We recently had a lovely family weekend break at Chicheley Hall. I’ve raved about getting away as a family before, even if it is only for a day and a night. I know prepping to leave for a night away with a baby can be a bit daunting – but it’s so worth it!
Even one night away allowed us to recalibrate and reconnect as a family, minus all the distractions of every day life. Especially after a prolonged back injury that my other half has had. Luckily, the drive wasn’t too far from us – with Chicheley Hall being in the lush green countryside of Buckinghamshire. We passed through some cute villages en route too and I even drove on the motorway for the first time!
Our first impressions upon arrival was how charming the grounds and drive to the house was. Chicheley Hall is a gorgeous English Baroque style country home which promised a lovely stay.
Each bedroom is named after a distinguished scientist. we stayed in the Bohr room – he developed the structure of the atom and was a major contributor to quantum physics. I felt this added a little quirk and uniqueness to Chicheley Hall. Our room had stunning views of the grounds. It’s always so lush to wake up to big windows overlooking beautiful grounds in the morning as the sun creeps through.
We had a baby cot provided, but as usual he works his way in between us during the night so it didn’t get much use! Arthur loves a good roll around the bed so he had endless fun wriggling about and playing with the velvet cushions. Who needs toys?
We had a handy sofa in the room also which was nice to chill and read a book while Arthur napped. There are lots of interesting reads available in the hallways.
Chicheley Hall are somewhat forward thinking with their menu. They are purposefully improving this to be more inclusive for certain dietary requirements, particularly for vegans. It’s always reassuring when the menu specifically states vegan. Additionally, with Arthur having potential allergies, the listed allergens are highly important for us.
We were treated to a beautiful afternoon tea soon after arrival. It was perfect timing after our drive there.
On the vegan platter I had a selection of sandwiches, cakes, puddings and fresh fruit. I was especially impressed with the lemon drizzle cake as this is my favourite! This was closely followed by a gorgeous coconut pudding.
We enjoyed this afternoon tea by a gorgeous bay window as we unwound after our drive to Chicheley Hall.
My other half, who is not vegan had a massive tray to get through and would have been ideal for sharing.
Afternoon tea with a very wriggly and active baby proves interesting. Getting my hot drink and shovelling cake down my face while bouncing an almost 11kg baby is quite the skill. Although there was a high chair provided, he didn’t last in it very long so was on Mumma’s lap trying to grab my cup and everything in sight.
It’s always so lovely going out for dinner and even more so that Arthur could be by our side for our evening meal. We keep meaning to have a date night by ourselves. For the first few months of being parents we couldn’t bare the thought of leaving him at night. That along with the tiredness, I’m not sure we’d even manage to get out the door.
The restaurant began serving at 19:00 which is Arthur’s bed time usually. However the restaurant itself was fairly quiet meaning he slept soundly in his pram without disturbance. This gave us some quality time to munch, chat and get a little merry on the vegan wine.
I was really impressed with the bar staffs knowledge on vegan drinks. He knew which wine was vegan – which typically not many people are aware of this. He too showed a keen interest in certain allergens with minimal prompting.
The service is great at Chicheley Hall, with our needs being tended to diligently. I had a delicious, creamy parsnip soup to begin. This was followed by a flavoursome main course of Gnocchi and rocket salad. Although this was the only vegan option, I was totally satisfied with it. I am certain that if I wasn’t happy, it would be no hassle in requesting something different.
After our two course meal felt like blobbing out on our massive bed and getting Arthur into his. We were delighted to get our desserts delivered by room service a short while later. This vegan dessert was like a flavour explosion! A trio of sorbets with fresh fruit was the perfect end to our evening of food.
For breakfast, the usual buffet is available. With hot cooked foods, cereals, fruits, breads and juices. Although not exclusively vegan, I always know the stuff to go for! Namely beans and hash browns which are my go to for a hot savoury breakfast. The buffet mushrooms were cooked in butter so the chef, without even asking made me some vegan ones.
