Out for a Meal With Baby @ Bia Café

Bia Café used to be a place that Jules and I went to often. It does a delicious range of stirfries while also catering the Irish staples of soups and sandwiches alongside Lasagna, Caesar Salads and an All Day Breakfast. All in all the food was always good. Unfortunately Bia suffered from a horribly inefficient extractor system around the diner style cooking layout. The result: Following any visit your clothes stank of cooking and grease.

This visit we were delighted to discover that the problem seems to have been fixed. The place felt airy and fresh and there wasn't a bad smell of cooking at all. Perhaps there's been a change of ownership? I did ask one of the waiters but they didn't know - they said they were only new.

So what was the place like with Beckett along with us? There's a lot of space to start, so it's easy to navigate in a stroller and maneuver around to any of the tables. For anyone used to driving a stroller you'll know that this is a great thing. They do offer high chairs and thankfully not the awful wooden kind that look like some sort of medieval torture device. They have nice plastic high chairs that are pretty supportive and nice and clean. My only one very small issue with the high chair was that it was about two to three inches too low, and sat below the table level. PErsonally I prefer to have BEckett at least at the same height as us, if not slightly higher.

We ordered a Baby Bowl for Beckett - mashed potato, peas, carrots and gravy on the side. Even at just 9 months old we've experienced many a Baby Bowl in many an eatery and they tend to vary wildly from delicious to absolute rubbish. This was definitely the former. The mash was lightly seasoned and deliciously creamy. The veg were well cooked and tasted equally nice. The gravy was lovely too. We would definitely recommend it.

Jules ordered a Szechuan Chicken Stirfry and I had the Big Breakfast. Both were very good - tasty and well cooked. The staff were very welcoming and friendly. The place clean and well looked after. I have to say, we'll definitely be going back.

Out For a Meal With Baby

At least once a week I'm asked where is good to eat out that's baby friendly. Surprisingly, it's not always an easy question to answer. Often the higher end eateries are useless and sometimes it's the greasy spoons that know just how to make things right for a parents eating out with their infant. Given this new medium to share experiences and try to help people out if at all possible, it seems like a good idea to share our experiences when we've eaten out with Beckett.

While there'll obviously be a bit about the food and service and decor and price, the main aim will be to let you know just how easy or difficult it was at an eatery and what offerings / services they had specifically for babies (food options, high chairs, changing facilities etc.). I imagine that most reviews will be of Louth and Meath restaurants, as that's where we generally dine out, however, if we visit anywhere further afield there'll definitely be a feature.

It's late now and there's a Sunday Roast to marinate for tomorrow's dinner, so I'll leave the first review until tomorrow evening. To get things rolling I'll let you know how we got on when we went for lunch in Bia Café in Drogheda today. The above image, in case you're wondering, is from our visit to The Pizzeria a little while back. I'll review it too very soon.

Sitting Baby at the Table

Beckett was 4 months old when we sat him in a high chair for the first time. He loved it. Alas that particular high chair was a total nightmare. You see, whatever age your baby, you can struggle to find a high chair that fits in with your life and your baby - not all high chairs are created equal!

The first high chair that Beckett was in was the Graco Contempo. A solid and sturdy contraption that was ultimately over-engineered and simply bothersome in doing what should be a simple job. Afterall, a high chair is just a high chair. This chair followed the same approach and, unfortunately, failings as many high chairs I see. It tried to do too much as far as adjustment and comfort.

Graco Contempo

Next up was the Fisher-Price High Chair. We didn't own this one but Beckett's Grandparents have it in their house and he uses it regularly. For all intents and purposes this chair is the exact same as the Graco one. It is painfully over-complicated and somehow even more cumbersome. It does not fold down particularly well and it leaves a multitude of places for little fingers to get caught. Similarly to the Graco again, there are two trays and more places for foodstuffs to get caught and hidden in. As you can tell, I am not a fan.

