Written by Jacky Farbrace

My name is Jacky Farbrace and I am a mum to two grown up children and the owner of Confident Cooking.

Confident Cooking - Jacky Farbrace
Confident Cooking – Jacky Farbrace

Having a baby turns your life upside down, but having a premature baby turns your world upside down and inside out.  Any life schedules or routines get thrown right out the window.  If you are lucky enough to live near the hospital that your baby is in then that is a small tick, but if you live miles away then your whole day your whole week is turmoil.  You want to be the best parent that you can be but to be that best parent you have to look after yourself too. 

The most common thing that we all sacrifice when our life gets to hectic, are our meals.  You say to yourself that as long as you have eaten something you will be OK.  Not so.  It is so important that you have proper meals and snacks.  For mum this is doubly important as her body needs that nutrition to heal, repair and if she is breast feeding, provide the best nutrients for her baby. With careful planning you will be able to have proper meals and snacks and feel all the better for it.

The key to all of this is PLANNING. I can help you with this at Confident Cooking if you if you want me to.

The following recipes are just a few ideas.  Once you get the hang of it you can introduce your own meal ideas to your schedule.

Batch Cooking

 The following meals are ideal to make in large quantities and freeze down in portions ready to pop into the microwave and heat through for a delicious home cooked meal. Family and friends could send some batch cooking round to the parents of the premature baby to really help them out!

Always remember to get out your portions to defrost on the day you want them.  Always defrost in the bottom of the fridge.  Microwave for 3-4 mins stirring halfway through.  Make sure the food is piping hot before eating.

I have more free ideas on my Confident Cooking website.

Quick Make Meals

These are meals that are just that, quick.  These can be made and on the table in 20mins.  Again it is about planning. 

Visit the Confident Cooking group – Cook, Chat and share for lots of fresh ideas.

Snacks

When you are travelling and at the hospital with you baby, you will want to keep your energy levels up.  Quick fix sugar snacks aren’t the answer.  Once your sugar fix has worn off, your energy levels will plummet leaving you feel just as tired and low if not more so than before.  Again with careful planning you can prepare or choose healthy snacks that will benefit you and baby. 

Why not try some of these Batch Confident Cooking recipes

Chilli Con Carne (makes 4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 500g lean Beef mince
  • 400g tin chopped Tomatoes
  • 400g tin Kidney beans (if you don’t like kidney beans, baked beans make a good substitute)
  • 4fl oz Water
  • 1 packet Chilli Con Carne mix
  • 1 large mug of rice – long grain, basmati, brown or wholegrain, what ever is your preference.

Directions

Rice.  Put your pan of water on ready to cook your rice. Follow the directions on the rice packet for cooking instructions. 

Chilli

  1. Add the oil to a large pan and heat gently.  Add the mince and cook until browned all over.  If there is any excess liquid, carefully drain this off into a cup.
  2. Stir in the packet mix of Chilli Con Carne, tin of tomatoes, beans and water.  Stir thoroughly and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Check and stir occasionally. 

When your rice and Chilli is cooked, divide into four portions.  Take away containers are ideal for this, but if you don’t have these, freezer bags are just as good.  Place the rice in first and the Chilli on top.  Let the Chilli con Carne cool before placing in the freezer.

When you are ready to eat, a dollop of Creme Fraiche and grated cheese on top makes it extra yummy with a side portion of Tortilla Chips.

Chilli Con Carne
Chilli Con Carne

Shepherds/Cottage Pie  (makes 4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 500g Lean Beef mince or Lamb mince
  • 1 medium Onion – chopped small
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 2 large carrots – peeled and cut into small pieces. (slice the carrot then cut each slice into quarters or smaller)
  • 1 Beef or Lamb stock Cube
  • 1-2 tblsp gravy granules
  • 1 tsp oil
  • A little water
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Optional ingredients according to preference
  • Sweetcorn, Mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce (for a kick)
  • Mash Potato
  • 3-4 large potatoes
  • Large knob of butter or margarine
  • Splash of milk
  • Pinch of salt & pepper to taste
  • As much grated cheese as you want, it’s your taste buds.

Directions

Mashed Potato – Peel and quarter your potatoes and put into a pan of salted boiling water.  Cook until a sharp knife slides easily through the potato.  When cooked, drain off the water.  Add a pinch of salt, a large knob of butter and a splash of milk.  Mash until smooth.  You do not want any lumps.

