Braised Beef Cheeks for Joan

April 22, 2016

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Ben and I have clogged our phones with photographs of Joan eating. Our baby girl is completely serious when it comes to food, and each day we are joyfully entertained as she learns to feed herself. We decided to go the Baby Led Weaning route, which to us meant that after Joan turned 6 months and showed signs of developmentally being able to manage food, we started providing an array of textures and flavours (in the hope that she will be an adventurous eater later on) and let Joan feed herself. And she’s really taken to this whole eating and self-feeding business. We eat our meals as a family and don’t force her to eat when she doesn’t want anything, rather we trust and respect her intuition (Joan is driven by instinct and is much smarter than us in this way). Though rarely will she refuse food, as our baby is sincerely obsessed with eating. When she likes something, she cannot get it in fast enough. “Finish what you’ve got in your mouth, Sweetie”, is commonly uttered at our dining table. When something is not particularly delicious (plain porridge or rubbery scrambled eggs), Joan will stare at me for a long while, as though letting me know that I’ve done better and to please not serve this again. I take note.

Our baby likes flavour.

Porridge with banana and (pureed) blueberries, steamed carrots with peanut butter, roasted pumpkin with curry powder, wedges of farm-fresh canteloupe, yoghurt with quinoa, omelettes with garlic and beetroot, banana pancakes and meat…ohhhh, she adores meat. At the end of Summer, while we were revelling in farm-fresh sweet corn, I served Joan chicken and corn soup (homemade broth simmered with corn, blitzed until thick enough to eat, and topped with shredded chicken). Baby girl proceeded to ecstatically grab handful after handful, shoving it in her mouth before she’d even begun to chew. And when we moved her plate closer to help her to reach with ease, she cried, fearing we were taking her plate away. Joan also loooooves lamb, just like her mumma. Over Easter we went to our friends’ house for dinner and Joan loved the slow-roasted lamb that was served (side note: that is my absolute favourite dish). She devours all she can out of the cuts we bought from Colin and Sally, including preservative-free sausages that were super tasty and intensely meat-flavoured (what a nice surprise to have sausages that taste like meat!), if not a little tough for her to eat without teeth (note: I removed the casing before giving them to Joan). Still, she will suck all the juice out of the sausages and other cuts she cannot chew and swallow and have a blast, sometimes gagging, happily and calmly so, along the way. We make sure to stay calm too and let Joan figure it out if she’s gagging (the first few times were scary, but babies are so smart, they know what to do), however it usually only happens when learning how to manage a new texture (something hard like toast or those sausages) or if she takes too much at once. Regardless, I make sure Ben is home with me when introducing a possibly challenging food for Joan, just for my own peace of mind. Lastly, I’ll note that we did a first aid course before bubs was born and refreshed ourselves of the information prior to her starting solids, and I definitely recommend all parents and grandparents do the same. But back to meat…yes, baby girl loves red meat, beef included. Before we bought that 1/2 lamb from Colin and Sally’s I bought meat from our local shops that stocked delicious, 100% grass-fed beef. I found myself reaching for the beef cheeks and making this braised dish again and again, so I thought I would share the recipe with you. Joan goes nuts over slow-cooked beef cheek, whether simmered in broth like this recipe or a tomatoey ragu. It’s a cut that positively melts into nothing, so she finds it very easy to gobble up. I usually thicken the broth/sauce with potato, extra carrots or sometimes quinoa, which helps her get all the cooking juice goodness. Joan will clean her plate whenever we serve this meal, Ben and I do too, though baby girl will also paint her eyelids in beef juice and inhale it through her nose with gusto. Yes, we’ve been using a mini nasal aspirator to extract food most days. It appears she just cannot get enough and I don’t blame her, it is rather scrumptious.