Fisher-Price High Chair

Finally we have the winner. The high chair that we currently use, and recommend to everyone, is the IKEA ANTILOP High Chair. This is typical of an IKEA piece - simple, robust, inexpensive and it does exactly what you want it to do. There are no folding or moving parts. The tray is a simple clip fastening and the seat cushioning is via an inflatable, washable, three-side cushion. This high chair is light but unlikely to fall over no matter what way your baby rocks or sways. It's easy to clean and doesn't have any hidden places for food to go moldy. IT is the high chair that you want.


The main things to consider when it comes to buying a high chair are as follows:

  • Do you need the high chair to collapse / fold-away for storage purposes?
  • How easy is the high chair to clean? / What sort of materials are used on the high chair, and can they easily be cleaned?
  • Does it adequately support your baby, and is there an ability to adjust it as your baby grows?
  • Will your baby be comfortable in the high chair?
  • Is the high chair hard wearing, and will it last?

These are, of course, by no means an exhaustive list of considerations - you may have specific things to consider for you and your baby. But they're certainly a good starting point. When shopping make sure to have baby with you and sit them in the high chair. Go online and search for reviews and feedback from other parents. Do some homework!

Baby Loves Chili Con Carne

We've been blessed with a baby who loves food - loves to try new food, loves spicy food, loves feeding himself, loves to eat what we're eating... It's just an absolute joy. Don't get me wrong, when cooking I do watch what goes into our food - salt, spices etc. So far though, he hasn't found anything that he doesn't like.

Just the other day he was eating Corn Fritters and loved them. Despite there being quite a kick to them (fresh Jalapenos!). So it got me thinking. It's been ages since I cooked a Chili and obviously Baby Bear has never tried one. So it was decided. Out came the Chili Con Carne recipe and away I went.

First up I will say that while I don't find this recipe to have any particular hotness or kick to it, I will show you at the end how you can dial up or dial down the spiciness. Otherwise, as always, you can just add a little Creme Fraiche or Natural Yogurt to bring down the heat if you feel it is too spicy.

Christian's Chili Con Carne

500g Aberdeen Angus Steak Mince (substitute your prefered minced beef as you like, though I recommend a low fat mince)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onions, sliced as per your liking
1 red onion, sliced as per your liking
1 pepper, chopped as per your liking
3 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal into 1cm lengths
2 carrots (5-6" each), sliced into 0.5cm discs
1 small tin kidney beans in chilli sauce
1 tin mixed beans in spicy tomato sauce
1 tin plum tomatoes in tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp fresh chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dried coriander
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp onion granules
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
3 tsp black pepper
3 dashes worcestershire sauce
4 tbsp tomato ketchup (always Heinz!)
200ml water (room temp.)

Put your beef in a mixing bowl and add the mustard seeds, ground cumin, dried coriander, dried oregano, garlic granules, onion granules, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, worcestershire sauce, 2 tbsp tomato ketchup. Carefully 'turn' the herbs and spices through the beef - the goal is to mix everything as much as possible but using as little effort as possible. The more you mash and mix the beef, the tougher it will get. This is true whenever you are working with minced meat - feck around with it as little as possible before cooking! Ideally do this several hours before cooking to properly marinate the meat.

Put your oil in a large pot (this is where the chili will happen so make sure it's big enough) with the chopped garlic and chili. Cook at a medium heat (no burning!). As soon as the chili and garlic start to sizzle, add your onions. Mix well to coat the onion in the chili and garlic oil. Put the lid on the pot and allow the onions to sweat for 5min.

Once the onions are good and soft, put the beef mix into the pot. Gently mix the onions and beef through and add the pepper. Allow the beef to brown and add the mixed beans, kidney beans and plum tomatoes. Mix through and leave to cook for 15min.

Add the spring onion, carrots and remaining tomato ketchup. Cook for 15min and add the water. Bring the hob heat right down (chili should be very, very gently bubbling), put the lid on and allow the chili to cook for at least another 15min.

I served the chili with brown rice but white rice or pasta is fine - whatever you like best. With regard the hotness / spiciness of the dish, as you may have guessed, most of your adjustment will come through increasing or reducing the amount of fresh chilli used. Don't change the dry ingredients though (dried chilli flakes). These are really about flavour rather than hotness. You may also want to change the type of chilli that you are using. Birdseye, Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chillis will all massively increase the temp. Of course they will also change the flavour somewhat. If chilli hotness worries you, just use ordinary peppers - these have no heat at all.