One thing I will admit to missing was having a choice of milks for breakfast. I am usually an oat, coconut or nut milk fan over soya. The manager seemed quite receptive to this idea, so I’m trusting my feedback might contribute to their progress in further veganising the menu.
Chicheley Hall is typically hired for weddings. This really isn’t surprising as it’s beautifully kept English baroque style grounds makes a lovely backdrop. We had a nice afternoon stroll after lunch, taking in all the fresh air and even saw some spring flowers come through. The nearest large town to Chicheley Hall is Milton Keynes. We weren’t keen to leave however as we just wanted to settle and take things slowly.
Overall, we had a lovely stay at Chicheley Hall. We felt completely comfortable and at ease, from the great service to chilling in our lush room with our robes on by Saturday night.
We stayed here for one day and a night which was the perfect amount. It was like a country get away where we could forget about our chores and just relax. We can see how Chicheley Hall would make a special location for an event like a wedding and equally for a quick family break.
Disclaimer: Our stay at Chicheley Manor was hosted in return for an honest review. All words are my own.
I love any excuse to get the slow cooker out. It was our saviour when we first moved into our new home two years ago and we didn’t have a fully functioning kitchen. It got us through the winter months on a daily basis until bit by bit we go more appliances. We made all sorts from curries, tagines, chillies to asian broths – even though it wasn’t the typical appliance to make these dishes – it was a life saver. We then added a camping to stove to our collection, later followed by the oven and last to come months later was our hob. Our kitchen was slow progress but totally worth it in the end. Needless to say, I had to get creative with the slow cooker. Sometimes I think about us sitting cross legged on our sitting room floor with chilli for days back then!
One thing I never thought of making was a slow cooker lasagne. I saw someone posted about it previously and thought I’d give it a whirl with what I have in the kitchen. The slow cooker is great for getting dinner ready early and for extra flavour as it marinades, cooking slowly. The reason I made this was to save time in the evening so I could spend it with my family rather than faffing about in the kitchen at babies bed time.
So here was my first ever slow cooker lasagne – sloppy, easy, comforting and filling. Bare in mind, I often cook with what ingredients I have in my kitchen. You can easily sub certain veggies such as mushrooms, eggplant and celery for ones I have mentioned below – depending on whats in yours. I’m not one for sticking to recipes or buying fancy ingredients. It’s amazing what you can create with simple ingredients.
8 lasagne sheets
Drizzle of olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp marmite
400mls organic pasatta
3/4 red split lentils
2 medium carrots
1 red pepper
1 tsp each of oregano and parsley
1 can of organic kidney beans
300mls veggie stock
1 cup soaked cashews
1 cup water
3 tbsp nooch
sprinkle of garlic powder, turmeric and veggie stock
Turn on slow cooker to a low heat.
Fry onion and garlic for a few minutes in a pan. Add chopped veggies with a little water.
Add all of your herbs and spices, pasatta and marmite – then add lentils
Pour through veggie stock and leave on a low heat while you make cashew cheese
Add soaked cashews, water, spices and notch to high speed blender and blitz until creamy. Do a taste test and adjust to your taste.
Layer the tomato base into slow cooker, followed by a layer of lasagne sheets. Presuming the slow cooker is round, you will need to break the lasagne sheets up. Add a layer of cashew cheese and so on.
Drizzle a little olive oil on top and finish with a layer of cashew cheese. Add some vegan cheese if you like.
Cover and cook on a low heat for around 4-5 hours. Check on it’s progress half way through – you can make sure it’s not sticking to the sides with a spatula and if so add a little water down the sides.
Serve and enjoy! Lasagne usually keeps it’s form better once cooled – this slow cooker recipe is a little sloppy but so worth it 🙂 For some other vegan lasagne inspiration – click here for a slight variation in ingredients – including some pesto!
Have you a favourite slow cooker recipe or secret lasagne ingredient? Comment below!
