When I was pregnant, I did the sensible thing and batch cooked loads of my favourite meals and put them in the freezer to make life a little easier when baby arrived. Smashing, eh? Except all of those meals contained milk, butter and cheese to some extent, so when we discovered three weeks into the rollercoaster that is being new parents that our screaming, sick but beautiful bundle had CMPA (cow’s milk protein allergy) it was up to Steve to eat every single one of those meals out the freezer, while I needed to adopt a whole new shopping and eating strategy. Over the last 16.5 months I’ve learned to scan a label pretty darn quick and made clever swaps in all of my favourite recipes. We do a monthly online shop at Tescos for special allergy treats and a weekly top up of fresh veg at Aldi.

I get hangry pretty quickly, a trait my daughter shares with me, so it’s important we’re never caught out without suitable easy meals or snacks to grab. If you’re just starting out on  your CMPA breastfeeding or weaning journey, here are some of the habits we’ve adopted to ensure meal times go smoothly and we never have a food SOS. I hope you find them useful.

Menu Planning

I’ve planned evening meals for years. Not only is it cheaper but it makes organising cooking and eating around multiple work schedules much easier. When Alex began weaning she was still struggling to gain weight, so we wanted to make sure she had exposure to lots of interesting, nutritious and high calorie foods. To help with this I wrote out a meal plan for her breakfast, lunch and tea for the week ahead and popped it in the fridge so whoever was looking after her that day knew what was on the menu. This really helped with ensuring she was getting lots of good fats and calcium in her diet. And as a plus, when we have a dieticians appointment and they ask what she’s eating we can just take along a few of the old menus as examples. Mine was pretty taken aback with how organised we were but doing these little meal plans really helped to give me peace of mind. Now we generally only plan our evening meal but I’ll pour over our cookbook collection regularly to look at new meals to introduce. I find looking through cookbooks really relaxing so this is never a chore to me.

Batch Cooks

Chilli

As anyone who has a baby or toddler knows, cooking time isn’t in plentiful supply some days. However, since neither I or Alex eat milk or soya products, it’s not really easy to grab lots of prepared packaged food. It’s not too healthy to do so either so we still do a lot of batch cooking or making extras for the freezer. We use products like oatly cream, oatly creme fraiche and Violife cheeses in some recipes and I’ve been experimenting with a lot of vegan recipes lately.

We’re really not fans of eating the same thing every day for a week anyway, so extra portions always go in the freezer in those nifty tinfoil trays, so that we can take them out on days we know cooking from fresh will be a squeeze. We also make mini versions for Alex that we can just lift out of the freezer the night before and send to granny and grandpa daycare with her if needed. I love having soups for lunches so I throw extra portions of those into those special freezer bags so I can have a different flavour every day. Below is a sample of what’s nestling in our freezer right now. We always have plenty of frozen veggies in there too as accompaniments, including things like broccoli, chopped butternut squash and green beans. As you can imagine, the freezer is pretty packed out, so much so I’m starting to wonder whether when we move it might be wise to invest in some kind of huge commercial type freezer like these from Alexanders Direct.

In our freezer for quick meals

  • Pasta bake
  • Shepherds/cottage pie
  • Stew and dumplings
  • Chilli
  • Bolognese
  • Lasagne
  • Soups

Takeaway Alternatives

Fish and chips

Oh how I miss takeaway. Eating takeaway with an allergy to cater for has unfortunately proved an absolute minefield. I’ve become a bit of a grump about it and hate hearing delivery drivers ring the doorbells in our street when the weekend comes around. Luckily, I now have a plan for when the desire for takeaway type foods arises and that’s to reach in the freezer. Sainsburys stocks a breaded cod fillet that’s milk free in their fridge section, which goes down a treat with some Mayflower curry sauce (buy in B&M) and some frozen peas blended with mint, a squeeze of lemon and oatly cream, not forgetting some homecooked chips. Tesco has a few different options in its free from section including a sweet and sour. Asda has a chilli beef, lemon chicken and prawn toast in its fridge takeaway section, which we simply add some stirfried noodles and veg to and voila! Waitrose have a couple of super tasty curry options that Alex loves too. I’ve a future post earmarked to cover current options in more detail because I’ve personally found the odd takeaway readymeal to be a shopping saviour. The key is to know what’s in your nearest supermarket for if the takeaway urge should bite or like us to have a few things stashed in your freezer.