Finally, if I could give you one bit of advice when making this... make it a day before you intend to eat it. Refrigerate it and allow it to 'mature'. I guarantee it will be even nicer the day after cooking. Obviously this also means that if you eat it on the day of cooking, any leftovers the next day will be delicious!

Oh, and as you may have guessed from the title... Beckett absolutely loved his first Chili Con Carne :)

Baby's First Bath

Giving Baby their first bath is a daunting task for some. How much water do you fill the bath with? Hot hot should the water be? Which bubble bath should you use? So many questions. Plus, foremost, you'll be sitting your baby in the water. That's scary enough all by itself.

The best advice that I could give is to not freak out. Unless you're totally careless, nothing will go wrong. The water should be 37c and you only need to use a small amount of bubble bath. You can't go wrong with any of the Johnson & Johnson products but if you have the opportunity to get some Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo, do. The stuff is fantastic but unfortunately only available in the US. Don't fill the bath too high. About 3" in probably fine but you may want to go a bit less depending on the size of your baby.

Getting the temperature right is very important. We have the Philips Avent Bath & Room Thermometer. It goes from your nursery straight into the bath and will float on the surface as the bath fills allowing you to easily read the changing temperature. I would definitely recommend it. It's completely reliable and feels sturdy to use. It has a rubberised surround too so if it accidentally falls you won't break it.

When using a baby bath you can generally support your baby in your whole submerged arm but when you move up to the full bath you do need to use a technique. Sit beside the bath. Put your baby on its butt in the bath. Put one arm around baby's back and hold their arm or leg with that hand. By allowing baby to lie back against your arm, they will be snug and secure.

Make sure to have a towel ready beside the bath too before baby gets in. We generally let Beckett have a bit of a splish splash and have a few rubber ducks for him to play with. Do keep an eye on the water temperature though as it will drop fast enough. Meaning, you really need to get baby washed and then out and into clothes. We use a muslin cloth rather than a sponge for softness.

That's really that. All going to plan you shouldn't have any problems. If you do experience any 'surprises' though, and it will happen at some point, just stay calm. Quickly finish washing baby and get them out of the water. No fuss.

Sweet Potato & Moroccan Chicken

Jules and I were recently given a Tagine by my mum. Actually it was an engagement gift now that I think about it. I'd always wanted one and with three meals now under its belt, I can safely say that I would recommend one to anyone who enjoys cooking. Obviously if you don't have a Tagine then a regular lidded casserole dish will do the job. As I mentioned on my last recipe post (Curried Beef Stew), the recipes I share with you will be mostly meals that once cooking can be walked away from until ready.

The dish is full of flavour and very baby friendly. Just dial down the finished dish as needed with a bit of natural yogurt if necessary. Beckett loved it just as it was and actually had it again the next day as leftovers. Just watch out for the fresh chilli when preparing it as the oil will stay on your skin very easily and you don't want to get that on baby! After preparing fresh chilli wash your hands in cold water (hot water opens the pores and embeds the chilli oil) and rub them on your stainless steel sink (helps remove the oil).

I decided to prepare the Sweet Potato two ways. I oven roasted it in small chunks that would be big enough but not too big for Beckett to pick up and feed himself (BLW) and I also boiled it to make mash. The boiling requires a little more input but if you did want a meal you cook properly walk away from as it cooked, just go with the roast option.

Moroccan Chicken & Sweet Potato

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 4-5cm pieces or left whole
6 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced as per your liking
1 pepper, chopped as per your liking
3 large sweet potatoes, 2.5 chopped into 3-4cm chunks and the other 0.5 left in larger chunks
100g tomatoes
2cm knob of ginger, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp fresh chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp each ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon
200ml chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves
Chopped fresh coriander
Salt, pepper and paprika to season

Whizz the ginger, garlic, chilli, turmeric, ground spices and 3 tbsp olive oil into a rough paste. Place the chicken, onions, pepper, tomatoes and paste into the tagging (casserole dish). Mix well to coat all items in paste. Add the stock and kaffir lime leaves.