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Happenings, 15.4.16

April 15, 2016

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DOING: lounging next to Joan while she has a nap. It’s 1:31pm on Thursday 31st March. I should have documented this for While The Babe Naps with a snap…ah well. I’ve got the white noise app playing on my phone and if I go to take a picture, the noise stops, so it’s not worth it. She’s been asleep for about 10 minutes. We’re lying in our bed, having given up on cot naps. Joan still falls asleep in my arms and when lowering her into the cot (which needs to be on the lowest level because little miss is already pulling herself up), she wakes and not fall back asleep. Every time. The bed is easier for us both. We are in a bit of a transition stage, where I want her to know that I’m still here, but she can nap in the bed by herself and it’s all good. This involves a bit of hanging out by her side until she’s in a deep sleep and I can sneak off. But not too far!! As before she even wakes fully and knows who she is, she has rolled over and is crawling. It’s risky business. I need super high bed rails. Tell me, is that a thing?! Google searches have been fruitless…
HEARING: womb noises via this app. We’re white noise fans over here. Joan doesn’t need it to sleep, but it helps block out the noise of me typing and any knocks on the door.
COOKING: We recently purchase 1/2 an organic, completely grass-fed lamb from Colin & Sally (after a blog reader kindly suggested their produce), and we are absolutely loving it. We are thrilled to be feeding our baby girl (and ourselves!) such quality meat, and to be supporting a family farm. We love it because the health benefits are significant (I try to always buy organic animal products), the animals are treated far better than mass produced meat, and the flavour is incredible. And though it was expensive upfront, the actual cost per kg is ridiculously low compared to what you buy in the supermarkets or butchers for small portions. We will most certainly continue buying meat from these wonderful folk (they also farm cattle so we can buy beef). Oh, and it takes up far less freezer space than you might imagine when you receive it all portioned up.
EATING: besides lamb, eggs! We introduced Joan to eggs when she was around 7 months old, in small bits over a few days – scrambled eggs, frittata and banana pancakes (without the salt). Joan tolerated them well and is handling increasingly challenging textures. I feel a bit more free with what she’s eating, like we can move away from the practice of altering our meals to be more Joan-friendly, to basically just eating the same thing as a family. We’ve cut down our salt usage for the little one (I’m a bit of a salt-fiend) and she’s yet to try rice and quinoa, but beyond that she’s eating veg, eggs, nut/seed butters and ground nuts, yoghurt, oats, fruit, chicken and red meat, and it’s a whole lotta fun. She’s even tried some of her Pa’s famous homemade sourdough, made with mainly spelt flour. We toasted some strips and she munched on them with avocado. I’ll be sharing some recipes that she’s loved in the coming months (I want to remake a few dishes and actually take note of the specifics for you all), including slow-cooked beef cheek and chicken soup. We’ve also been eating lasagne, this delicious slab that my mother-in-law brought over, and the leftovers!

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Everything date balls

April 8, 2016

Lately I’ve been making the same date balls over and over again. “Date balls, really? How boring. Like we need another recipe.” I know, I hear you. But they’re everything I need right now, with a small child who is moving moving moving and a house that is so far from fully childproof that I cannot leave her alone for a second (we’re working on that).

In lieu of drinking coffee all day long, it’s food like this that keeps me going. And I’m not sure what it is about these particular date balls, but I’m finding them to be incredibly satisfying and energy-giving. If I pop a couple of these babies I am sure to power through until Ben gets home around 6:30 to help me with the whole dinner/bath/bed rigmarole. Anything that helps me greet him in a manner that reflects my true feelings (that he is my best friend), rather than “What the heck took you so long?” is always appreciated.

everything date balls

 

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While The Babe Naps

April 5, 2016

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Good morning!

Thank you for being sweet and leaving comments here and on instagram about my new site. Honestly it doesn’t require a grand reveal or hype, I haven’t laboured over anything, nor will it take up much of my time in the future. Rather, it’s simply a place for me to share and connect with others, and maybe snoop a little. Let me explain.

