Saturday, August 21, 2010

This is what happens



when cooking together cuts into nap time.
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Friday, August 20, 2010

Has it been a year already?

As September approaches, so does the little man’s first birthday. Since so many people want to see the new house and, of course, love the little guy, we decided to have a party. And a bigger party than we would usually have for such an occasion. How does a newly organic mommy manage to feed so many guests and (most importantly) her son organically on a budget? Well, I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I will let you know once it’s all over.

What I do have the answer to is CAKE! I have spent more hours than I care to admit researching this issue. I want a healthier cake, but I also want it to taste really, really good. I want this to be a happy occasion for all involved – birthday boy, guests, and later into the evening, parents. The later into the evening is referring to not having to take care of a sick, vomiting little boy after preparing for and hosting a birthday party all day. I also have to consider his lactose intolerance and a slight reaction to bananas, plus his likes and dislikes.

Here is the recipe that I have decided to use:

Pumpkin Apple Harvest Cake
By Cait Johnson, author of Witch in the Kitchen

1 cup cooked or canned pumpkin puree
 2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup organic sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped apple
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Whipped cream or confectioners’ sugar for topping (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare an 8-inch round cake pan by greasing and flouring it.

2. Combine pumpkin, eggs, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, and salt, stirring to combine. Add apples and nuts, stirring again. Pour mixture into prepared pan (smooth it out as the pumpkin makes it bake in whatever shape it goes in there with).

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

4. Cool the cake, still in the pan, on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack, remove pan, and cool cake completely.

5. When ready to serve, turn cake on to a pretty plate and top with whipped cream or confectioners’ sugar, if desired, or serve plain.

Any ingredient that can be organic will be. I am going to omit the nuts. I am not sure if my son will have a reaction and I don’t love them, so adios! I am also going to purchase a cake pan in the shape of the number “1” to make it cuter and less obvious that it’s not a traditional birthday cake.

Now, the next question – frosting? Once again, I have spent hours upon hours trying to find a recipe. I feel that this cake just screams for a cream cheese frosting, but immediately threw that idea out. Then, I thought that I would do a simple powdered sugar and water glaze and just give up the idea of the frosting covered baby pictures. But I don’t want to have to compromise. Just because the little guy isn’t tolerant of milk doesn’t mean that he should have to give up the experience of fun with frosting. So, I began my research again. I found that a lot of people recommend prepared store bought frosting that doesn’t contain any milk. I would prefer to skip the preservatives and make my own. I have it narrowed down to two recipes, and I probably won’t make up my mind until I have to go shopping for the ingredients. Here they are:

Frosting #1

This icing is lighter than a frosting, but a bit richer than a simple glaze. Perfect for denser cakes or muffins, this is an easy recipe that only takes minutes to make.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup plain unsweetened soy yogurt
1 T. hot water
1 t. vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, combine the confectioners’ sugar, soy yogurt, hot water and vanilla extract, beating until smooth and creamy, about 3-4 minutes. Icing can be used chilled slightly or immediately.

Frosting #2

This frosting is, quite literally, the icing on the cake! It is really important to make sure that your soy margarine is cold when you start mixing and that you do not add the vinegar and vanilla until the powdered sugar and margarine are well combined. If the soy margarine is too warm or the vinegar is added at the beginning of mixing, the margarine will "separate," and you'll have less a frosting and more a soupy sloppy sweet sauce. This recipe is really simple to make; you just have to follow it!
Makes about 2 cups frosting
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
1 ¾ cups confectioners sugar
6 T. dairy-free soy margarine, such as Willow Run
2 t. apple cider vinegar
1 t. vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer on low speed, cream the powdered sugar with the soy margarine, adjusting the speed up to high once the powdered sugar is incorporated into the margarine. Add the cider vinegar and vanilla extract, and continue to mix on high speed until frosting holds stiff peaks. Store in a covered dish or container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Me v. Bugs

We have recently engaged in a war against insects and have chosen several non-chemical methods as our weapons. Some have worked, some have not. We have avoided spraying toxic chemicals inside the house, but our hands were tied and we had to spray outside. Just a short year ago we would have bought bombs and set them off immediately. But, back then, we were also cleaning with toxins and eating pesticides.

