Baked Apples in the Slow Cooker

apple

I actually used my slow cooker twice yesterday: firstly to make chicken stock, which it did very well, and later to make these for dessert.

I hadn’t actually ever had baked apples before; I’d thought about doing them several times but had always ended up making crumble or pies from cooking apples. These were simple and delicious. Even Tim was convinced.

Ingredients

Per person:

  • 1 cooking apple
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Hot water

Method

  1. Core the apple.
  2. Mix together the raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Stuff the mixture into the hole made by coring the apple.
  3. Place each apple in the slow cooker. Pour hot water from the kettle into the slow cooker to cover the bottom by about a centimetre.
  4. Cook on Low for 3 hours.
  5. Serve with ice cream.

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Rice Pudding in the Slow Cooker

IMG_3313

One of the things I’m enjoying about weaning Ben is rediscovering “nursery food;” plain, traditional fare which is instantly comforting. It’s also usually calorific, heavy on the milk and often containing nutmeg, which is said to aid sleep. I was eating a Muller Rice the other day, and gave Ben a taste. He loved it, and I thought I should really make a proper rice pudding. Then I discovered I could make rice pudding in the slow cooker. Genius.

This does make really lovely rice pudding. The only problem with this recipe is that it was really difficult to clean the slow cooker.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 100g pudding rice
  • 600ml milk
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • Nutmeg

Method

  1. Place the rice, milk and sugar in the slow cooker and stir.
  2. Grate the nutmeg over the top of the milk.
  3. Cook on High for 3-4 hours.

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Thai Red Curry in the Slow Cooker

Thai Red Curry

If you make this dish, I recommend using full-fat coconut milk. You can see in the photo that mine has curdled; it’s because I used low-fat coconut milk. I made mine with turkey because we had some in. I added spinach, red pepper and green beans because they were in the fridge. The recipe is pretty open to customisation, I think!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 turkey steaks cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp thai red curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2cm grated ginger
  • 250g green beans
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 100g baby spinach

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the turkey. Fry until golden.
  2. Add the red curry paste and stir well. Transfer to slow cooker.
  3. Add the coconut milk and ginger.
  4. Cook for 7 hours on low.
  5. Add the green beans 1 hour before serving.
  6. Add the red pepper and spinach 30 minutes before serving.
  7. Serve with basmati rice.

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Harissa Lamb in the Slow Cooker

Harissa Lamb

I’m getting better at Slow Cooking – I came up with this all by myself. If I had known how good it was going to be, I would have made a bit more of an effort with the accompaniments! We had it with roasted peppers and cous cous, but it would be amazing in flatbreads with some chargrilled red onion and tzatziki.

Ingredients

  • 1 shoulder of lamb
  • 2 tbsp harissa
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 1/2 onion

Method

  1. Coat the lamb with the harissa. Place in the Slow Cooker.
  2. Add the stock and onion.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  4. Remove from Slow Cooker with 2 fish slices.
  5. Shred the meat using 2 eating forks.

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Boeuf Bourginon in the Slow Cooker

Boeuf Bourginon

I didn’t actually eat this dish on the day of cooking. This is because we had babysitters that night, and Tim and I went out on a date. If people are kind enough to babysit for us, we like to give them a night off cooking, so will have dinner ready for them. I ate the leftovers (pictured above) the following day. They tasted really good. I actually forgot to ask our babysitters how it tasted on the day, so I can’t tell you.

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • Thyme
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 bottle good red wine
  • 500g stewing steak
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g lardons
  • 250g shallots
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml beef stock
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms
  • Flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. The night before, peel the carrot and onion and slice the garlic in half horizontally. Put the red wine into a saucepan and put the carrot, garlic, onion, a few sprigs of thyme and 2 of the bay leaves into the wine. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Place the beef in a non-metallic bowl and cover with the wine mixture. Put in the fridge to marinate overnight.
  3. Put the olive oil into a frying pan. Add the lardons and fry for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the shallots and transfer everything to the slow cooker. Put the frying pan back on the heat.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef and vegetables from the wine. Put the beef into the frying pan and fry until brown. Transfer to slow cooker.
  5. Pour the wine into the slow cooker. Add another sprig of thyme and the last bay leaf. Sprinkle over the flour and add the beef stock.
  6. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  7. 1 hour before serving, fry the mushrooms in some olive oil and add to the slow cooker for the last hour of cooking.
  8. Sprinkle chopped parsley over before serving.