We’ve had some horribly unsuccessful attempts at ordering from takeaways including one attempt to have a Chinese when trialling soya, which ended up with me in tears and eating toast because the takeaway called us just as we plated up our meal to tell us it did have milk in after all. I wanted to eat that takeaway so much, after that I made a concerted effort to look for fakeaway options every time I go to a new supermarket. I love cooking Thai, Indian and Chinese food from scratch but sometimes you just want to put your pyjamas on and take the easy option. Keeping a stock of safe alternatives at home makes these occasions far more stress free for us.

Toddler Snacks

Pasties and Pinwheels

From dropping off the centiles in the red book to steadily climbing then galloping upwards once allergen free, we’ve done a pretty good job at fattening up our dinky daughter. We tried to follow BLW as much as possible and did give some foods like dairyfree yoghurt on spoons but handed those to her to eat. We found a lot of the ‘safe’ toddler snacks lacked calories and flavour. Rice cakes, puffs etc didn’t cut the mustard so we didn’t bother with them. The one exception to this being Kiddilicious wafers, which Alex still loves more than, well, me. Shop bought toddler snacks and particularly allergy safe ones seem to be crazy expensive so we keep a variety of snacks for Alex in resealable bags that we can just take out on the day and pop in the changing bag or her Yumbox. Our favourites include:

  • Savoury flapjack
  • Pinwheels and pastries (many readymade puff pastries are dairy/soya free)
  • Muffins – banana and blueberry, olive and cheese, carrot cake are regulars
  • Pizza slices (made with pastry)

Alex isn’t much of a sandwich fan at the moment, despite being a carb lover generally. If she does decide to change her mind on that front I’ll be following Nomi Palony’s tip of freezing sandwiches to grab and go on days we go to soft play. We’ve only just recently felt brave enough to start going to soft play with Alex but have quickly learned that the ones in our area are absolutely terrible for catering for CMPA, so we’re developing our own SOS strategy for that too.

If you’re breastfeeding a CMPA baby and wondering how you’ll adapt, hopefully this post has given you some reassurance and ideas. It’s a learning curve but with a few shopping strategies under your belt it’s easier than you’d think.

If you have any questions about our transition to a dairyfree diet, please pop them below. I’m always happy to help other CMPA Mamas get into the swing of things.

 

 

collaborative post

My phone is filled with photos of delicious things we’ve made at home but I’ve never blogged about, so I’m making more of a conscious effort to share the recipes I think other people might find useful, starting with these delightfully named and superb tasting, protein poo balls.

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I was initially going to hold off posting these as the photos I have of them aren’t too appetising but as we’ve started referring to them aspoo balls in the house I thought it might not matter too much that the photo isn’t that appealing. (There’s been lots of fun and games asking each other to pass the ball bag so I can pop it in my packed lunch). I promise you they taste nice. Recently I’ve been feeling even hungrier than usual. On a good day I carry a full bag of snacks to work – a mixture of fresh fruit, maybe a low fat yoghurt, perhaps a few crustless quiches but I’ve been finding myself lured over to the office biscuit table. Worse still, on days I’ve been working from home I’ve been rustling up concoctions of pasta and sauce, pickled onion Monster Munch, pickled onions and smoked cheese. I blame the baby.

In an effort not to do so much naughty snacking, my work mate suggested I started bringing some protein balls to work. I love nakd bars and to me these are a similar type of treat, except with a bit of weighing and measuring and a lot of rolling they’re a lot cheaper and I’ve been using them as my hex b and saving precious syns for my new pickled onion Monster Munch addiction. Back when I lived in Leeds my friend Lucy made her own ‘poo bars’, which were DIY nakd bars, so these balls were named part in homage to her and also because I purposefully included some Linseed in my recipe to encourage regular pregnant lady toilet trips.

I scoured the internet for similar recipes and concluded that the general basic recipe was to mix something like one part dates with one part almonds (lovely filling nutritious almonds). I don’t really eat any nuts other than almonds so this directed my ingredients choices a lot. Many recipes for protein balls use added coconut oil, peanut butter, honey or agave syrup to stick things together but I wanted to keep syns low, so instead I chose to use sticky medjool dates to ensure my mix stuck together.

The recipe – makes 20 balls

150g almonds (this worked out as 80 almonds and 5 hex b)

25g linseeds aka flax seeds (1 hex b)

A capfull of vanilla essence

175g Medjool dates (4 hex bs)

30g cacao nibs (10 syns)

Method

Blitz the almonds in the food processor, adding the dates, vanilla essence and flax seeds (we’d pre-pitted so our hex b weighing may be off a little but as I’m preggaz I didn’t worry too much). I added the cacao nibs last without blitzing to retain some crunch. Working the mixture together I then rolled out into 20 balls and left to set. I worked this out at one hex b per two balls plus 1 syn or half a hex b plus 0.5 syns per ball. Don’t take my word for it though, my maths is sometimes off!

