Sunday 28 December 2014

Recipe: Barley and cous cous bake

It's a Christmas tradition that even though we are guests for Christmas lunch, as I am the only vegetarian, I supply the vegetarian main. Gradually, this has morphed into me being responsible for all the 'picky' eaters - that is, the vegans, the vegetarians, the gluten free and those who want a healthier option. I therefore always play it safe with my contribution and make it relatively spice free and appealing to most palates and diet types.

This year, I wanted a change from my usual mushroom and sage loaf, particularly as we are still in a delicate stage with Jimmy's feeding, and sage tends to dry up breast milk supplies, something I really didn't want to inflict on my baby on a day when he'd want the extra comfort of nursing with all the new people around him.

I decided that I would make a spiced grain bake, flavoured with spices and some lemon juice to keep it fresh as it was a hot Christmas this year. It turned out quite tasty, although not as 'sliceable' as my loaf option, so there were no perfectly cut portions, more of a delicious heaped serving upon plates.

Barley and cous cous bake
printable link


  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup pearl (israeli) cous cous
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tin green lentils
  • 1 tbsp ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped finely
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 small carrots, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil


  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line your baking dish with baking paper
  2. Cook the barley and cous cous in boiling water. Just before the water is completely absorbed, remove from the heat and leave it to sit, covered, for an extra 15 minutes
  3. While the grains are sitting, saute the onion in the coconut oil until softened
  4. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste
  5. Transfer the mix into your prepared baking dish and press down firmly
  6. Bake for 45 minutes and allow to sit an additional 15 minutes before serving

  • You could easily use other grains if you prefer. Quinoa would be nice and give it a slightly nuttier flavour. I think brown rice would also be delicious
  • Feel free to switch up the spices and even add herbs for a different taste. I played it safe and omitted chilli, but if it was just for me, I would have added it in
  • This was super easy to prepare. In fact, I made it the night before I needed it, then just removed it from the fridge, allowed it to come to room temperature and then baked it on the day I needed it. I think this really helped the flavours to infuse throughout too
How was your Christmas? What was on the menu and are you still eating the leftovers?

Monday 15 December 2014

Newborn photography

When Ellie was born, I was sent a hamper from work that included a voucher for a newborn photography shoot with a free photo included from a big photography company. Not knowing any better, we went along, had a fun shoot posing with the props they told us to in the poses they suggested. We duly went back and were presented with lots of beautiful images that we were welcome to purchase for a small fortune. And that's how they get you.
Look, I'm not saying they weren't worth it. And I'm not even saying we walked away without the photos because, well... it was Ellie as a newborn! I know photographers need to be paid for their time and everything, but sometimes, what they charge is a joke, and your photos look like every other photo that they take there.
So I took a different approach with Jimmy. This time, we had the photographer come to us. We chose someone with a relaxed style, who captured real life images. I didn't want anything too photo shopped or cliched, I didn't want perfect poses that weren't us, and I didn't want to look at the images and feel awkward.
I'm so happy with what we got back. These photos are us. They capture the real us - from Mr Fork having his phones in his pocket (thanks honey!), to Ellie throwing a tantrum because Peppa Pig couldn't be in the photo, to Jimmy yawning mid shot, to my amazing new baby cleavage (ha!). We even had the puppies included because hey, they're part of the family too!
Photography by Little Seeds Photography.

Please note that this is not a sponsored post. I value good photos and I really wanted someone to capture the early days of Jimmy and our family - I paid for these photos.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Let's talk tongue and lip tie

Fair warning. This post is about breastfeeding. I talk about my nipples. There are pictures of my crying child because that's how I could best photograph his tongue. If that's not your thing, feel free not to read this post and maybe read about my kitchen instead :)

I've mentioned that with parenting the second time around, you just know when things aren't right. So I just knew that feeding little Jimmy wasn't going right. Sure, he was gaining weight. In fact, one month post birth he was over a kilogram heavier than birth weight. That's great! Not so great however, was convincing people that something wasn't right, because they all pointed out he was putting on weight and having the appropriate number of nappy changes.

Still... feeding took forever. He slept poorly, waking on a 1.5-2 hour cycle, around the clock. He was constantly gassy, and dribbling milk. My poor nipples were sore and bruised and little Jimmy's mouth was one big blister from gripping onto me for dear life. I'd had his mouth checked at the hospital before discharge and was told he looked fine and his latch seemed good if a little shallow. I never seemed to be able to get him to flange his lips or open as wide as I thought he should to latch on. When he cried, his little tongue would cup up and not poke out much at all.