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Sleep School

At 7 1/2 months, Ben was still waking and feeding up to 3 times a night. This was getting to be a real problem for me – I was fed up with feeding so many times in the night. He was on 3 meals a day and eating really well, and taking 3 or 4 milk feeds as well. I was convinced that he had got into the habit of feeding throughout the night. This was verified by the regular timings of his feeds. He would go to bed around 6.45pm, be asleep by 7pm, and then wake regularly at 10.30pm, 1.30am and 4.30am. In short, every 3 hours.

This is typical for a newborn. It is not necessary for a 7 month old.

Why had I kept feeding him for so long? At around 4 months, he had several nights when he woke once, around 4am, fed, and then went through until 7am. At that stage, I was thinking, this was great. 4 months old, exclusively breastfed and only 1 feed at night. I thought it was only a matter of time before he was sleeping through.

How wrong I was. Over the next few months, I found myself getting up 2 or 3 times a night until he fell into the pattern described above. I did sometimes try to settle him using white noise, but often it was easier and simpler to get up, feed him and know that I could have another 3 hours sleep. Ben was an easy baby to feed: feeds took around 15 minutes, and then he would go back to sleep. I was anxious about letting him cry for more than a minute to see if he would settle – it would disturb Tim, and he was having to work the following day. Being on maternity leave meant that it didn’t matter if I was tired.

At six months, I was pretty much ready to try some sleep training. However, we had a holiday planned and a visit to some family. I decided to put it off until after then, when we would be at home. Then Ben got a nasty cold, and I put it off for a second time, until he was better. Then we had visitors. I put it off again. By now, he was 7 1/2 months old, and still feeding three times a night. It was time to start the sleep school.

I decided to aim small: this was not about getting him to sleep through the night. This was about getting him to stop feeding through the night. I wanted to be able to settle him without feeding him. If he was still feeding at night, there was no way he was going to sleep through.

In many ways, it felt good to be taking control of the situation and doing something proactive about it. I had been responsive to his cries for so long at night, whereas during the day I tended to set the agenda, knowing what he would need.

I had a plan. To start with, I would only deal with one feed at a time, starting with the 10.30pm feed.So I would do everything I could to settle him until his next feed time of 1.30am. Once he was sleeping through and self-settling until 1.30, or close to, I would move on to tackling the 1.30am feed.

I also decided that when he cried I would:

  1. Let him cry for up to 10 minutes without getting very upset (often, his cry is more like a moan). See if he could self-settle.
  2. Play him some white noise for 10 minutes. Ben finds this very soothing. If he was still not too upset, I could repeat this stage once.
  3. Go in, pick him up and cuddle him until he stopped crying. Then put him down and leave the room, even if he started crying again. I could repeat this as many times as possible.

We were prepared for serious amounts of crying, and were prepared to get less sleep while this was happening.

The following notes describe our experiences.

Night 1

  • 10.30pm Ben wakes up and shouts. I ignore him for 10 minutes. He cries for 9 and then goes back to sleep.
  • 11.30pm Ben wakes again. He’s a bit more upset this time. I play some white noise over the baby monitor and he goes back to sleep.
  • 1.30am – Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 5am – Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 8am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 2

  • 10.30pm – Ben wakes. I wait for a few minutes and then give him some white noise. He takes about 15 minutes to go back to sleep.
  • 1.15am Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 4.30am Ben wakes and I feed him.
  • 7.30am Ben wakes for the day.

Night 3

  • 12.20am Ben wakes. He’s slept through the first feed! I don’t want to feed him until 1am but he’s upset and won’t settle with white noise. I go in, pick him up and cuddle him for a few minutes. He’s not too hot, his nappy is fine, and he calms down. I put him back in his cot and he starts to cry. I leave the room, planning to go back in a few minutes. He cries for 2 minutes and then goes back to sleep.
  • 4am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 7.30am Ben wakes for the day.

