Cheap eats January #6: Make your own custard




It’s really easy to make your own custard – all from store cupboard ingredients along with organic eggs, and milk – and you can make it dairy free by using coconut drinking milk (I am sure you could use other dairy free milks but I haven’t tried them as yet).

This is enough for two good sized portions for kids – just double the amounts for more. You can keep what you don’t use in the fridge for a few days. I’ve worked out the cost, and making it with milk and caster sugar costs 44p, Making it with maple syrup (so it has no refined sugar in it) costs 81p.

You will need…

2 egg yolks*
200ml of semi skimmed milk, whole milk or coconut milk drink
1.5 teaspoons of cornflour
1 tablespoon maple syrup (or caster sugar)
Capful vanilla extract

How to…

Bring the milk to the boil in a pan.
Whisk the egg yolks with the maple syrup in a large bowl or jug.
Mix the cornflour with a teaspoon of water so it makes a paste.
Whisk the cornflour and vanilla extract into the egg mixture.
Pour the milk into the egg mixture whisking all the time.
Put it back in the pan and bring to the boil again, whisking all the time, it will thicken.

Serve with seasonal fruit (steamed or baked apple, rhubarb, or sliced banana) or crumble if you have time to make it.


If you’re making this for infants under 1 year, don’t add any sugar or maple syrup – the vanilla extract will add enough sweetness, all you need to do is whisk the cornflour and vanilla in with the egg yolks.


A portion of custard provides good amounts of calcium, phosphorous, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

*You can use the two egg whites along with another egg and make an omelette or keep them for this banana macaroon recipe. You can refrigerate in an airtight container for a couple of days, or freeze for longer.




Sugar free banana macaroon recipe

When I was looking for a sugar free cake/biscuit ideas for my baby, I found this Banana macaroon recipe from the Healthful Pursuit’s blog. Leanne who writes the blog posts lots of allergen free recipes from egg to dairy, gluten and sugar free.

Leanne has even written a post on how to open a coconut.

Banana macaroons

The recipe uses shredded coconut, which I haven’t been able to get hold of locally, so bought a coconut and shredded it in the food processor.

I converted quarter cup of coconut butter (or creamed coconut) to 54g and 2.5 cups of shredded coconut to 230g.

Both daughters loved them.

Obviously it’s a bit of a labour of love – shredded the coconut, but at 89p shredding your own coconut cheaper than buying shredded coconut online and you can freeze some of the macaroons for lunchboxes and snacks out and about.

Weaning post #5: An apple a day?

Everyone knows apples are good for you and British Heart Foundation researchers at Oxford University have put the Apple a day proverb to the test in research published in the BMJ this week.

Drawing on existing data and using mathematical models they assessed the affects of eating an apple a day, compared to taking statins, in the over 50’s.

They worked out that prescribing an apple a day (with estimated 70% compliance which is optimistic) to all adults over 50 in the UK would prevent about 8,500 deaths a year from heart attacks and stroke and have fewer side effects than statins. While prescribing statins to people who are not already taking them would prevent a similar number (9,400).

Though they are careful to point out that people who are taking statins already shouldn’t stop.

They also estimated that prescribing statins would lead to 1,000 extra cases of muscle disease and over 10,000 extra diagnoses of diabetes.

I know which I would opt for.


Apples are high in vitamin c, soluble and insoluble fibre. The latter gives them a lower GI which means they release their sugar into the blood much slower than other fruits (38 compared to 65-80 for melons)

They’re also a rich source of phytochemicals, many of which have antioxidant properties – which means the neutrilize free radicals which cause ageing and degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer.

And so it follows that there are studies that show that people who eat apples are less likely to suffer from a stroke. Eating apples regularly was also found to reduce “bad” cholesterol in women, the risk of type II diabetes and may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers disease.


So how does this news relate to weaning? The first 5 years of life a crucial in setting eating habits for life. If your baby or toddler eats apples then chances are they will eat them when they are adults. Within those 5 years the first 18 months is probably the time when your child is most open to new foods.


Raw apples are one of the foods that baby could easily choke on, because they are small and hard.

A good way to give raw apple to your baby is to give a whole apple with the skin on, with a few chunks bitten out by you so it’s easier to gnaw on. They will be able to bite into it, but because their grasp is not strong they will not be able to bite off big chunks.*

You could also try grated apple.

Steamed or boiled

Core an apple, peel and slice into rings and then steam or boil for 2-3 minutes to soften (then putting under a cold running tap to stop the cooking and to cool) is a great way to give apple as a finger food.*

Apple rings
Apple rings

They make a good snack food to take out and about, and as a pudding you can serve with full fat yogurt.