The website is called While The Babe Naps, and it will be here that I will share a snap every so often, capturing what I am up to in that moment while Joan is sleeping. The concept extends from the post I wrote on self-care, encouraging us all to make sure we are doing little things for ourselves, things that help us feel good and full and bright (or as good and full and bright as possible in our current reality, whatever that may be). You can read more on whilethebabenaps.com, I won’t explain much more now, as it’s all there, and I’m currently in a bit of a rush to get to the shops and buy some baby Fess (“for little noses” – too cute!). But I wanted you to know what my new site is about and to ask you to send me your submissions! I want to see what you’re up to while your babies nap. My hope is that While The Babe Naps will be a place to show what people from all over the world are doing during those sleepy minutes. And that’s it! I won’t be pitching for individuals to contribute beyond this callout (though I may bug my friends – you have been warned!!), as doing so feels very inorganic to me. Honestly I’d rather spend my time leisurely reading or cooking – you know, living what I’m harping on about. Instead I plan on relying on the fact that many of us like to feel connected and see what others are up to, especially those of us who stay at home with babies, and so perhaps, hopefully, you’ll feel encouraged to send me a snapshot of your reality via a photograph and a few words. As well as mums, dads, grandparents, aunties, uncles, nannies, this also extends to people with older kids who aren’t napping anymore. You will hopefully have a few moments for yourself when your little one is alseep, whether in the morning or at night (hopefully both) for you to practice a little self-care. The truth is that for many people, work and emails and study are pressing and need attention, I get that, however I’d still love to see a picture. And who knows, maybe by scrolling through the site you’ll feel encouraged to make a cup of tea and a snack to eat while you’re working? That’d be nice. And for those naps when all that awaits us is washing up, I say screw it! Have a shower, make yourself some hot cocoa and bake a batch of granola instead. And take a photograph of it. I want to know what is going on in your world.

I’m truly quite excited to see who I might hear from. Though if you see my posts often I suppose that will mean I’ve had a lull in submissions and need to fill that space…and that’s cool, you all know I love to journal and this is simply another space for me to do just that. Below is my first contribution, taken a couple of months ago, shortly before I had the idea to share these moments. Over on the website you’ll find a more detailed post than this, so do head over there, but the format below is what I’ll be sharing in every feature – WHO, WHEN, WHERE & WHAT. It’s as simple as that. What excites me is how my when, where and what will change over the seasons, as my baby grows, as the novelty of having time to myself wears off (wait, does it ever?), as I go back to work, as life happens… it won’t always be crackers and a book, but for now, this is my world.

Friends, I’d love to hear what you’re up to while your babe naps.

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My Everyday Salad

March 26, 2016

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As a vegetable lover, most days you can find me eating a giant bowl of colour and crunch for lunch. And if not then, I’ll serve it up at dinner. Broccoli, green leaves and carrots are my feel-good foods – they’re vibrant, filling and energy-giving, and help me stay strong and healthy. In fact, vegetables are a cornerstone of my self-care practice. Ben agrees, he loves the taste and feel-good properties of veg, even more so after we started getting our produce from Transition Farm and tasting and feeling the difference of vegetables grown organically in good soil. And while there are loads of like-minded folk out there, there are also a good number who find vegetables to be boring and bland. They see them as a chore, choking down steamed broccoli and boring salads so they can get a gold star, because they’ve been told from such a young age that they must eat their vegetables before being offered anything else. Vegetables were never thought of as the treat, rather a stepping stone to dessert. In my work as a Dietitian, and in general as someone who loves to talk about food and is genuinely interested in what people eat, I rarely come across individuals who find cucumber and steamed carrots to be a source of joy. But what if you serve that cucumber with sea salt and dip each slice in a pool of extra virgin olive oil? Or if you tried roasting vegetables (cauliflower! carrots! broccoli! cabbage!) in the oven with, once again, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, then decorate the caramelised bites with toasted seeds? Next, steam some carrots and broccoli until just tender before delicately drowning them in bagna cauda. See? Top billing. If we treat vegetables with the respect they deserve and give them a chance by cooking them in undeniably delicious ways, while pairing them with foods that make them shine, eating a bunch of veg every day totally feels like a treat. For more ideas I suggest you devour the book Vegetable Literacy, and Deborah Madison’s recipes for peas with baked ricotta and breadcrumbs, and turnips with white miso butter. Oh, and braised cabbage with chewy fried potatoes, feta and dill.

So, yes, I adore my vegetables, that we know. And because I feel we are too restrictive in the way we eat them, I thought I might share a few thoughts how I like to purchase, prepare and eat my vegetables, in the hope that it may encourage rambunctious vegetable-eating. I’m also going to leave you with a few instructions on how to make my everyday salad, the one I blast all over Instagram almost daily.