My favorite bug killing weapon (recommended by my husband’s grandmother):

In a bowl about the size of a cereal bowl mix:
3 cups water
4 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon of dish soap

Put in a room where there are bugs. You can even use this outside on your deck or anywhere. *Note* if you have pets, set it on a countertop or windowsill or railing or anywhere the animals can’t drink it.

It’s almost magical all the different bugs that this eliminates. We have found everything from wasps to little tiny bugs that I can’t identify. Bonus, since I can’t throw anything away, especially food, I have found that this is a great use for the non-organic sugar that I bought before we went organic.

We have been pretty successful eliminating all of the bugs except for fleas. Our animals became infested and since we had never had this problem before we were a little late in picking up the signs which increased the problem significantly. These are the little pests that have required chemicals and medication for the pets.

Current score…

Me – 1
Bugs – 1 (pesky fleas)

Does anyone have a non-toxic pest eliminating method? Please share!
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Making food for babies and people older than babies

Oh dear, sweet blog, I swear that I haven’t been ignoring you. I really just haven’t had anything to report.

I am still making baby food, but realized that the era will be coming to an end in the near future. The little man prefers feeding himself tiny bites with his fingers and is desperate to use the spoon (or at least have enough control over it so that he can wave it in the air or bang it on the tray or do whatever else he wants with it). So, my days of pureeing are numbered. I am a little sad, as this made me feel more of a part of my son’s nurturing where I feel that I miss out on so much.

There is an upside to not making baby food – I can focus my efforts on making food that the entire family can enjoy. I really want to make my own bread. I would love to get my husband away from the white Wonder bread and I have been dreaming up yummy combinations that I can’t wait to try. Hopefully I will have the time and the tools to begin this project soon. I am also anxious to try canning my own spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. I have daydreams of a weekly family night involving the entire family making homemade pizzas together and watching a movie together afterwards. Of course my child will have to be a little older to help out and appreciate a movie, but that’s why they are currently daydreams. Making and canning my own pizza sauce will help make this dream easy and doable, plus give us a fresh from the garden taste in the middle of the cold Ohio winters.

I have been buying mostly organic groceries for a couple of months now. Cheese and meat has been an obstacle, because of cost and availability. Luckily our Farmer’s Market has an organic cheese stand that is wonderful. It takes all of my power to not spend my entire paycheck there. Unfortunately it is only available during the Farmer’s Market, so the off season will still be a challenge. I still can’t find a good solution for meat, so I have been serving vegetarian meals a couple of times a week. Eggs were also costly, but availability was easy. I thought eggs were going to break me, but luckily I have a co-worker that has chickens and has been selling eggs to me at a much more reasonable price. I have become pretty proud of my organic pantry.

 We are still undergoing the slowest move in the history of moves. This is not only draining our energy, but also our bank accounts. Fixing and replacing to make the new house livable has come before any green changes that we would like to make. So, sadly, I have not begun to compost or recycle or do anything else that I want to do in the new house.I really didn’t expect the move to stall my green efforts so much. I plan to continue to make little changes whenever I see the opportunity and the funds and hope that some of my bigger changes can come into effect by the end of the year.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Carnivorous?

We are officially in the new house now (although not all of our stuff is). Unfortunately our new house appliances are pretty much unusable and the replacements still won’t be in for another week or so. That being said, my poor son has eaten pretty much the same thing every day for about two weeks. The variety has been seriously lacking.

We did try to introduce a little bit of garlic powder mixed with carrots and white potatoes, but that did not go over so well. I wasn’t home for this particular incident, but I heard that it was awful. Later I used some cinnamon in winter squash to try to entice the little guy to finish his dinner and the results weren’t nearly as horrible as the garlic powder. The cinnamon did make him curious to take about two more bites, but he still didn’t finish his dinner. He did seem to like the cinnamon, but was just so over eating.