Baked apples

Once your baby is about 1 year and you’re able to brush their teeth. You can make baked apples. Cooking apples are called Bramley’s. They are less sweet than eating apples so you need to add a little natural sweetness.

The reason I say to wait until your baby is about a year as you will then be able to brush their teeth to protect them against dental caries. It’s worth remembering that it’s not recommended to give any added sugars to babies.

To bake the apple, core it. I put foil in the base of the hole. Then pile in dried fruit and add a teaspoon of maple syrup (the foil keeps the syrup in). Cook in the oven in a baking tray (at about 180-200 degrees C or gas mark 5) for about 20 minutes and serve with custard.*

Baked apples with maple syrup, dried fruit and custard
Baked apples with maple syrup, dried fruit and custard

And what about you?

Babies learn eating habits from their parents. So don’t forget to eat your apple a day too.

Which reminds me of the great Michael Pollen Food Rule : If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re probably not hungry.

So at this festive time when we tend to over-consume, try to balance the treats with the healthy stuff and before you reach for that mince pie eat an apple first. Have a Merry Christmas and a great 2014. I’m off to eat my apple.

*Remember to feed your baby safely. Never leave them while they are eating, have them sitting upright (if they are tilted back this increases the risk of choking). Do a first aid course so you know what to do if your child chokes.

How to boost your baby’s iron stores at birth

If you’re making plans for your birth, hopefully you’ve heard about delayed cord clamping. If you’re not making birth plans this may not be the post for you.

I did lots of research to prepare for the birth of my daughter earlier in the year. We are  lucky to have access to so much information and evidence on birth and pregnancy. Researching all options, means we can make fully informed decisions on the birth we want, whatever happens, because as anyone who has had a baby knows, it doesn’t always go to plan.

Delayed cord clamping

Through my research I came across this TEDx by Dr Alan Greene. In it he describes how the standard practice of clamping the umblical cord, immediately after birth, can result in your baby missing out on about 30% of his/her blood supply, which is effectively outside the body in the cord and placenta.

When your baby is first born, the cord continues to pulse: pumping blood from cord and placenta into your baby’s circulatory system. By delaying cord clamping by just 90 seconds you are ensuring baby starts life with optimal levels of iron rich red blood cells, immune boosting white blood cells and stem cells.

Dr Greene rightly calls it Optimal cord clamping. He explains it all much better than I can …

If you watch the film you can see optimal cord clamping makes so much sense that it seems bizarre that it is not standard practice in the NHS, or indeed Worldwide.

Also, if for any reason baby’s having problems breathing initially – keeping the cord intact means they are getting their oxygen supply from the placenta.

What the evidence says

The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published their report on Iron and Health in 2010. In it they drew on research indicating that babies who underwent delayed clamping had, on average, 32% more blood (Nelle et al, 1995) and therefore higher iron levels (30-50mg) (Pisacane, 1996).

They also reported on a Mexican study (Chaparro et al, 2006) where researchers found little difference in haemoglobin (made from iron – a constituent of red blood cells needed to transport oxygen) levels in babies who underwent immediate cord clamping compared to delaying the clamping. However, babies whose cords remained intact for longer at birth had higher  serum ferritin* concentrations. The World Health Organisation  (2007) considered this evidence to be of low quality however, they did recommend delaying clamping by up to 3 minutes.

A review by Cochrane (McDonald and Middleton, 2008) found that delayed cord clamping was associated with significantly higher haemoglobin concentrations at birth. While these levels were not maintained at 6 months,  serum ferritin concentrations were significantly higher at 3 and 6 months. They also found that significantly fewer babies undergoing immediate cord clamping had to undergo phototherapy for jaundice compared with optimal cord clamping.

So in summary they stated that “Delaying clamping cord at delivery is associated with higher systemic iron depots in the first 6 months of life; however, it might also increase the risk of jaundice requiring phototherapy.” They  recommend that further studies are needed to research the benefits, risks and long term effects associated with delayed cord clamping.

Calls to action

  • Dr Alan Greene wants optimal cord clamping to become standard practice, Worldwide. He has started a campaign called Ticc Tocc, the aim is to spread the word about optimal cord clamping.
  • There is also a petition calling for the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to change their guidance to recommend delayed cord clamping as standard practice in the UK :
  • And if you’re writing your birth plan, remember to include delayed cord clamping.**

* Serum ferritin levels indicate the levels of iron stored in tissue.

**If you have a planned caesarian, you can still plan to have delay cord clamping and skin to skin contact. Search online for “natural caesarian” for more information.

This post is for Claire (you probably already know about this) – good luck.  And Holly and Sarah too.