At two weeks, I reached out to our community health feeding clinic, who watched a feed and told me I was doing everything right from a mechanical perspective. Of all the people I'd seen and asked about feeding, this lactation consultant was the only person who felt around in Jimmy's mouth and diagnosed him with a posterior tongue tie, which was also confirmed at my home midwife visit when I asked her. However I was advised that since he was gaining well, it likely didn't need treatment, and my sore nipples were normal newborn feeding side effects.

I'd never heard of tongue tie before to be honest. I googled the heck out of it, and joined support groups online. It made me feel better to know there were other people going through what I was going through - the sleepless nights, the painful nursing, all while hearing there was no problem "because baby is gaining weight"!

Captured! A sleeping moment
For me though, the pain was awful. My nipples would come out misshapen and I'd dread the next feed. I found a local dentist who was passionate about tongue tie and specialised in laser tongue-tie surgery. I scheduled a consultation and treatment as soon as possible - Jimmy would be five weeks old before we could be seen. Knowing I had that appointment kept me sane... ticking off the days until I could get help meant I was able to get through all those feeds.

The day of the appointment arrived and I have never felt such relief. Someone listened to me and sympathised with all my symptoms. Jimmy was diagnosed with a class IV tongue tie and a class III lip tie, which commonly occur together. Releasing the ties would help our nursing relationship, and further, would decrease the likelihood of future issues such as speech and eating problems, cavities and orthodontic work which are common disorders associated with tongue tie.

Jimmy was taken away and we were asked to step outside so that we didn't hear his reaction to the treatment and I could nurse him calmly afterwards (infants who are breastfeeding are typically revised without anaesthesia). I'm told he was swaddled and held tightly while the dentist used the laser, and that my Jimmy didn't cry at all. All up it took maybe five minutes maximum, and then I was taken to a quiet room, Jimmy was placed in my arms and we breastfed under the direction of the dentist (herself a mum and strong breastfeeding advocate) and a lactation consultant.

Before and after - look how high that tongue goes and how far the mouth opens now!
That first feed... what can I say. I'd always been told that breastfeeding was painless and pleasant. Although I fed Ellie for nine months, I can honestly say it was never completely pain free, but I grew to enjoy it. With Jimmy, I finally got what everyone meant. He latched beautifully, he drained my breast and I fed him without pain. And then... miracle... he slept, for three hours. And that night, he slept in three hour cycles, which meant, for the first time in FIVE weeks... so did I. Do you hear that? I slept longer than an hour. I felt like a new woman.

One week post procedure, it's still rough I'll be honest. We do some manual therapy to complement the release, because Jimmy needs to relearn how to use his mouth and nurse 'correctly' as opposed to coasting along off my let down and gripping me with his gums. We've been given exercises to do to improve his suck and help him develop muscles that he hadn't been using before. Essentially he is re-wiring his brain and learning new ways to control this extra movement he suddenly has, which is pretty amazing really.

Doing the stretches to make sure his ties don't reattach is heartbreaking. Constantly correcting his latch is frustrating, and knowing he is in pain is awful. We are getting there though. We still have bad feeds, but we also have good feeds as well. Just like we have good sleeps and bad ones where he is back to his 1.5 hour cycle. He is gradually starting to sleep longer though (hallelujah!) and he is much less windy because he is latching better and therefore swallowing less air. My nipples still get sore and he still has nursing blisters, but I'm confident that will improve as his muscle tone and mouth strength improve, especially as we continue with the physiotherapy and work with a lactation consultant.

It's hard having a growth-spurt, post surgery cranky baby and a highly energetic and attention hungry toddler, but this is where baby wearing comes in handy. I do adore snuggles and the little snores that happen when he falls asleep against my chest.

Snuggles for the win!
Tongue tie is a contentious issue I've found. Some medical providers don't believe they affect feeding. Some believe if you came poke out your tongue (Jimmy could) there is no issue, failing to consider a posterior, sub mucosal tie might be present. These sorts of ties can only be felt with a manual examination and often cause many feeding problems initially as the tongue doesn't reach the roof of the mouth for efficient drainage. They can be hard to diagnose as some babies continue to gain weight coasting along off initial good supply and strong let downs. Apparently, with the increase in formula feeding, lots of medical people stopped learning about tongue ties, but now that breastfeeding is increasing, a lot more ties are needing attention - after all, a bottle doesn't complain of pain.