Now that my appliances are getting nearer, I am starting to look at more combinations and other foods to introduce (to make up for the recent lackluster meals). As I looked into recipes and stared at the jarred food for ideas, I kept coming across meat. I have no intention to make my children vegetarian. If this is something that he decides on his own at an older age I will totally support his decision and try to accommodate his dietary needs. But as of right now, his father and I are both carnivores and I would like to add meat into his diet.

And this may be a good spot to add that I am terrified of this venture. I was very unsure about making my own baby food and honestly thought that it would be a failure and we would be using jarred food* by now. Obviously, I am still making all of his meals and that never happened, so I hope that preparing meat has the same outcome.

As I mentioned, I have been using Super Baby Food as my go-to guide and handbook. When I consulted it to find some yummy meat recipes I could find none. I don’t know if I am looking in the wrong place in the index or it’s just not there (which after searching every term for meat that I could possibly think of, this is my conclusion), but regardless, nothing. So, I had to turn to the internet for inspiration.

I have been eying quite a few recipes that not only look pretty good to me, but also look like something that he will eat (usually contains at least one or two ingredients that are already in regular rotation). Here are my favorites (so far):

Simmering Sweet Apples and Chicken

1 chicken breast - uncooked and diced
1 or 2 medium sized apples (try Macintosh), peeled, cord and diced
½ cup peeled and diced sweet potato
2 cup water or chicken stock or vegetable stock

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot.
Bring to a slow boil and then turn the heat down.
Simmer until the meat pieces are cooked; approximately 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the liquid level when simmering.
When meat is fully cooked and the apples are mushy, remove contents to a bowl and allow to cool. Puree, mash or chop for your baby.

Variations:

Add ¼ cup uncooked brown rice before cooking
Add ¼ uncooked couscous or quinoa before cooking

I am definitely going to try one of these variations when I make it – most likely I will add quinoa or orzo

Baby Beef Stew

½ cup cubed cooked beef
1 peeled potato
¼ cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
1 peeled carrot
1 stalk of celery
¼ cup uncooked pasta (try ditalini (small tube shaped noodles) as it's small and makes for great finger food)4 cups of water

Wash vegetables thoroughly and chop very fine.Simmer the veggies for 20 minutes or until softenedAdd the pasta and cook for 10 minutes longer or until very soft. Drain but save the water.Mash or puree the mix until it is of a consistency adequate for your baby (if needed, use the reserved water to reach desired consistency).

Brown Rice Chicken and Peach Delight

½ cup cooked boneless chicken - chopped
¼ cup cooked brown rice
1 ripe peach
1 T peach juice (white grape or apple juice may be used or juice may be left out)
1 T milk and
2 t wheat germ

Mix all ingredients together, transfer to blender/food processor and puree or chop to make textured for older babies.

Due to my little guy’s lactose sensitivity, I am going to omit the milk.

Although I have all intentions of feeding my children meat, I would also like to introduce tofu and other meat alternatives. I don’t use tofu currently, but would also like to incorporate it into the adult diets, too. Since I am not familiar with it, I needed to do some research in storage, preparation, etc. My research usually begins with baby food and this is what I found:

- When you have opened the package of tofu, drain the water and blot the tofu dry with a paper towel. You can then slice it according to what you are going to use it for. If blending or mashing it, it is a good idea to slice it into small cubes.

- Tofu may be stored in the fridge for up to 7 days. You must store it in a container of water that is airtight. The water should be changed daily or every 2 days at the least.

 - Tofu does freeze but it will turn spongier in texture and often changes to a darkish caramel color. Should you choose to freeze it, simply put it in a freezer bag and toss in the freezer or, put the whole container that it came in into the freezer. Thaw it on the counter - do not microwave to thaw.

Here are some tofu combinations that make yummy meals.

Blend tofu with:

Applesauce and squash
Avocado and pears
Blueberries and bananas
Sweet potato and carrots
Broccoli and parsnips

I have a lot of these ingredients in my kitchen already, so I hope to make up some tofu and meat dishes either later this week or beginning next week. I will let you know how he likes it!