A month or so into our vegan baby led weaning journey and it’s all systems go! Even though Arthur is only at the beginning of his food exploration – with little nibbles and tiny tastes here and there, it feels very real having him included in mealtimes. I’m constantly thinking what can Arthur try next.
As a first time Mum and having never really witnessed what BLW is in practice, it’s all very new to me. Arthur who has only had milk his entire six months of life is entering a whole new phase – all of these flavours, textures, smells, feels and shapes – it’s very exciting for him.
Because I felt totally clueless on the matter, I slowly read the popular Gill Rapley Baby Led Weaning book while I had the chance. Reading this book, I found myself nodding along and relating to a lot of it in how Arthur would first start solids. This book isn’t specifically vegan, but has some relevant and current research on BLW. I then started researching some ideas for meals.
I was really happy to discover BLW is gaining popularity, with some of my Mumma friends taking this route over spoon feeding purée.
The main reasons we have chosen BLW
We have felt very strongly from the beginning that we want to follow Arthur’s lead, trusting his abilities to learn and take to new things, including eating. This coincides with our gentle parenting approach and feels completely natural for us.
With BLW – the baby is in total control of what goes into their mouths, under supervision of course. This is a great learning experience for them to experience food how it is eaten, be it crunchy, squidgy, stringy, juicy – rather than the same puréed texture which may get a bit boring. This also prevents potentially unwanted food being shovelled into their mouths and too far back for them to decline.
We are really keen for meal times to be inclusive, social and special times for us as a family. For this reason, Arthur will have the same foods as us and learn to feed himself with all the fun and mess that comes with it! It is thought that babies who have led their own weaning process are more social and less fussy eaters. I am trusting this will make future meals equally as inclusive.
Babies who have led the weaning process learn to chew from an early age, lowering the risk of choking down the line. It also helps develop their hand eye co-ordination as they learn to get the food or spoon into their mouths early on.
How Mumma has found it
At the beginning, admittedly I found it very tempting to feed him from the spoon. This is not BLW so I would give him a preloaded spoon instead. There were occasions where I would be tempted to guide it to his mouth as he was putting the wrong end of the spoon in his mouth, chucking porridge over his shoulder, flinging chia pudding onto the cupboards and rubbing avo in his eye. It must be some sort of motherly instinct to try and take control of the situation, however I have taken a back seat and let the mess continue. In fact Arthur is quite adamant already that he wants to do it himself without my input. It’s amazing how quickly they develop a sense of independence.
That gag reflex can be quite unerving to begin with, wondering if he was going to choke but I felt reassured that it is totally normal having spoken to other Mums. Babies have an incredibly sensitive gag reflex to prevent choking.
A very helpful tool in the difference between gagging and choking by the Red Cross:
I have learnt to accept that BLW is messy business – but it is so good watching his hilarious faces squishing the food up, painting the sides of his chair, waving a piece of broccoli around triumphantly.
It must also be a thing that if you’ve made the effort to make a special meal (virtually salt and sugar free) you want them to eat it! I am patient with him though as he’s so little and still so new to everything. I’m pretty sure he’ll be munching down on family faves when he is ready, not when I’m ready. This also means I don’t have to disguise veggies with a sweet fruit for him to like it.
I feel I may have been getting a little flustered in the beginning trying to make all salt free meals – but figured he’s only eating tiny amounts right now. Even so, I’ve been adding salt at the end for our dinners or stirring veggie stock at the end once Arthur’s portion is served.
My other half reminded me he does not need to be on a set number of meals a day just yet. BLW is a gradual process and I’ve realised that now. We’re only fives weeks in so I needed to check my expectations of him. I do wonder if this was influenced by “social norms” particularly since I’ve only ever known about spoon feeding. It was reassuring to discover some babies don’t show interest in food until seven or eight months. I then remind myself of the saying “food before one is just for fun”.
