for insisting on taking them 'out'.

It took three trips from the house to the car to load everything. Here's a run-down of the packing list:

- Child safety seat: A must-have if you're driving baby anywhere. This takes up half of the back seat.

- Pram*: To wheel baby and the rest of the baby equipment around the park we planned to visit. This takes up pretty-much the whole boot*.

- Folding playpen: For baby to play in while we visit with her grandparents. Since I'm in the back with baby, this takes up the front passenger seat.

- Various bags containing: Clean clothes (in case she poos, pees, pukes or all three over what she is wearing at the moment), clean bottles, formula, the ubiquitous breast pump, lots of cloth nappies* for baby to lie on, spit up on or be shaded by while in her pram etc., disposable nappies, nappy cream, cotton wool, a thermos with warm boiled water for making up formula 'on the go', a couple of blankets and a bag of baby's favourite toys.

Was it worth it? Well, yes. The weather was glorious, the park was beautiful and baby's grandparents were thrilled to see her. Baby seemed to enjoy the fresh air and her Daddy & I enjoyed some quality time with each other. I just wonder if we'll get around to unpacking all the bags before our next trip..

* For any Americans readers: pram = stroller, boot = trunk, nappy / nappies = diaper / diapers

01 November, 2006

Not Tonight, Josephine

I have a headache. Really. That and sore boobs. Nothing like half an hour of breast pump drone to get you in the mood. That and finding a snoring hubby when you're done.

I'm beginning to suspect that my little bundle of joy will be an only child.

29 October, 2006

The Trouble With Mr. Darcy

There's nothing like a dreary autumn weekend to find that Pride & Prejudice is on TV. The education channel was showing it on a loop, non-stop over the weekend. This is the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, i.e. the best one. So, in between feeds and nappy changes, I spent the weekend transfixed in front of the telly, mug of tea in hand and rattly toy in the other.

I remember buying the VHS video of the series when it first came out over 10 years ago. I would watch it in pretty much the same way - minus the rattly toy - and wonder longingly when my dashing and mysterious Mr. Darcy would come along. Back then, it was my mum who would come along and moan at me for 'watching that thing again'. Now it's my husband, unwashed, unshaven and wandering around in long-past-their-prime boxers and socks. 'I like it,' I reply stobbornly and he shrugs his shoulders and disappears upstairs to his computer games.

He did ask me a few times what I like about it and I gave him a long lecture about Jane Austen's witty social commentary and English social structure during the period. This either satisfied him or bored him, either way he didn't ask again. The truth is though, that I just love to lose myself in the fantasy of meeting, falling for and being desired by, Mr Darcy. High-brow Mills & Boone, but I love it.

And I could never imagine Mr Darcy with holey boxer shorts. In fact, I find hard to imagine Mr. Darcy with any boxer shorts at all. Grin.

27 October, 2006

Mr. Worry

While I was over at a friend's this week, I noticed that she had a Mister Men book on her bedside table. It was Mr. Worry. After reading through it, I knew that it would be next book I'd buy for myself. It went something like 'When it was sunny, Mr. Worry would worry that his plants would die. When it rained, he would worry that his roof would leak'. That's me. At least way too much of the time.

A major for example: going back to work after my maternity leave. The question of what would happen at the end of my maternity leave has been worrying me throughout my pregnancy. Now that I've made the decision to resign from my job and stay at home with baby until January, I'm worrying about whether I will find another job when I look for it. The fact that there is nothing for me to do about it until January doesn't stop me worrying about it.

That's the thing about worrying; it robs you of the moment, of what you can experience right here, right now. And right now I want to be enjoying this break with my baby.

In the book, a wizard comes along and tells Mr. Worry that if he writes down all the things that he's worried about, he'll make sure that they'll never happen. As a grown-up woman, I still catch myself wishing that someone would come along and take all the worry away. Thing is, I know that even if someone did, as happens with Mr. Worry, I'd still find something new to worry about.

Maternity Now

I'm 32 and a new mum at last. That does imply, correctly, that I was looking forward to the event. Only, now it's happened, it seems that it was the sort of 'looking forward' that a 10-year-old would do to growing up, falling in love, getting married, having cute little babies and living happily ever after. Now I'm here, I wonder if I every really re-examined that agenda since I set my heart on it at 10. Not that my little daughter isn't wonderful - she is - it's just that reality sets in harder the futher you get towards the supposed 'happily ever after'.

Yet, new motherhood is nothing like I expected. But then neither was getting married, or growing up for that matter.

This blog will be a journey into the 'happily ever after' of post-motherhood. Join me. Who knows, maybe we'll get there.