*Just a note about jarred food – I did have to use it during a recent trip to visit relatives. I purchased sweet potatoes and pears (of course organic) which are always winners. The pears were fine and he ate those, but he refused to eat the sweet potatoes. It made his mommy feel pretty good about the homemade food.
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Friday, May 28, 2010

Spice it up!

Spices can be added to baby food anywhere from 8 – 10 months. I am right in this window, so I have been looking at different spices and ways that I can use them. Here is a list of baby (in my opinion) safe spices

Anise, Basil, Cinnamon, Dill, Garlic powder, Ginger, Lemon zest, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Pepper, Rosemary

We have been trying to avoid medication with our little guy, so I like to use food remedies when possible. Another benefit is that these spices have a lot of uses:

Cinnamon – good for upset belly, diarrhea, and possible anti-fungal and anti-bacterial

Garlic – anti-biotic and blood pressure

Ginger – good for upset belly

Dill – hiccups, colic, and digestive troubles

Mint – stimulates healthy digestion and helps respiratory issues

Coriander – relieves gassiness, stimulates appetite, and helps rheumatisms and joint pain (not recommended on the baby spice list, but the parents can benefit from this)

I also wasn’t exactly sure how to incorporate these spices into his meals. I found a helpful list of ideas:

Fruits:

Apples: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Pears: ginger, cinnamon, mint

Bananas: cinnamon, ginger

Dairy:Plain yogurt: mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Vegetables:

Sweet potato: nutmeg, cinnamon

Pumpkin: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Carrots: basil & garlic – baked cinnamon carrots are yummy, too

Green beans: garlic powder

Potatoes (white): dill, garlic

Winter squash: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Cereals/Grains:

Pasta: oregano, garlic, basil

Oatmeal or other cereals: fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg

Rice (sweet): cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Quinoa (sweet): cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

Quinoa (savory): garlic powder, pepper, basil, oregano

Since most of his foods are already made and frozen, I am going to add the spices right before serving. Also, if he doesn’t like something, then I won’t have to toss an entire batch of food. And, after reading this list, I plan to add ginger to the rhubarb recipe in the previous post.

Unfortunately, every spice, with the exception of salt and pepper, is already sealed in a box awaiting the move this weekend, so I won’t get to try any of this until (the soonest) next week.
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Feeding 9 Months

For my little guy, the nine month mark is just around the corner and now even more foods can be introduced. Since the last post, he has gotten his first tooth, so I have been using the Earths Best barley teething biscuits (which are quite tasty). Although I prefer those, he has been enjoying frozen washcloths quite a bit more than the biscuits.

These are the foods that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 9 months

Cooked and ground: Dried beans, Lentils, and Split peas

Pineapple, Beets, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Greens (cooked), Kale, Onion (cooked), Rhubarb, Rutabaga, Spinach, Turnips

Finely chopped: (raw) Parsley

I am pretty excited about this list. First of all, we have been regularly receiving beets, greens, kale, rhubarb, turnips, and parsley from our CSA. The only vegetable that I was able to use from our share before 9 months was carrots. Now I can use a lot more. Also, now I can come up with a lot more interesting food combinations. I am excited to try some new things and see what he likes.

As excited as I am about the rhubarb, I have no idea how to turn it into baby food. I searched the internet for a recipe and found this one (which looks pretty tasty to me, especially since my little guy loves pears):

Very Peary Berry Rhubarb

6 stalks of rhubarb* (wash it, trim it and then cut it into small pieces)
3 pears, peeled, cored and chopped (you may leave the skin on if desired)
1 cup water
½ cup organic apple juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract**
1 pinch cinnamon
½ pound of strawberries, trimmed and cut into fourths***

1. Place water and apple juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

2. Add rhubarb* and simmer until tender, approximately 5-10 minutes.

3. Remove rhubarb and allow it to cool. Once cooled, puree and then add back into the saucepan.

4. Add pears and strawberries*** when the rhubarb has cooked to tender

5. Turn heat down to low, add the vanilla** and pinch of cinnamon and simmer for 5 minutes.

* I know that there may be concerns about oxalates and rhubarb. My research has led me to believe that although rhubarb does contain oxalic acid, the highest amount occurs in the leaves. There are very low instances of oxalates in the stalk (which is the part that is eaten), and it is actually believed that the stalk may contain zero levels of oxalic acids. Let me know if you found contradicting information.

