Happy Birthday Nino: White Chocolate & Lemon Birthday Cake

This time last year we were still in hospital. Forty eight hours after he was born, Nino had an emergency balloon septostomy in the paediatric intensive care unit of the Royal Brompton Hospital, a precursor to the open heart surgery he would undergo nine weeks later. I can remember sitting waiting for him to wake from the anaesthetic as if it was yesterday: the flutter and fall of his tiny chest, the sleepy beeps of a dozen life support machines, the artificial light illuminating our twenty four hour world and the sweet nurse suggesting, gently, for the eleventh time that I try to get some sleep myself.   Continue reading

Blackberry & Hazelnut Frangipane

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This week Nino started his settling in sessions at nursery. Having seen him through countless hospital visits, scans and over ten hours of open heart surgery, you’d think I could handle leaving him a cosy room surrounded by toys and a loving team of staff for a few hours. Not so much. It’s been a week of tears, and not all of them Nino’s. Separation anxiety, it seems, isn’t just for babies. Continue reading

Peanut Butter & Jam Mini Cake

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Last year we celebrated Luke’s birthday with a bottomless brunch, the tables filled with food, nearly 30 friends and endless bellinis. Being heavily pregnant, I replaced my alcohol calories with a lot of toast, two platefuls of miniature desserts and likely at least one more croissant than is socially acceptable, soaking up the atmosphere and pondering what we’d be doing for the next birthday as a newfound family of three. Fast forward one year and Luke spent a much more low key couple of hours in the local pub while I stayed at home sticky with Calpol as I snuggled a feverish baby to sleep. When he arrived home at the rock and roll hour of six thirty, Luke promptly fell fast asleep on Nino’s activity mat whilst tidying up his toys (true story), but not before he’d hoovered up a large slice of this peanut butter and jam mini cake. Life as we know it has changed unrecognisably, but wherever there’s a birthday, there will always be cake.  Continue reading

3 Ingredient Cookies & Cream Fudge

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There’s a time and a place for boiling pans, sugar thermometers and endless beating with a wooden spoon. Forty eight hours before Christmas Day when you’re frantically trying to finish making and wrapping edible gifts for all your family and friends probably isn’t it. Throw a (not so) tiny ten month old explorer on the brink of walking into the equation and this 3-ingredient fudge was the elf to my slightly frantic Santa. Some might call it ‘cheat’s’ fudge – you simply mix together melted chocolate, condensed milk and cookies – but when something tastes this delicious, who’s going to begrudge the odd shortcut? Continue reading

Chocolate Banana ‘Nice Cream’ with Blackberry Compote & Hazelnut Crunch (Vegan)

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Judging by all the gingerbread, peppermint, cranberry and brandy recipes that have been landing my inbox of late, this simple ice cream isn’t exactly on trend for this time of year. With no refined sugar, no dairy and an absence of alcohol, it’s possibly more suited to the New Year, New You party which rolls around with guilt-incuding speed just as you’re polishing off that Christmas selection box you found down the back of the sofa. But I’m posting it today because, despite its short ingredient list and surprising vegan credentials, this chocolate banana ‘nice cream’ tastes luxurious enough to serve alongside any more indulgent dessert as you celebrate the season.  Continue reading

Christmas in the Kitchen with a Ten Month Old

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When Nino was just seven weeks old, two weeks before his open heart surgery, we hired a professional photographer to capture a morning in the life of our little family of three. Those newborn days disappear so quickly that it felt like a precious and important milestone to mark, and, with the operation (hopefully) far behind us, I can now admit I was also scared that those happy moments could be some of our last. This world we live in works in weird and wonderful ways, and two thirds of a year later here we are, happy as can be. A little sleepless, perhaps, but I’d rather be kept awake at night by a bouncing ten month old with a lust for life than intangible fears for its future.

