7 Days of Slow Cooking…

Mr G bought me a Slow Cooker a few months ago and it had been sitting unopened in the corner of the pantry for far too long!  So I set myself the challenge of using my Slow Cooker every day for 7 consecutive days in an attempt to embrace this new style of cooking.

I found a great blog by Hello Little House and chose 7 recipes for my week of slow cooking.

Day 1 – Beef Casserole

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I kicked off on Monday with a Slow Cooker Beef Casserole which we had with some mashed potato.  I really enjoyed this and it is a great winter warmer.  I used blade steak and it was lovely and tender, but next time I would add even more vegetables at the request of Mr G!

Day 2 – Parmesan Garlic Chicken

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On Tuesday I made Slow Cooker Parmesan Garlic Chicken.  I had marinated the chicken overnight and just popped it in the Slow Cooker in the morning.  I shredded the cooked chicken and stirred it through some cous cous, and we had some steamed broccoli on the side.

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Although I really liked the flavour of the chicken, it was a little dry and next time I would serve it with a yoghurt dressing to add some moistness to the dish.

Day 3 – Slow Cooked Meatballs

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On Day 3 I made Slow Cooker Meatballs and I had so much mince mixture that I made some burgers to go in the freezer.  The meatballs were nice but we concluded that we prefer my regular Bill Granger recipe.  We cooked some of the burgers last week though, and they were absolutely delicious and so juicy.  The grated carrot really adds something and I will definitely be using this mince mixture from now on.

Day 4 – Chicken Tikka Masala

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On the menu for Thursday was Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala and I was really pleased with how it turned out.  I loved the taste of the tomatoes and the creaminess of the greek yoghurt.  I will definitely be trying out some more Slow Cooker curry recipes as the long cooking time really brings out the flavours of the spices.

Day 5 – Lemon & Blueberry Blondies

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On Day 5 I experimented with baking in the Slow Cooker and made Lemon & Blueberry Blondies.  I was a bit sceptical about this recipe but they turned out so delicious!  The blondies were lovely and moist and the whole house smelt amazing while they were cooking.  I cooked mine on low for approximately 3 hours.

Day 6 – Bolognese Sauce

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It was Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce on Saturday.  I had to find this recipe on a different blog site as it did not feature in the Little House Love ’31 Days of Slow Cooking’.  Spaghetti Bolognese is a firm favourite in our house and I wanted to see how Slow Cooker Bolognese sauce compared with my usual recipe.  The sauce was delicious and the mince was so tender that it just melted in the mouth.  I have definitely been converted on this one and will only be making slow cooked Bolognese sauce from now on!

Day 7 – Baked Potato

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I ended the 7 day challenge with an easy Slow Cooker Baked Potato.  This is a great thing to pop on in the morning so that you have something quick and easy ready for lunch.

It was certainly an interesting week and I loved walking into the house during the day and smelling the delicious cooking aromas.  The Slow Cooker is a great piece of equipment and it means you can be out all day but still have a hot meal waiting when you get home.  I will be trying lots more Slow Cooker recipes over the coming months…first on the list is Slow Cooker Chocolate Lava Cake!

Handling my Fussy Eater…

I have previously blogged about my difficulties with weaning Sebastian, which ultimately led to me adopting the Baby Led Weaning approach.  Although we have had much greater success with BLW, Seb has recently entered an extremely fussy phase and food he used to adore are now spat out or thrown on the floor.

I think this fussiness coincided with the latest pair of teeth coming through, and I was guilty of giving him all of his favourite things for a few days while his gums were likely to be sore.  I have to admit that mealtimes were a breeze for that period of time when Seb’s diet consisted exclusively of toast, yoghurt, cheese cubes, strawberries and mango rice pudding!

Once I could safely rule out teething pains as a reason for Seb’s picky eating habits, I reverted back to his regular meals.  Grapes and sweet potato are still out of favour, and I am having mixed success with proper dinners like cottage pie and chicken casserole.  Last night was a small victory when Seb ate a whole bowl of chicken and pumpkin risotto that was left over from our dinner the night before, which just goes to show that there will be good days and bad days on our food journey.

This is a typical day’s meals for Seb at the moment:

Breakfast

Toast squares or Yoghurt with Fruit or Weetbix with full-fat milk and chopped banana or Fruit muesli or Pikelets with Stewed Fruit

Morning Tea

Oat Biscuits/Rice cakes

Lunch

Mini Carrot & Orange Muffins/Cheese Cubes/Chopped Strawberries/Breadsticks/Savoury Cheese & Spinach Muffin/Chopped Dried Fruit/Zucchini & Feta Fritters

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Dinner

Cottage Pie or Beef Pasta Bake or Spaghetti Bolognese or Chicken Casserole or Chicken Fingers or Mini Beef Burgers or Fish Fingers or Mini Ravioli

Steamed Vegetables (Carrots/Baby Corn/Broccoli)

Mango Rice Pudding/Yoghurt

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Although a lot of the weaning books recommend giving your baby protein at lunchtime, I prefer to give Seb his cooked meal at 5pm as it would be too restrictive if we needed to be at home for lunch every day.  The ‘Bento Lunch Box‘ concept seems to be working really well for us at lunchtime and I am really excited to make some creative lunch boxes for Seb over the coming months.  My favourite websites for Bento inspiration are Another Lunch, Lunchboxes with Love and Wendolonia.