** I am not a fan of using vanilla extract for baby food (for numerous reasons), so I will probably omit this when I make it

*** Since strawberries are not recommended under 12 months, I will probably replace this with another fruit (apples?), but after 12 months I will make it with the strawberries
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting greener

In a week and a half we will be moving and I have been pretty busy. The baby food production is quite a bit slower since I want to move as little as possible, so we are using up what we have. The CSA and farmer’s market have been plentiful. Unfortunately my weekends have been packed with activity, so I haven’t had a lot of time to spend scouting the market. I hope to spend some time there (and invest in some meat) after we are settled (mid-June?).

I also just realized that I could make my own teething biscuits. I may have to invest in a box of the organic premade first because our kitchen is in boxes, but I plan to try a couple of recipes shortly after the move. If any of them work out, I will post the recipes.

Even as busy as we are, I constantly find new ways to go greener. I hope to have a compost pile for our new house. I don’t think that I am ready for a large outdoor one, but at least a countertop bin. I hate throwing out all of the vegetable remains (carrot tops, kale stems, etc.) after I process my weekly share. I have been looking at functional, yet somewhat attractive bins to use.


Although I love the ceramic and the bamboo, I am leaning towards the stainless steel for better durability. I also want to purchase the “ugly green one” since it holds twice as much as the others. This way I can use that to break down the scraps while I continue to collect in the other. Thanks, Kate, for such great ideas and references.

Even though baby food production has decreased, I have been trying to find ways to improve that, as well. I always hated that I stored the food in plastic zipper bags, but couldn’t think of a suitable alternative to ensure freshness. I considered mason jars, but don’t have any and really didn’t want to make the investment. Then, one day, I was looking around the house and realized that we have quite a few empty glass jars around. Mostly from pasta sauce, but we have a few different shapes and sizes. I made some homemade labels for the jars and just put the food in them. I really like how cute the different sizes look and I love the labels because I made them pretty big, so they are easy to see. There are some cons. Now I fear that the jars will break and it takes a few jars to hold what one gallon bag would hold, so there is a space issue. I have a freezer in my garage, though, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I also don’t have enough jars right now, but I plan to build my collection. All of his organic fruit juice and our organic pasta sauce are packaged in glass containers, so hopefully our collection will build quickly. I also found out that our city doesn’t recycle glass, so this is a great alternative to the trash.

I also invested in a few WasteNot Saks™. Jason and I were so impressed with our first order that we immediately ordered more. These are great to travel with the little guy’s food and bottles to and from the baby-sitter. I plan to add these to Christmas and other holiday lists so that we can have a nice sized collection. We special ordered a gallon size for the bottles and food and like the snack and sandwich size for future finger food use.

As I make these tiny changes and look back at all of my efforts, I constantly wonder if I am wasting my time, money, and energy. Luckily, I always have some reassurance shortly after that thought. I was talking to a friend over lunch today and he mentioned that I may be onto something with this organic stuff (he was not a huge supporter of the transition – not against it, just not understanding). He mentioned that he saw a news story connecting ADHD in children and pesticides commonly used on produce. After hearing this, I am so thankful that I am taking the time, spending this money, and making the extra effort. Especially for my son, but also for my entire family. And now that other people are aware, they are beginning to believe and make healthier choices, too.
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Lucky winner

I have been registered at House Party for a couple of months, and have yet to be chosen to host a party. When the Ball® Fresh Taste of Summer House Party™ was advertised, I couldn’t be more excited. As I mentioned in previous posts, I really want to start canning. And I can’t think of a better way to start then have a canning company send you a bunch of free stuff and invite all of your friends to join in. Of course I applied, and, believe it or not, got chosen to be a host. The party is June 5th. Unfortunately it is the first weekend in the new house (sorry in advance for the mess), but we will be walking distance from the farmer’s market, so we can buy our produce fresh that morning. We have two recipes to make and can; one for salsa and one for pepper jelly. I am excited to try both and to test out my canning skills. I also love that this is such a family friendly theme, so the kiddos can easily be included. Thank you for choosing me House Party!
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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My little cook