Place the smaller sweet potato chunks in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining oil and salt, pepper and paprika as desired. Toss the sweet potato chunks to ensure all are coated in oil and seasoning. Spread out evenly on a baking tray.

Put the tagine (casserole dish) and baking tray in a preheated 190c oven and cook for 90min. Garnish the finished chicken with the fresh coriander.

Boil the remaining sweet potato as required for soft chunks (approx. 15-20min), and mash into a chunky consistency. Season with a little pepper.

Everything here is baby friendly and absolutely delicious. If you somehow manage to have any left over it also tastes even better the next day!

Baby's First Sniffles

Babies get sick. It's a fact. Their immune systems are only developing and it means that even the littlest bug or cough is likely to affect them. it's something that we all have to go through so that the same illnesses don't affect us when we're older. Unfortunately it doesn't make it any easier when you're baby gets sick for the first time.

We've been lucky as far as Beckett hasn't had any really, really bad illnesses. Certainly nothing life threatening. Touch wood. He has, however, had a bad vomiting bug and currently has a really bad dose of the sniffles (he's a snot factory at the moment!). And I can testify how difficult it is to see your baby sick.

So, what do you do when baby gets sick. Basically when it comes to a baby you need to go completely old school and can only use the most basic of medicines. Lots of fluids is key. And rest. But when it comes to drugs there's very little that you should give them. Basic Ibuprofen and Paracetamol are ok but decongestants are out. Although it used to be seen to be ok to give under 6's a standard decongestant or cough syrup, back in 2008 infant medicine manufacturers removed all such products and introduced warnings to other products about giving them to under 4's.

A bit of advice I would give though is to invest in a Calpol Soothe & Care Vapour Plug & Nightlight. These little devices plug straight into the a socket and provide soothing lavender and camomile vapours to help a stuffed up baby to sleep through the night. Without doubt Beckett sleeps a lot more soundly and in a lot more comfort with one of these.

Calpol Soothe & Care Vapour Plug & Nightlight

The other thing to try out is a saline nasal spray. There are several branded and non-branded varieties available and all should be the exact same. Best bet is to ask your chemist which they would advise.

Cooking Dinner and Looking After Baby (Curried Beef Stew)

One of the things that I found toughest when Beckett first came along and I was home alone with him was to get the ordinary household stuff done while he was awake. It didn't really matter if he was in his high chair, his rocker, his crib or his travel cot. The slightest little noise and I'd be running to his side. For most jobs this wasn't a huge problem - stopping and coming back to whatever I was doing didn't cause any problems. The thing is, when you're in the middle of cooking dinner and leave it alone, disaster can ensue.

Things have changed a bit these days and my tolerance for baby noises has greatly increased. I also know our baby and have gotten to know what his noises mean. In the case of Beckett you also need to know that he's a total chatterbox so there's always noise! Between there and now, however, I came up with a few ways of preventing baby noises from ruining dinner. The easiest of which was to cook one pot meals. This way once the food is cooking you can walk away without worry.

One of my favourite things to cook is Beef Stew. It's super tasty, really easy and if you make enough you'll have lunch or dinner for the next day too. In our house we like a bit of a kick to our food and we're big fans of a good curry. BAsically this lead to me combining the two and creating a Curried Beef Stew. Spicy and delicious, it's particularly good in Winter but equally delicious at any time of the year. I hope you enjoy!

Curried Beef Stew

Curry Paste
2 fresh chiles, stemmed, seeded and diced
1/2tsp salt
1 lemongrass stalk, bottom 4' only, tough outer layer removed, cut into 1' pieces
2tbsp ginger, peeled and diced
2tbsp turmeric
1/2cup chopped shallots
4 garlic cloves, diced

2lbs round beef, cut into 1 1/2' cubes
3tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp dried chiles
9cups beef broth
1cup halved shallots
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves
Chopped fresh coriander

Curry Paste
In a pestle and mortar, grind the chiles and salt. Add ingredients one by one in order listed, fully grinding each before adding the next. This can be done up to a week ahead - just put it in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.