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Self-Care

March 18, 2016

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I have a talent for self-care. Looking after myself and making sure I feel good is something I prioritise do well, always have. I’m a giver, but not in the sense that I only give to those I love generously. That is something I most certainly do, however I also give to myself a whole lot. I am happily selfish in this way. Are you nodding and high-fiving in my direction, or are you the kind of person to burn the candle at both ends and maybe put yourself last? I wouldn’t say I put myself first, especially now that bubs has come along, however I have an innate ability to determine what needs to be done to keep my family trucking along, while still slotting in “me time”. I think it comes down to the fact that I am more rooted in the present moment than future ambitions – I like to enjoy the now. And I’m not even sure if this is due to losing a loved one at a young age…surely that sharpened my reality and resolve, but I think I have always been really good at keeping myself happy. And while my “me time” looks a little different now that I don’t have multiple free hours to watch BBC Jane Austen adaptations, I am aware that now, more than ever, those moments for myself are important. Because I am literally being drained of energy and nutrients as I breastfeed a small human being.

Have you every done personality tests? I did a bunch a couple of years ago because friends of mine were discussing it, and as an ESFJ (through and through), I like to make my loved ones happy and I suppose this extends to myself. I know how to make sure I feel my best so I can be productive and a good person to those around me. Being selfish in this respect is a good thing, I feel. As a stay-at-home mum of one, I do not have too much on my plate and most days can fit in self-care fairly easily. Some days are busier than others and the ways in which I can be selfish are limited, but it’s not a battle at the moment to find the time (talk to me in the future when I’m back at work and hopefully have more kids and am knowing what it’s really like to feel tired). But even if you are incredibly busy, I know that we can make some time for ourselves, not matter how brief the moment. We have to. Ignoring ourselves only means we are more likely to feel drained, glum and resentful.

With complete awareness that my life is not full of challenges, here is my own little example of fitting in “me time”. Even in my own cruisy world, these acts of self-care make a huge difference in the way I feel. You see, recently baby Joan had her first cold, leaving her more clingy and demanding than usual, and as a result I was quite time poor. I was also incredibly tired from very wakeful nights and more than ever needed some self-care. That’s the way, isn’t it? The days when you have the least amount of time are when you need more than ever to sit in a hot tub and fill up your cup (with wine). But I sacrificed a few things to feel good – the laundry waited because I decided a shower was more important. I defrosted a crappy batch of lentils I had made for Ben and I instead of prepping a fresh dinner, because I felt I needed a super smoothie to get through the afternoon. And I skipped an appointment in favour of playing with bubs on our bed, because giggles are the best medicine and I didn’t fancy car travel dramas. These choices sound like no big deal, right? But they kind of are…I know from working with clients over the years that many individuals are not this way inclined, they will push through and clean or care for others, they’ll feel guilty about cancelling commitments even if it serves them best to do so, and they wind up leaving themselves last. I like doing things for my family, it makes me happy to give, truly. But I also like to do completely selfish things too, like sitting in the bath watching documentaries on ballerinas and sipping coconut water, or googling “celebrity house tours” while eating peanut butter from the jar with a stick of celery. I sincerely love seeing what Hilary Duff’s lounge room looks like. Some days, standing alone in the kitchen, stirring a pot of porridge while sipping a cup of coffee is all I need to feel like myself. A quick google definition search informs me that I may have chosen the wrong word here, as “selfish” means holding no concern for others around you and being chiefly focussed on your “personal profit or pleasure”. I’d argue that by being selfish in the respect of prioritising self-care, you are in fact nurturing those around you. These restorative practices make me happier to give. By making time for yourself and doing whatever it is you need to feel centred and alive, everyone around you benefits.

Here is a list of my self-care practices. I hope it may serve as inspiration for ways in which you can be selfish too. As I said above, the number I am able to do (and the time I can pour into them) varies, but I always make sure to do something every day. It makes me a better mumma, a better partner, a better person. And please, let me know how you look after yourself in the comment section. I’d love to get more ideas.

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Baby Joan, 4-6 months

March 8, 2016

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Things are moving very quickly. All of a sudden Joan is 6 months old and I’m being kept on my toes as she moves and talks and interacts in new, seemingly grown-up ways. Yet at the same time, life also feels wonderfully slow. Our world isn’t cluttered and we have one main focus, our baby. Ben and I are present, taking it all in and watching each other grow and change along with Joan. Oh, what a beautiful time this is, as first-time parents with our first-born babe.