I did make the apples that night and he LOVES them. Those sweet fruits seem to be his new favorites. Right after my last blog entry I tried to find organic peaches and mangoes, but didn’t have success with either. About a week later they did restock the mangoes, so I am waiting for those to become ripe before I can make his food. I hope that he likes those, too. He really is getting some diversity with his food now, and I know we are getting close to mixing them together for some yummy combinations. I found a list of foods that are good to mix with mangoes: avocado, bananas, blueberries, peaches, melons, sweet potato, chicken, pork, and yogurt. This should take dinner up a notch. Now if I can just get my hands on some organic peaches.

My CSA share continues to be awesome. We are eating a lot of kale, something neither of us ate before. And a lot of salads with so many different greens, I have no idea what they all are, but they are tasty. I am becoming inpatient for the Farmer’s Market to start again. I am so excited to be within walking distance after we finally move.

My new project is that I have been trying to find ways to make a connection in my son with his mind and his belly and the food that he is eating and how it is getting there. I hope that by triggering this at an early age, it will help with better food choices and a better understanding of what is going into his body down the road. Lately, when I make dinner or make baby food, I have been putting the little guy in his high chair right next to me. The first couple of times I could only get a few minutes out of him (maybe 10 at the most), but now we are up to about 30 – 40 minutes. I usually give him some narrative about what I am making and how, and, of course, add in some silly things that 7 almost 8 month olds enjoy. He actually watched me make an entire dinner on Sunday night. If I am chopping or doing something like that which has some action and is interesting, I can hold his attention. But, when I am stirring or steaming or baking, I find that he gets bored quickly. Which is fine, I know that every aspect isn’t pure entertainment. I still feel that when he is paying attention he may actually be watching, processing, and learning. For some unknown reason, he thinks that it is hilarious when I pull kale leaves from the stems (even without my silly mommy antics thrown in).
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Feeding 7 & 8 Months

I wanted to do an entry every month to update what foods could be introduced, but I am already behind. Since my little guy is going to be 8 months in two weeks and I have the time right now, I thought that I would just do 7 and 8 months together.

7 months

These are the foods that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 7 months

Homemade (organic) mixed cereals, Tofu, Cottage cheese, Hard cooked egg yolk (not the white), Peaches (raw), Asparagus, Carrots, Green beans, Peas, Summer squash, White potatoes

All of the fruits and vegetables need to be cooked, strained, and pureed into a smooth consistency, free of lumps. Fruits that are safe to serve raw are indicated.

Juices are now safe to introduce, too. We have been working with a sippy cup with very little success. I do not make my own juice, but buy organic. I would like to make my own some day, but the solid food is priority right now. These are the juices that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 7 months:

All organic: Apple, Apricot, Grape, Papaya, Pear, Peach, Prune

Water down all of these juices. Remember that since the introduction of a sippy cup is very new to the baby, the first few times he/she will probably drink very little, so don’t fill up the cup. I use about half water and half juice.

8 months

These are the foods that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 8 months

Tahini, Ground nuts, Ground seeds, Brewer’s yeast, Powdered kelp, Natural cheeses, Apricot, Apple, Cantaloupe, Grapes (peeled and quartered), Honeydew, Kiwi, Plum, Watermelon, Broccoli, Okra, Cooked parsley

Although I don’t think that this is going to give him a much larger variety of food (anyone have powdered kelp handy?), it does look like 8 months is a turning point. The purees can be chunkier and thicker. More foods can be fed raw. Also, it looks like a lot more finger foods can be introduced. This is definitely great for convenience, but it also can be a little scary because the risk of choking is greater.