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Stay tuned for baby-friendly Bento lunch box ideas which will be tried and tested on my little boy!

My First Batch Cooking Day…

One of my New Years’ Resolutions was to batch cook on a monthly basis and on Sunday I kicked off ‘The Year of Batch Cooking’ with my very first batch cooking day!

There was a week of planning in the lead up to my batch cooking session.  Firstly, I needed to compile a list of recipes that could be cooked in bulk and frozen.  Then I decided on a 2 week meal plan which could be doubled-up to give a month’s worth of dinners for Mr G and I.

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As I always like to make things more difficult for myself, I simultaneously worked on a batch cooking plan for Sebastian.  Gina Ford’s ‘Baby and Toddler Cook Book’ is absolutely fantastic and even has a chapter dedicated to batch cooking recipes, so it was relatively simple to come up with a variety of freezer-friendly dishes for my little man.

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The next step was to compile a ‘Master Grocery List’ and send Mr G to the supermarket with strict instructions to tick everything off as he went!  I had already bought a selection of foil trays and zip-lock bags to freeze my meals in…

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Mr G got Seb up on Sunday morning so that I could have a lie-in until 7am (I never thought 7am would be considered a “lie-in”!).  After having my essential cup of tea with breakfast, I got cracking on peeling and chopping 3 bags of carrots.  Luckily I had bought frozen chopped onion and frozen crushed garlic to use in all my recipes which saved me heaps of time and tears!  By 11am I had all my vegetables prepared and 4 portions of lasagna ready for the freezer…

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Next up was a Jamie Oliver recipe for Bolognese sauce which got transferred to zip-lock freezer bags so that it could be frozen flat to save space in our tiny freezer!

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I then cooked a final batch of mince to make some baby recipes…on the menu was Shepherds Pie, Bolognese and Beef Pasta Bake.    I bought some ramekins to freeze individual portions of the Shepherds Pie and Beef Pasta Bake…these can then be defrosted overnight and cooked in the oven.

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After a spot of lunch out with Mr G and Seb, I started work on dicing 20 chicken breasts.  I needed 10 chicken breasts for Seb’s baby recipes of Chicken & Sweetcorn Casserole, Mediterranean Chicken and Chicken Marengo.  I used small plastic containers to store individual portions of each dish…I even had to dash out and buy some more as my supply quickly ran out!

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I bagged up portions of diced chicken breast to be frozen and used for risotto, pasta dishes and curries….this is another one of my big time-savers.  I then marinated the remaining chicken breasts in herbs and olive oil and transferred them to zip-lock freezer bags.  These can be defrosted and cooked on the BBQ, and make a simple but delicious mid-week dinner served with some tasty cous cous.

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I have a ‘Freezer Inventory’ stuck to my fridge door so that I can keep track of what is in there as its impossible to see the contents of the freezer now that it is full to bursting!  Here is what I have managed to fit into my extremely compact freezer (obviously not all of it was made on Batch Cooking Day)…

  • 4 Lasagnas
  • 1 Moussaka
  • 2 portions of Fish Pie
  • 3 portions of Marinated Chicken
  • 5 portions of Diced Chicken Breast
  • 6 portions of homemade Pizza Dough
  • 5 portions of Bolognese Sauce
  • 5 baby portions of Bolognese Sauce
  • 8 baby portions of Beef Pasta Bake
  • 8 baby portions of Shepherds Pie
  • 10 baby portions of Mediterranean Chicken
  • 7 baby portions of Chicken Marengo
  • 9 baby portions of Chicken & Sweetcorn Casserole
  • Mini Banana Muffins/Mini Carrot & Orange Muffins
  • 2 baby portions of Stewed Strawberries & Blueberries
  • 3 baby portions of Rice Pudding
  • 4 portions of Mini Chicken Burgers
  • 4 portions of Parmesan Chicken Fingers
  • 2 portions of Mini Beef Burgers
  • 3 portions of Fish Fingers
  • 4 portions of Mini Sausages
  • 6 homemade Mango Ice Lollies (using Annabel Karmel’s baby ice lolly moulds)

After a full day in the kitchen, we all had my Bolognese sauce with pasta for dinner as I was too tired to do any more cooking.  Even though it was quite a hectic day (and one Mr G is not keen to repeat any time soon!), I still think that batch cooking is going to work well for our family…my grand batch cooking plans are just limited by the size of my freezer!

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