As Joan discovers the world she is showing us more of her personality. Our baby is becoming a little girl and the whole process is blowing our minds. She’s interested and sweet and determined. In public she’s shy, observant and sensitive. When comfortable with her surroundings she is loud and silly. In the mornings our babe is fresh and smiles wide. In the evenings she love to nestle into my neck, feeling the cooling breeze on her face while we wait for daddy to get home. And because I’m finding it hard to remember last week, let alone last month, I’ve been writing it down. Week by week, in a special notebook gifted by my friend, I take notes of what has happened, what Joan is doing and loving, how I felt and any milestones. Just a sentence or two, nothing particularly long or remarkable, but things I want to remember, like the way she grins and stretches in the morning when she sees our faces, and her first trip to the city. Like the way she looks around the room with curious, wide, excited eyes when standing upright with our support, and what makes her giggle at this sweet age of 6 months. I think Joan will love reading my notes when she’s older.

And now, here are some notes for you. A lot has changed since those first foggy months, and I wanted to update you all on what we’re doing regarding our favourite products, sleep, food and life in general. There’s a lot of words in this post, and I considered cutting it right down into dot point form, however I appreciate that when you are going through things (whether car seat dramas, eczema, sleep and nap battles), it can be useful to read other people’s thoughts. So here are mine (all of them). You’ll find I go into a lot of detail in some areas, and this is because I do not want to give the impression that things have just happened or are easy. A little bit of an explanation helps people relate to what is truly going on and how we arrived at this point, 6 months on. Because I think you all know that I am completely honest here on the blog. I don’t think too much before posting, I just share. It’s real and raw and I hope that it helps you if you’re going through something similar right now. I encourage you to skip over parts you don’t care for, because if it’s not relevant to you it will likely send you to sleep. It’s a loooong post, folks, which I wrote bit by bit over the past few months. I love blogging in this way, it helps me to reflect, process my thoughts and grow. Writing these two posts about life with baby Joan at 0-3 months and 4-6 months have been valuable because our life has changed so fantastically during this time.

Our current world feels smooth and sweet. This is not to say that we don’t have bumps and wakeful nights and moments when baby Joan won’t settle, but recently I feel like I’ve “got” things. And what I mean by that is we’ve had a few big realisations about what works for our family and given in to them. We’ve also found solutions for little conundrums (like discovering socks that stayed on bubs’ feet and a natural nappy rash cream that actually works) and learnt how to deal with a poor nights sleep. I suspect many first-time parents go through a similar transition sometime after “the fourth trimester”, when their babies turn four months old. You’re more confident, everyday tasks don’t take as long, you know your baby and they know you. And despite the four month sleep regression thing (or “progression”, as Pink McKay exquisitely puts it), we’re functioning pretty well over here. I mean, my mental processing is sometimes (often) questionable, but at the end of the day we are mostly cozy and nourished and happy in our little world. I’d like to pass on some words and recommendations that I’ve received from others or discovered on my own, in the hope of encouraging more cozy, nourished and happy families. As always, each family is different so if what I write doesn’t feel right, listen to your gut and do whatever works for your family. And of course seek help from qualified professionals if you’re unsure about anything.

So here we go, following on from my post on the first three months with baby Joan we have some thoughts on months four, five and six. Reflecting on that looong and sometimes/often rambling post I wrote a couple of months ago, I now find myself a little more succinct and assured. I’m also kinder to myself, more forgiving and gentle, and happy to ride the wave, however our day is turning out. It’s a nice place to be.

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Morning has broken

February 29, 2016

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I don’t know what prompted me to reach for my phone and search for “Cat Stevens”, but last Monday I found myself dancing in the kitchen with my baby on my hip singing, “glide on the peace train“. A pot of dahl was simmering on the stove, which felt entirely appropriate for the 1970’s tunes decorating our day. I grew up eating my mother’s dahl fortnightly, if not weekly, so perhaps that is why I suddenly found myself missing these tunes. You see, my mother adores Cat Stevens. When I hear Where Do The Children Play and Moonshadow, I remember being around ten years old and standing near the cd player in our living room. It’s dark, so it must be the evening, probably a Saturday night… I am standing and listening and mum is listening and moving to the music, telling us of the time when she was 17 years old and won tickets to his concert via a radio competition to sit right at the front and meet him afterwards. We are getting ready to watch a movie, the five of us, probably something science fiction, which is precisely the opposite of what I’d choose to watch if I had my way, but I always liked hanging out with my family (and there was always chocolate), so I was happy.