These poo balls have been stopping me from snacking quite so much and are a great way to use the extra healthy b you get when pregnant. I just pop a few in a sandwich bag and stick them in my handbag each morning. I’m already planning a few new variations – using cocoa powder and orange or rum essence is on the cards at the weekend. The total cost of ingredients was approximately £3.33, which I think is pretty good – less than a chocolate bar and about half the price of a Nakd bar, though I’ll still be investing in those now and again too.

How do you stay full during the day? Do you eat protein balls or would you consider giving them a go?

I definitely felt a whole lot of amore for this pie as soon as it came out of the oven. The pastry treat was put together following a special request for a birthday pie, unfortunately my busy writing schedule meant that the pie-making didn’t occur until a whole month after the birthday took place – but, it was definitely worth the wait. Luckily, the time lapse also gave me plenty of time to muse over appropriate fillings (a pie must be matched to the individual because beauty is in the eye of the pie-holder) and in the end I came up with this meaty Mediterranean treat.

Be warned; this pie is quite heavy – like a pizza it’s designed to be a meal in itself, so I served it simply – a warm slice with some rocket and spinach on the side. Baking it in a tray meant I had enough left over for two people to eat like a king every lunch time for a week, but it’s a great pie to make for a buffet and it’s easy to make vegetarian by omitting the cured meats. In total the ingredients only cost around ten pounds and you get at least 12 super slices out of it – bargain!

Recipe (makes one hefty tray of pizza pie slices)

2x 500g shortcut pastry (yes, I cheated on this occasion)

340g mild goat’s cheddar

200g half fat red cheese

Two medium red onions

3 eggs

400g tin chopped plum tomatoes

20 black pitted olives

Handful of frozen sliced peppers

1 large glug of balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon of dried basil

1 packet of sliced chorizo (about 140g)

1 packet of sliced pepperoni (as above)

1 tablespoon tomato puree

Pie Assembly

I wanted to achieve a nice layered effect with my pie, but I was also aiming for moistness without my pastry going soggy – a difficult task for a tray pie considering the ingredients I’d chosen – but the outcome was perfect! I’ve broken the assembly down into four stages, though I unfortunately don’t have any photos of the process as my camera is on the blink and my iPhone is less of a photographer than I am (the iPhone photo above doesn’t do the pie justice).

Stage 1: Getting saucy

To avoid the nice cool pastry going limp at the sight of the pizza sauce layer, I made my sauce first and then allowed it to cool before assembly. The sauce itself was a very rich and flavoursome take on a traditional tomato sauce found on pizzas. It was created by draining my chopped tomatoes and combining with the olive oil, olives (sliced), sliced peppers, garlic, balsamic vinegar and basil. Heating the sauce until it started to thicken into a paste I added a squeeze of lemon juice and the tomato puree towards the end to intensify the flavours.

Stage 2: Feeling cheesy

The cheese layer is based on my mother’s show stopping cheese and onion slice recipe, which I adapted to try and make it a little healthier. I actually used far less cheese than Ma Mere and used a combination of mild goat’s cheddar and 50% reduced fat cheese to lower the fat content. As well as having 40% less fat than normal cheddar goat’s cheese is much friendlier for people like me who are allergic to cow’s milk (and too much cheese!). I chopped up the two onions fairly small and put them into a mixing bowl before grating in all of the cheese and giving it a good mix round. I then seasoned with salt and pepper and added two whisked eggs – this binds the cheese and onion mixture together and makes for a nice melty and moist pie).

Stage 3: Going flat out

The nice easy bit! I greased my baking tray and rolled out my pastry to fit with a little extra to seal the ends. I then added the cheese layer and pressed it down with my fingers to get a nice even spread. Next, I spread the cooled pizza sauce on top using the back of a wooden spoon.

Stage 4: Nice to meat yer

Finally, I layered my chorizo and pepperoni on top, with slight overlap between each slice so that there was full coverage of the sauce underneath in order to prevent my pastry crust going soggy! I was very generous with the meat (I usually order double pepperoni pizza) but if you are vegetarian you could always use a thick layer of spinach or courgette slices instead. I sealed the pie by brushing a mixture of whisked egg and milk on the bottom layer and pressing on the crust. To finish I brushed the mixture on top for a nice golden glow and cooked at 170 in a fan assisted oven for about 35 minutes, brushing the lid a few more times for a good even colour.

 

Just like pizza the pie’s yummy cold!