Admittedly the bit of food waste really gets to me as I’m a big advocate for reducing waste. We have a floor matt for any food that gets chucked, like a cucumber can be picked straight back up and given to him. Unfortunately the dog doesn’t like some of the stuff dropped so those bits are composted.
Also, I’ve questioned whether I am a magpie. Sometimes my eye is drawn to all the colourful packaging in the baby food section in store. I’ve had a look at some ingredients and was shocked by some of the contents. The amount of ingredients in a rusk including sugar. Baby snacks come with all sorts of packaging also so I’ve easily resisted as I’m keen for home made whole foods with minimal or no packaging as possible.
How Arthur is doing – 5 weeks in
He is loving this new phase! So much textures to squidge, taste and paint with. He’s quite the artiste! We decided to give Arthur some bits and pieces around 1 week before he turned 6 months as he was showing interest by staring at us eating and trying to grab from our hands.
His first food was avocado which he had so much fun mushing everywhere. We then realised this is messy work as his chair, sleeves and floor were covered in avo, not to mention the bit in his eye. We’ve also discovered that chia seeds could survive a nuclear war. We find them in all sorts of places, even after a wash!
We had ordered his high chair without realising it would take a whole month to be delivered. In the meantime we got a second hand bumbo chair. We alternated between that and my lap for meal times. There were times when he was more interested in the buckle of the chair or taking the table off it. Again – it’s all about patience. I don’t expect my 6 month old baby to concentrate steadfastly on what food I put in front of him.
When Arthur’s high chair arrived – it’s like he knew it was for him, watching intently as his Dad assembled it! This has been a great help as he can perch at the end of our breakfast bar at meal times now and I’m no longer sat on the floor with him in the bumbo. Which may I add, he barely fit in with his chunky thighs.
He is not currently on a set number of meals a day. Breakfast is a staple as we all enjoy this together before Arthur’s Dad goes to work. I then offer him snacks through the day like fruit, veggies or bits of what I’m eating if it’s good for him. Sometimes he is too tired and asleep before dinner is ready. I was reassured to know that it can be a gradual process and he will totally follow his own needs, so long as we are offering varied food types.
He is definitely swallowing bits here and there, sometimes just sucking the juices out of what he’s got. We’ve certainly noticed a change in his nappies and he is going more regularly.
He has not yet dropped his milk feedings so we will continue to follow his lead with this, assuming he will need less milk the more solids he takes in.
He shows clear signs he is done having chucked what he wants on the floor matt numerous times, making a noise I’m familiar with or rubbing his eyes if he’s tired. We’ve also noticed he is more controlled with his foods, passing it from hand to hand, getting it into his mouth (occasionally).
What about his nutrients as a vegan?
At six months old, a babies main nutritional source remains as milk. The nutrients of breast milk does not deplete, however the babies nutritional needs is gradually increasing so his need for other foods increase with this. A baby grows the most in its first year of life than any other time. Additionally, I’ve read that food is to complement babies milk diet – not totally replace it yet.
I am mindful babies fat needs are higher than that of adults. So I’m making sure to offer fatty foods each day – such as avocado. I’m yet to make some yummy cashew or coconut milk.
Quinoa and hemp are some examples of complete plant proteins which we also offer him regularly. We are not overly keen on soya as we don’t eat it much ourselves anymore. Chia seeds and tahini are loaded with calcium and iron.
Arthur’s favourites so far are green veggies and oranges – a perfect combination for his iron and vitamin C levels.
We are not giving Arthur supplements right now. So try to ensure when we are out for walks his little face or hands are absorbing the vitamin D from the sun. I’m aware that B12 is a nutrient vegans can be deficient in. This is essential for a healthy nervous system. I currently take B12, vegan omega 3 (from algae) and a vitamin D supplement, so he is still getting it from milk. Foods such as nutritional yeast are fortified with B12 which can be a tasty addition sprinkled on food.