Last week, when Morning Has Broken started to play, I began to cry. Often when I think of losing my older brother I am comforted by the familiarity of my feelings. It’s a mix of deep sadness, regret and longing, as well as joy for the time we did get together. But while hearing the music of our childhood and remembering, as I held baby Joan in my arms, I felt a different kind of sadness. It’s heavier and darker and I don’t quite know what to make of it yet, but it’s there… and I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon, because I keep wanting to listen to Morning Has Broken, and so it keeps coming up. The following day when Ben was working from home I called out to him but he didn’t respond. I went into his office to find him typing away with his headphones in. “Are you on a call?”, I asked. “No, I’m listening to music…Cat Stevens.”

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven.

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Happenings, 19.2.16

February 19, 2016

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DOING: waiting for Joan to wake up so I can feed her and make a coffee! She’s started to take hour and a half-long naps in the morning, often getting sleepy and starting them while out on our morning walk. Once we get home I just leave her sleeping in the Ergo carrier and reply to emails, read articles like this and this, and do a bit of writing, while I wait for her to wake.
HEARING: Billie Holiday. I go through phases with music, listening to one album over and over before moving on to the next. One singer I always go back to is Billie Holiday. She makes me sway and smile. Her version of I’ll be seeing you is a favourite, and it reminds me of The Notebook, a movie I unabashedly adore. I watched that when I was about 35 weeks pregnant and I was beside myself, weeping to Ben, “They love each other sooooo much!”, to which he replied, “I told you not to watch that movie”.
COOKING: It’s been a granola month over here. I felt inspired to create my own honey and peanut butter granola, which worked out pretty well, but my favourite remains granola no.5, of which we’ve recently made two batches. Served with greek yoghurt AND milk. I also tried a new ragu recipe this month, which came highly recommended from the Food52 community. Ben and I loved it! Though next time I’d add fresh basil to the sauce, include pancetta as recommended and maybe swap the sausage for beef mince. Or I’d find a better, more flavourful sausage, but really I try to keep sausages and cured meats to an occasional indulgence because of the preservatives. Unless you go preservative-free! We’re going to be ordering from these folk soon, as recommended to me by a lovely blog reader.
EATING: Besides a whole lotta granola? We’ve been devouring fresh vegetables from Transition Farm, with the return of our weekly CSA veggie box delivery. I forgot how carrots and capsicum should taste.

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Buttery fried eggs

February 12, 2016

eggs

I have memories of fried eggs from when I was a child. School fete and camp cook-up memories…they’re not good.

The egg and bacon rolls of my youth involved hot plates that had seen better days. Everything coming off the grill tasted of meat juice, and not in a good way. Why I’d always order an egg and bacon roll is beyond me, I knew the whites would be crisp and tasteless, and the yolk would always be questionably runny (until a few years ago I preferred my eggs completely hard – “dead eggs”, as my family ineloquently (and rather insensitively) puts it). Now I adore a runny yolk (just as long as the white is hard, am I right?!), but back then it had to be solid for me to enjoy them. The egg would inevitably be served, slapped into a white roll, with strips of bacon that were far too pink and far too fatty for my apparently fussy ten-year-old self. Ughhhhhhh. Fried eggs? No, thank you.

And so I steered clear of fried eggs, leaning my preferences towards the boiled and poached varieties. As the years crept by, my demand for a hard yolk changed to tolerance of a bit of wobble, which later developed into a love for runny, gooey, golden yolks. With age comes wisdom. When brunching, I like my poached and boiled eggs served “runny, please”. And at home, softly folded scrambled eggs are my favourite, well-seasoned with salt or sometimes in place of salt a sharp cheese, like parmesan or taleggio, cheddar or goat. And then last year, something happened. I began to appreciate, fried eggs. No, no, no, “appreciate” doesn’t really convey my true affection, let’s try that again. Last year, I began to love, adore and crave fried eggs. So much so that they are now my lunchtime staple, with sourdough toast and a good smash of avocado. The reason for this flip? Butter.

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