Combine the curry paste, beef, soy sauce, and dried chiles in a pot; stir to evenly coat beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the beef is browned. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender but not falling apart, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Stir in shallots, carrots, and lime leaves. Simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. If broth is too salty, add water a few tablespoonfuls at a time.
Garnish with the coriander and basil and serve with some crusty bread or rice.

If your baby is anything like Beckett then you'll want them to try whatever you're eating. This recipe isn't quite right for a baby but there's not much that you'd need to do to make it ok. Remove the chiles and dried chiles (or reduce them significantly) and remove the salt. Then add a little natural yogurt and this would be fine.

Baby's First Holiday

For those without children, especially infants, the task of preparing and then undertaking a family holiday cannot be imagined. The simplest little thing while away from home needs to have been planned and thought out, and every ointment, cream, lotion and syrup needs to have been brought along for the journey. Let's face it, for those of us who do have a child, you'll know that the last thing who ever want is to be away from home and discover some vital item has been forgotten.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to make it sound a nightmare. Going away with your child is brilliant fun and being there to witness the wonder that a child experiences somewhere new and exciting is beyond amazing. So what do you need to do to ensure that your family holiday is amazing and not a nightmare?

It may seem unbelievable to some but although he's only 8 months old, Beckett is already a transatlantic traveller. Earlier this year the three of us took a week long holiday to Orlando. This involved direct flights to and from Orlando, each over 8 hours. As you can imagine, spending that length of time in a giant flying bus requires definite planning. For us this meant ensuring that we had an adequate supply of bottles, food and entertainment for Beckett's first aeroplane ride.

The biggest thing to consider here is how many bags you need. We obviously checked in as much as possible and really only carried on bags for Beckett. Jules had a handbag with her but the only items I brought on the plane, my iPad and a pair of headphones, travelled in one of Beckett's bags. In Beckett's two bags we had his bottles, formula, food, changing items and some toys. This meant a lot of containers of liquid over the usual 100ml carryon security limit. This isn't a problem though - any baby items are not restricted by the same regulations. When passing through security they simply perform a swab test for explosive residue and visually inspect any food stuffs.

To be honest, aside from having to carry everything, it really wasn't any bother going through the airports with all his gear. The ground staff, both in Dublin and Orlando, were also very helpful and having an infant means that you get priority boarding. When booking your flights, however, do make sure that you get the front seats with the bassinets. There's a special seat belt to attach your baby to a parents during takeoff and landing but for the rest of the flight they will be in the bassinet or your arms. I would strongly advise that during takeoff and landing you have a bottle ready for your baby to drink to avoid any pain or discomfort due to the changes in cabin pressure.

As for the part of actually being in another country with your baby or child, the only big things for us outside of the usual considerations for clothing and sunscreen were how we would be sterilising and cleaning his bottles. To do this we booked a room where we were staying that had a little kitchen type area (a microwave, sink and kettle). We just bought washing up liquid at WalMart and then used Milton to sterilise. All very easy to be honest.

It helped that we went back to the same hotel that Jules and I have used 4 or 5 times before. We knew exactly what to expect. We knew how the hotel was laid out, what it had to offer and what sort of assistance we could get if needed. This really was key - I would strongly suggest not trying out some place new with a very young child. Know where you're going and what to expect.

I'll write a post very soon about the specifics of going to the amusements parks (Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure) and how to best cater your trip away with a baby, but for now just rest assured that if you are planning your first family holiday, you'll be fine. With a little bit of planning there is nothing to worry about. In fact there's so much to look forward to!

The Tactical Changing Bag

Your nappy or changing bag is just one thing on a long list of furniture and equipment that new parents will have to buy. And just like every other item you'll need to buy, the options are almost endless. Different sizes, colours, materials etc.

When it came to our Changing Bag we bought a Skip Hop bag. It's a good size and has loads of pockets and storage compartments. It also has its own changing mat to lie baby down on. It's great. But it's no Tactical Changing Bag!

The Tactical Changing Bag from ThinkGeek is a military-inspired bag for carrying all your baby supplies and making you look totally badass. It has 16 different pockets and compartments, a waterproof changing mat and cool 'DAD' and 'MOM' patches.

So very cool and a snip at only US$50, though alas they only ship to the US. Boo-urns :(