When the same photographer got in touch to say she was keen to capture the preparations of a few families in the run up to Christmas, we jumped at the chance. She describes her photos as ‘imperfect, real, crazy, messy, funny, impossible, bonkers’ and ‘one of the best future gifts you could give to your children’ and I couldn’t agree more. A baby’s first Christmas is an incredibly magical time, and although it will stay etched in my memory forever, I’m so happy Nino will now have something special to look back on too. Continue reading

Emiko Davies’ Pear & Chocolate Cake

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It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster in the little loaf household of late. About ten days ago Nino started saying ‘mama’ in a very deliberate way, calling me back if I disappeared round a corner or snuggling in and saying it rather than the indiscriminate sound making we’ve been hearing a little longer. My heart is fit to burst and it’s literally the sweetest word I’ve ever heard, but at the same time this cognitive leap seems to have brought with it possibly the hardest behaviour we’ve seen to date. Our usually sunny little man has been grumbling and fussing, clinging round my ankles, waking multiple times each night and resisting sleep with a renewed and infuriating fervour for someone clearly so in need of it. Until you become a mum it’s impossible to understand how you could love one little person so deeply and completely, yet at times want to pop them in a padded room, pour yourself a stiff drink and sleep, uninterrupted, for a week.

Today our little sleep resister turns ten months old. I know this fussy phase will pass (until the next one, that is . . .) but am also wary of wishing a single day away. With less than two months of maternity leave left I’m trying to live in the moment and soak up each precious morsel of my baby, so in the spirit of celebration (and because my sleep deprived brain might forget if I don’t write it down), here’s what we’ve been particularly loving about you this month, sweet boy.   Continue reading

Spelt & Apple Star Biscuits

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Last weekend I was chatting to someone and mentioned that Nino isn’t going to be allowed refined sugar until he turns one. The topic came up because we were eating flapjacks which Nino was desperate to try – you know, that full body baby intention with propeller arms and slightly wild eyes – and this mean mama diverted his attention with a crust of bread instead. Lots of people I discuss this no-sugar rule with think it’s a perfectly sensible idea in an era where we’ve come to see the sweet stuff as the root of all evil, but this particular someone looked at me with the weary eyes of a parent of more than one child. ‘Wait til you’re onto littlest loaf number three, you’ll be feeding them birthday cake for breakfast without batting an eyelid’.

True as this may be, I’m sticking with the courage of my first time mum convictions for now and allowing Nino sugar only in the form of fruit, milk etc for the next two months. There’s a whole rainbow of incredible natural sweets he’s been working his way through before anything more processed. And although straight up juice is a no-no for those teeth (six so far with an adorable middle gap), when an irresistible urge to bake takes hold of me, there’s the possibility of naturally sweetened wholesome treats like these spelt and apple stars.

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Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

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A few days before our 20 week appointment when I was pregnant with Nino, I remember reading an article about things you should look out for. After entering into the (relative) safety of the second trimester, it’s easy to think that this second pregnancy scan is all about the gender reveal – a subject of divisive debate between the ‘surprise!’ camp and those who are desperate, indeed need to know – but your stenographer is looking for a lot more than a pair of balls as she swipes cold jelly over your ever-expanding belly. There’s the baby’s brain and spine, fingers and toes, stomach and kidneys, position in the womb and position of the placenta. And then, of course, there’s his (or her) heart.  Continue reading

Festive Chocolate Biscuit Cake with Cranberries, Pistachios & Ginger

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Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are out the way, I feel like I’m legitimately allowed to mention the C-word. I’m not normally one to plan the festivities too far in advance, but since a certain little person arrived in our lives I’ve been looking forward to his first Christmas and the magic it will bring. There’s a stocking embroidered with Nino’s name that I’m hoping will last a lifetime, his very first decoration for the tree (we have a tradition of getting a new bauble or item to hang every year), matching jumpers to wear, stories to read and a long list of presents to buy, even if he’s (inevitably) more interested in the the boxes they arrive in. And then of course – although I’m not allowing Nino refined sugar til he’s one (mean mummy) – there’s dessert to plan for the grown ups in attendance.  Continue reading