Recipe: Meat sauce, Bolognese style

One of my go-to recipes is spaghetti bolognese. It’s simple to make, hearty and chock full of goodness. It’s one of Aidan’s favourite dish – he never fails to finish his portion off. And to top it off? I can add loads and loads of veggies into the dish and he is none the wiser.

(Yes, we are in the “no veggies” phase now. RARRR.)

Of all the spag bol recipes that I have tried, the one by Mark Bitman is my favourite. Preparation is easy, it requires minimal attention AND it tastes awesome to boot. I love to whip up a HUGE batch to freeze for days when I have very little time in between classes to take my lunch. And this is definitely one of the dishes that tastes so good as a leftover.

Because I am all about the sharing, here’s the recipe that I adapted from Mark Bitman.

Meat sauce, Bolognese style

Ingredients
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 small carrots, peeled and minced
3 celery stalk, minced
3 slices chopped bacon
500g minced beef
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 can of tomatoes
280ml chicken or beef stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

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Method
Put the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and bacon and sautee until veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the ground meat, stirring and breaking up any clumps, cooking until all traces of red are gone, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat a little and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Dump the canned tomatoes to the meat and then add the stock. Bring the heat to low and cook at a slow simmer, stirring occassionally and break up any big pieces of meat or tomatoes as you go.

After an hour or so*, add salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer for another hour, or until much of the liquid is evaporated. The sauce should be pretty thick by now (this is also the point where you may freeze the sauce).

Add in the milk cook for another 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Serve immediately with any cooked pasta (angel hair for the adults and animal pasta for the kid) with grated Parmesan on top.

*This is where you go out and put something on the telly while you wait. It was a rerun of Asia’s Next Top Models the other day. Mmm. Not a good idea watching glamazonian girls strut their stuff on the screen while a pot of pasta is bubbling away on the stove, eh. I must have eaten an extra serving of the pasta that evening.

This post was written in collaboration with Zalora.

The end of a road

Yes, the title is a tad dramatic but we have finally reached the end of the road. The breastfeeding road, that is.

Ladies and gentlemen, I, on 9 February 2014 (Monday), nursed Elliott for the final time and we were done with nursing. It signified the end of pumping, washing parts, painful engorged boobs, lugging huge bags to and from work, etc.

Ah, it was an emotional yoyo. I was glad to be finally done and I can wear my usual clothes again. On the other, I miss our one-on-one, skin-to-skin moments. Just writing that line made my eyes well up with tears. The start of the breastfeeding journey was a rocky one. I set small goals and took one day and night feed at a time. I was also adamant to hit the minimum 6 month mark and told myself that anything after was a bonus. I did not want breastfeeding to become a chore.

Once the magic 6 month mark was crossed, we started to supplement with formula so that I wasn’t the only food source and I was heading back to work. I will always be thankful that Elliott took to the bottle well and switched easily between boob and bottle, breast milk and formula milk.
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The great express

So I have been back at work for four months. This means that I have been pumping at work for four months now. Everybody say HURRAH.

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I actually heaved a great sigh of relief when we crossed the six-month mark and my little man embarked on solids. It meant that I could relax a little and not feel so stressed about pumping enough milk to feed Zac, now that he has other sources of food to fill that Buddha belly of his.

As most working mums who express at work will tell you, their relationship with the pump is a complex, bittersweet one. I am glad that the pump exists to allow me to feed breast milk to my kid and yet at the same time, I can’t help but feel chained to it. Carving out the time to pump at work two, three times a day is a feat, especially when my schedule is erratic.

But at the same time, there are many things that I am grateful for: a cubicle with relative privacy that allows me to pump in peace, colleagues who are understanding. I am able to install a makeshift curtain, draw it and pump at my desk while working at the same time, which makes me feel less guilty about needing to pump three times a day. I can also sit and let the pump run for as long as I want, while getting stuff done.

I was able to pump milk for Aidan all the way till he was a year old, before transitioning him slowly to fresh milk and I am hoping to do the same for Zac. Fingers crossed!