I understand there is a lot more to nutrition than this. Overall, I’m not concerned he will be lacking in anything so long as I provide him with varied and wholesome meals. He’s already thriving and on the 100th centile for his weight and height development. We have him weighed every couple of months out of interest and not to compare.
VEGAN BABY LED WEANING- First foods
We have tried not to give the same food every day – however because we have oats daily Arthur usually has a little taste too. We mix it up by adding organic raspberry, blueberry or dates with a different piece of fruit on the side.
Also we have made a conscious effort to opt for organic. I know this is not entirely achievable – but we do as much as we can.
Steamed or Roasted
Sweet potato fries
We’ve also used some herbs and spices such as garlic, turmeric, paprika, cumin, oregano and parsley so the foods aren’t overly bland for home – with the addition of tahini or homemade hummus for extra dippiness.
Oats cooked with filtered water
Breast milk chia pudding with mango
Raw fruit from list above
Gram flour omelette
Organic brown rice cake with avo
Canelleni Bean Pattie with quinoa
Steamed or roasted veggies
Organic pasta with veggie blended sauce
Preloaded spoon quinoa
Steamed or roasted veggies
Although these are what we have offered, that’s not to say he has eaten or tried all of them. Some of them have ended up eaten by the dog or in compost.
What’s been helpful?
Obviously eating comes naturally and equipment is not entirely essential. Babies instinctively eat with their hands.
But some bits and bobs that have come in handy during this BLW journey for me to get tidied up after the fun. I sometimes dream of being in a warm country where he could just munch away in his nappy not needing all the get up! His cousin in Australia goes for a dip in the pool after a messy dinner!
Wipe clean mat – still not big enough for the mess but helps minimise it and saves food waste to an extent when food is dropped.
Long sleeved bib – rinsable between meals and dries quickly
Cheeky wipes for his face – these are nice and soft for his face and hands afterwards with warm water
Muslins – roll this up and tuck it in between his tray and lap
Bamboo bamboo suction bowl and spoon – this prevents the bowl being flung across the room – not the spoon though 🙂
Lots of cloths for mopping up the surrounding area!
Sippy cup with handles – to offer him filtered water before/after meals.
Klean Kanteen snack tin for on the road
If Arthur has gotten really messy, sometimes we sit him on the sofa on a larger muslin to get him changed and cleaned up. If I lay him down – I double check his mouth has not got food in it as babies are like hamsters and store food in their cheeks apparently! I give him his sippy cup of water to have also once we’re done which he usually just chats to or plays with.
So far, it’s been a fun journey. I’m looking forward to exploring new foods with my baby boy and seeing what his favourite Mumma’s home cooked meals will be.
Disclaimer: Hopefully this has been of some use. Obviously I am not a BLW expert or nutritionist so always seek advise from others or professionals if you are experiencing any issues or concerned about your child.
If you are craving greens and want a quick, easy and tasty dinner – keep it simple by bulking up with broccoli and loading up on the garlic. This was an asparagus/broccoli/mushroom stirfry served on a bed of groats.
Portobello mushrooms are great for giving a different texture in dishes, some say a “meaty” texture.
I kept it simple with ingredients as sometimes it can be a chore chopping loads of veg so this was perfect coming home from work after a long day.
Groats are great as they have a low Glycaemix Index, making them a good alternative to rice and for those who are trying to manage their blood sugars or who hace PCOS. I found my groats in a local polish shop.
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tblsp sesame oil
5 cloves of garlic
Half a crown of broccoli
1 large portobello mushroom
Large handful of spinach
Rock salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of groats
1) Pop your groats in a large pan of water to cook for 15 minutes or as instructions state.
2) Prep your veg and stirfry the asparagus on a high heat with oil and garlic. Chuck in rest of your veg and flavour with S&P.
3) Serve and eat up.
Easy right? 🙂 I got the thumbs up from my food critic (other half) who said he’d eat it every day. Wahoo!
This dish was definitely inspired by our favourite type of food – Vietnamese, especially morning glory.