I don't blame the medical people I saw at all, but what I did learn from this experience is to trust your instincts... if you don't get the answers you need, continue to seek help because no one knows your baby like you do.

Friday 5 December 2014

What's in my kitchen, December 2014

As my final IMK for the year, I'd like to take the opportunity to send out season's greetings. 
I look forward to visiting other kitchens redolent with the smells of the festive season and drooling over kitchen creations, something that my kitchen is currently lacking!

In my kitchen is...

A box of ready to eat meals, courtesy of my awesome baker friend and her man. Yes, its a bit of a terrible picture as Mr Fork was grabbing for stuff as I took it... but this box is jam packed full of delicious things, both vegetarian and meaty so that Mr Fork, Ellie and I can just reheat and be eating something scrumptious in seconds. I am in awe of the sheer love, effort and thought that went into this box of gifted goodies... and my stomach thanks them every time I eat a meal that isn't takeaway! This is a fabulous present for anyone with a new baby! Or anyone really...

In my kitchen is...

Chocolates from local markets. Delicious dark chocolate with figs or with nuts and chilli to be exact. They are amazing, and I am spacing out the eating of them as otherwise I will indulge far more often than is healthy...

In my kitchen is...

A ginormous blueberry muffin, courtesy of another friend who stopped by to visit Jimmy, and kindly brought his ever-hungry mother some sustenance as well. I shared this monster muffin with Ellie when she came home from daycare so that I didn't feel such a greedy eating machine.

I should add that Mr Fork has gone back to work now, so it's just me watching Ellie and Jimmy during the days. I didn't really appreciate how much work a newborn would be with a toddler as well, and I'm thankful for the generosity of my friends who make sure that I have plenty to eat, even if I can't always find the time to eat it!

In my kitchen is...

A Merryteaser Reindeer (or several). I didn't think it could get better than the MaltEaster Bunnies, but turns out there is a Christmas version too. Oh happy days! These little fellows are harder to find in stores than I'd expect, but Coles sometimes has them in their seasonal aisle. I have to hide from Mr Fork and Ellie when I eat one, as I swear those two have a special extra sense for seeking out the crinkling of chocolate wrappers...

In my kitchen is...

A pile of spinach. Fresh from the garden, I think it'll be the last of my planted spinach as the heat is starting to make it all look a little sad and past it's prime. I hustled out before the day got hot to harvest this bunch, as well as one ripened eggplant that the possums missed. The spinach was then separated into leaves and stems, blanched, cooled, bagged and labeled ready to freeze as I'm just not enthused enough to cook with it right now but I didn't want it to go to waste.

I'm thinking when I get my cooking mojo back in force, I will use the spinach leaves to create a pie I've been pondering lately, and the stems will find their way into various stews, stocks and soups.

In my kitchen is...

An apple tea cake, baked especially to help use up some of the sad looking apples from my fruit box. This is a simple recipe which freezes beautifully and which Ellie and I enjoyed for both morning and afternoon tea one day.

I am linking this post in with Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Seven song titles to describe life lately

Song titles which describe my life right now:

  • I Think We're Alone Now (Tiffany) - What I sing to Jimmy when I'm up doing the many late night feeds and trying to settle him... it's such a nice snuggly time alone with just him and I
  • Zombie (The Cranberries) - How I feel after a long night where I'm up feeding continuously every two hours or so 
  • I can't help falling in love with you (Elvis Presley) - Lucky the little fellow is so cute... what I think when he snuggles his tiny head into my shoulder and falls asleep... sleep deprivation and milk monster status and all
  • Red, red wine (Neil Diamond) - What I wish I could have... I'm holding out for the time when Jimmy spaces his feeds long enough for me to indulge! 
  • Bad Day (Daniel Powter) - How I feel when I just settled Jimmy down at 4am, Ellie has crawled into bed with us at 4:30 and then Mr Fork's alarm goes off at 5 to get him ready for work. It's going to be a long, long day
  • Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx) - What I'm sure Jimmy is thinking after I've spent ages feeding and settling him for a nap... and he's planning to wake up again as soon as my head hits the pillow 
  • Sweet Dreams (The Eurythmics) - What are these again? I've calculated I'm probably averaging about 5 hours total sleep in each 24 hour period... broken into chunks of time way smaller than I want
Source: unknown

What song title/s describe your life right now?


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