If you are someone who is planning to express at work, here are some tips that may be helpful to you.
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Night weaning

Elliott sleeps beside me on his own cot. This allows us to reclaim our own bed space without the fear of rolling over him, yet allows me to reach him easily for the night feeds. For the longest time, he will wake in the middle of the night for feeds. On good nights, he’d wake 2-3 times. On bad ones, he can be up every other hour. This translates to me being completely exhausted from the broken sleep the night before. Having to think and speak coherently the following day at work becomes a challenging feat. I also noticed that during these night feeds, or nibbles, as I call them, he wouldn’t really drink. What he really does is to suckle for 2-3  minutes, then roll over and fall back to sleep with a contented sigh. Yes, he actually sighed a couple of times. It got me wondering if he was actually hungry or just nursing out of comfort and habit.

After a couple of particularly bad nights when I woke up with a throbbing headache with brain function at -10%, I told myself that this night nibbling business needs to be cut down. He’s already 10 month old and according to baby literature, he should not be hungry if he is given a full milk feed before bedtime.

The husband and I came up with a plan. Or rather, I came up with the plan and he was to assist in carrying it out.

Elliott goes to bed at about 9pm. Usually. Of course, there are nights when he is jumpy and bouncy till midnight and his parents fall asleep before him but never mind that. So yes, usual bedtime is 8.30-9pm-ish. He is usually nursed to sleep and he remains asleep till close to midnight/1am. The husband will then give him a dream feed via milk bottle of about 30ml. He used to give more (60-90ml) but Elliott would take forever to drink it and usually would fall back asleep before he even reaches the 30ml mark. So yes, so as not to waste milk, we now only give him 30ml.

This is where the night weaning attempt starts.
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GIVEAWAY: Healthy snack attack!

A few weeks ago, a box bearing edible goodies reached our doorstep. Try them, said Foodpath, the company distributing these snacks, and let us know what you think.

Well, we did and we liked the snacks so much, we decided to write about them (even though we didn’t have to).

Now, what Aidan lacks in the sleep department, he makes up for it in the eating stakes. This kid can eat. Granted, he has his finicky moments when he doesn’t eat stuff that he is supposed to – like veggies – but all in all, he has a healthy appetite and loves food.

These days, he is also big on snacking. Kid loves his snacks so much, he goes into the kitchen regularly to ask for “biscuit” and “tnack”. Unfortunately, mean mum here doesn’t indulge him, hah! He doesn’t get chocolates or chips or sweets at all. I try to feed him wholemeal bread with a smidgen of unsweetened jam or fruit whenever he has hunger pangs between meals but there are times when he is absolutely insistent on the crunchy stuff. I don’t blame him. His parents have a weakness for chips after all, gah.

Luckily, the box that we received from Foodpath contain all sorts of snacks that this nazi mum (yes, the husband called me that once, I have been meaning to write about it) will gladly let her toddler eat.

snacks
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Hitting the 6-month mark

Hitting the 6-month mark

I don’t know how it happened but Elliott turned 6 months old last week. Yes, SIX MONTH OLD. Already. I wrote my usual note to him but realised a few days later that I left out an important milestone.

It hit me that I have successfully breastfed him for 6 whole months.

Wow.

Check out the entry I wrote back in March. We were such noobs when it came to breastfeeding then. When we first started out, I told myself that I’d give it 3 months. If this breastfeeding business doesn’t work out in 3 months, we’d switch to formula milk. No one wants their own kid to starve, right? Besides, like a wise girlfriend reminded me: Formula milk is NOT poison.

1 month flew by.
Then 3 months.

I told myself, Ok, let’s try for 6 months. That’s the recommended timeline from WHO anyway. Every mother who breastfed told me that it will get “easier” over time and honestly, I did not quite believe them at first. Not with sore nipples, engorged boobs, milk blisters, blah blah blah. Those were not fun times.

But somehow, we made it through. And you know what? THEY WERE RIGHT.

Breastfeeding did get easier. A lot easier. We – Elliott and I – both learnt each other’s rhythm and I can now recognise his cries for milk. I guess it also helped that my little man is a milk monster. He loves his milk and takes every opportunity to nurse.

The night feeds have also gotten easier because I have finally learnt how to nurse lying down. This allows me to continue to half snooze while he gets his milk too. Win-win!

To top it off, I recently discovered that I can nurse him on the go in the baby carrier. That was definitely an “Achievement Unlocked” moment for me as Elliott enjoys being nursed to sleep. No one can tell that there’s a baby being nursed below that cover so once he’s done, I simply whip off the cover and continue shopping/eating. Woot!

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