Night 4

  • 11pm – Ben wakes. He settles himself with no intervention from me.
  • 2am – Ben wakes, doesn’t settle with 10 mins of white noise. I go in., give a quick cuddle and leave. He cries for 2 minutes.
  • 5am – Ben wakes. I feed him,

Night 5 and 6

Similar to Night 4 but without the 11pm wake.

Note – Clocks went forward on Night 5

Night 7

Ben was sick tonight – just before bed, and he had been sick when I went to check on him at 10pm. I didn’t feed him until 3.30am, but did offer water as I was worried about dehydration.

Night 8

  • 12.50am – 1st wake
  • Between 1am and 3am – several wake ups.
  • Fed at 4am.
  • 5am – woke, had been a bit sick

Note: Ben had eaten very little solids today.

Night 9

  • 12.50am – 1st wake – settled with 10 minutes of white noise
  • 3.50am – Fed
  • 5am – woke, had been a bit sick

Again, Ben only ate limited amounts of solids today.

Night 10

  • 1.30am – Ben wakes. Settled with 10 minutes of white noise.
  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Doesn’t really settle – I think he is a bit cold and also is in a different place. I feed him at 3.30am.
  • 6.45am – Ben wakes for the day.

Note: Ben sleeping in a travel cot at grandparents today.

Night 11

  • 1.30am – Ben wakes. Settled with 10 minutes of white noise.
  • 3.15am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 7.00am – Ben wakes for the day.

Note: Ben sleeping in a travel cot at grandparents today.

Night 12

  • 8.30pm – Ben sick in his cot. Again.
  • This led to quite an unsettled night – every time he made a sound, I went in to check he hadn’t been sick. I fed him at around 3.30am.

Night 13

  • 8.30pm – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 10.30pm – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Settles with white noise.
  • 5.30am – Ben wakes. I feed him.
  • 8.00am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 14

  • 2.30am – Ben wakes. Settles without any intervention.
  • 5.00am – Ben wakes. Takes a while to settle, using white noise and going in, but I don’t feed him all night.
  • 6.30am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 15

  • Ben woke 2 or 3 times during the night, but each time settled himself until 4.30am, when he settled with white noise.

Night 16

  • Ben slept through from 7pm to 6.15am.

Night 17

  • Ben woke at 4.30am. He took a while to settle.
  • 6.30am – Ben wakes for the day.

Night 18

  • 3.30am – Ben woke and settled without any intervention.
  • 5.30am – Ben woke. Settled with white noise.
  • 6.15am – Ben woke for the day.

Night 19

  • 3.00am – Ben woke. Settled quickly.
  • 8.00am – Ben woke for the day. I was in shock at the lie-in!

Over the next few weeks, Ben quite often woke once between 3am and 5am, but only ever needed a quick cuddle or some white noise. At this time he was suffering quite a bit with a cold and his eczema really flared up. I continued not feeding him through the night and found other ways to settle him.

He’s now started sleeping through until 6.15am. 7pm-6.15am is a pretty good long stretch, and I’m happy with that!

Asian Ribs in the Slow Cooker

Asian Ribs

These were, quite simply, the best things I have ever cooked in the Slow Cooker. They were amazing. Not the easiest of recipes, but totally worth it.

We got the ribs from a butcher, and they were very good value: £2.19 for two sets like in the photo above – a generous portion. I have only rarely seen ribs in the supermarket, and i suppose they are rarely cooked. This recipe is worth a trip to the butcher. My husband declared it was in the top 5 of things he had ever eaten, and recommended that any girl should cook these for the man she wants to marry.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 1 rack baby back pork ribs
  • 240ml soy sauce
  • 4cm fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 100g soft dark brown sugar
  • 60ml rice vinegar
  • 120ml tomato ketchup

Method

  1. Place the first six ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on Low for 6 hours.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and fry them until golden brown.
  3. Place the cooking liquor into a saucepan and boil hard to reduce by half.
  4. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a jug.
  5. Add the sauce to the cooking liquor when it has reduced.
  6. Pre-heat the grill. Baste the ribs with the sauce and grill. Keep basting, so that it builds up a glaze until they look amazing.
  7. Serve with rice, vegetables and coleslaw.

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