Mince

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onion, carrot and mixed herbs and cook until the onion has softened and the carrots have changed colour.
  2. Add the mince and cook until the mince is browned all over.
  3. Add the stock cube and a little water.  Sprinkle over 1-2 tblsp gravy granules to thicken. The mixture should be moist but not swimming.  Any excess liquid drain off.  .
  4. Add the frozen peas and any other extra ingredients you want.  Stir in well.  Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5-10mins.
  5. When the mince mixture is cooked, turn out into a heat proof dish.  Spread out evenly.
  6. Place the mashed potato on top of the mince mixture and spread out evenly making sure you go right up to the edges.  Drag a fork through the mash potato for effect. 
  7. Sprinkle over the grated cheese
  8. Place in a hot oven or under the grill until all the cheese has melted and slightly browned.

When this is done divide into portions and place in freezer proof containers.  Take away containers are ideal.  Allow to cool before putting in the freezer.

When ready to eat, defrost thoroughly and heat in the microwave for 3-4mins until piping hot.  Make sure you stir the food before eating to make sure that the heat is evenly distributed. 

You can eat just as it is or you can add extra vegetables if required.  Curly Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli or extra peas are ideal.    

Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd’s Pie

Spaghetti Bolognaise (serves 4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp Olive oil
  • 500g lean mince Beef
  • 1 medium Onion – diced finely
  • 1 Garlic Glove – sliced thinly then chopped or use a garlic chrusher
  • 1tsp Oregano
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1tsp Tomato puree (Tomato sauce works just as well if you have no Tomato puree)
  • 5-6 mushrooms
  • Salt to taste & black pepper (optional)

4 portions of Spaghetti (put your first finger and thumb together to make a circle. The amount of spaghetti you can put in the circle is roughly a portion).

Directions

Spaghetti – Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  When the water has come to the boil put in the spaghetti.  Gently push the spaghetti down into the pan until it is all covered.  Take a spaghetti spoon or a fork and gently stir the spaghetti so it is not all stuck together.  The spaghetti is done when it soft but firm.  If the water starts to froth, the spaghetti is over cooked.

Bolognaise

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and oregano.  Cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the mince and cook until brown all over
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree (or sauce) and stir thoroughly.
  4. Add a pinch of salt to taste and black pepper if required
  5. Cook on a medium heat for about 10mins.
  6. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5mins

Strain the spaghetti in a colander, draining well.  Divide the spaghetti and bolognaise into portions in freezer proof containers or in freezer bags.  Allow to cool before placing in freezer.

When you are ready to use, defrost thoroughly before heating.  Microwave for 3-4mins, stir right through before serving.

Sprinkle grated cheese or parmesan on top.  Serve with garlic bread (optional)

Spaghetti Bolognese - Photography credit: Eiliv Sonas Aceron
Spaghetti Bolognese – Photography credit: Eiliv Sonas Aceron

Sweet potato and Butternut squash soup (serves 6 portions)

This soup is thick and very filling.  It easily qualifies as a meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 x large Sweet Potato
  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 2 Parsnips
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 red onion (white is ok)
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • Small knob of butter or 2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1ltr vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Peel and chop all the vegetables.  Chop into about match box sizes or smaller.
  2. Peel the garlic gloves and gently crush (place the wide flat side of a knife blade on top of the garlic and give a quick thump. This just slightly crushes it).
  3. Make up 1ltr of vegetable stock with boiling water
  4. Place the butter or olive oil in a very large saucepan
  5. Add the garlic & onion and cook for 1min
  6. Gradually add all the other ingredients, stirring each time you add a vegetable.
  7. When you have added all the vegetables, turn them all over so they are all coated in the butter or oil.
  8. Slowly add the stock making sure that all the vegetable are covered.  If you need to add some extra water, do so.
  9. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer.
  10. Add the salt and pepper and give another stir.
  11. Cover and leave for 45mins or until all the vegetable are soft.
  12. Turn the heat out and leave for 5-10mins
  13. Using a hand blender (or a potato masher if you don’t have a hand blender) puree all the vegetables until you have a thick soup.  If you want to leave a few lumps for texture, that is fine.

Leave to cool, then divide into portions.  Freezer bags are ideal for this.

Tip:

Place the freezer bag inside a jug and fold the top over the edges.  This way you can ladle the soup into the bag without it collapsing.  Secure the bag well so there is no leakage.  Double bagging can secure this too.

Place in the freezer until you want to use it.

Defrost thoroughly before use (can be used from frozen but microwave for longer stirring twice during heating.

Pour soup in to a microwave proof bowl, and heat for 2-3mins stirring at least once.

Serve with a dollop of crème Fraiche and some grated cheese.  Crusty bread or thick slice of toast also go well.

Butternut squash soup with crusty bread
Sweet potato and butternut squash soup

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