Since my son is at the 7 months mark, I will let you know what he is eating. Right now we are doing two solid food meals a day with a lot of bottle feedings. He takes just a fruit to the baby-sitter and we have a full meal for dinner (perfectly timed to end right before his bath).

We are only rotating two fruits right now, pears and bananas. Pears were an instant favorite. The bananas are supposed to be a great “take along” food because you can just mash it on site, but I find that mashing with a fork still makes it too thick for him, so I have to mix in some formula. It’s actually quite a bit easier for me to put a cube of food in a container (I bought specific “safe” ones to use just for this purpose) for the baby-sitter than dealing with her mashing bananas for him. Because of this, bananas have become more of a weekend fruit. I have some apples at home that I want to make for him soon (maybe tonight? maybe this weekend?) and I would also like to introduce peaches and mangoes. I plan to make those after the apples and really hope that they are available.

His dinner always includes organic rice cereal and avocados. He still loves the avocados, but now that there are more options, I don’t know if I would still consider them his favorite. He really loves those pears. He also has either carrots, sweet potatoes, or winter squash, which I try to rotate. We have a lot more carrots and sweet potatoes than winter squash, so he gets those more often. Carrots are his least favorite of the three, but he likes all of them. I took green beans out of rotation because he just would not eat them.

He has had some juice, but, as mentioned earlier, with little success. I gave him apple at first. He was really surprised when something other than breast milk/formula came out of the cup. He mostly likes to chew on the top. I also gave him some prune this past week. He started sucking it down and drank about an ounce before he realized that it wasn’t formula. If he is having constipation problems I will mix it in his bottle which makes it look like chocolate milk. I have papaya juice ready for him, but he hasn’t tried it yet.

You may notice a lack of incorporating dairy into his diet. He does have a mild milk intolerance, so I have hesitated introducing yogurts and cottage cheese and other dairy foods. I think that he would love them, so it makes me a little sad. I have started research on goat’s milk products, but don’t really know enough yet to form an opinion.

I still use the same method to make all of this food. If I can, I will steam the produce and then just puree it in the Magic Bullet. Otherwise, I will bake it and then puree it. The sweet potatoes and winter squash were baked. After that, I put it into the cube tray, freeze it overnight, and then put it into a labeled (food and date) bag the next morning.

I don’t really like using the plastic bags, and I just read a great tip on another blog: mason jars. They are reusable and they are glass, so BPA free. I think I am going to invest in a few the next time that we go to Sam’s Club. I am really trying to cut back on that kind of thing, so I am looking into WasteNot Sacks, too. I think that these will be great to transport his bottles and his food to the baby-sitter.

I haven’t made my own cereal yet. I haven’t needed to. We have only bought one box of the organic rice cereal and are still using it. I am interested in trying to make it, but I am also thinking that if a box lasts this long that it may not be worth the effort.

I found that I really hate peeling fruit. I really don’t know why. I don’t think that I am very good at it, so I feel wasteful and it’s time consuming. Anybody have any tricks or anything to make this easier/better?

I still can’t believe how easy it has been to make this baby food. I always procrastinate, like it’s some big chore, and then once I finally make myself do it (usually right before the produce is about to turn) I always wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. The most it has ever taken is about 30 minutes, and that's when I have to peel fruit (ugh).
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CSA Share

I ran into some obstacles getting my CSA share. The first time I went to the meeting spot and couldn’t find them. I even went twice and brought someone with me the second time. I contacted them and they gave me further instructions for the next week and also offered to double it up, which was super nice. I wasn’t thinking clearly and didn’t get a picture of the share the first/second time, but by the third time I got myself together, picked up my share like a pro, and took some pictures.

I have been taking the celery with me to work as a snack and used all of the carrots to make baby food. Those were some beautiful carrots – red, yellow, and orange. I prepared the kale two different ways. The first way was boiling it down with some bacon (similar to collard greens) and the second way was making “chips” with it by sprinkling olive oil and sea salt and baking in the oven. Surprisingly, my picky husband liked it both ways (that’s what she said – sorry, couldn’t pass it up). The mixed greens made a few nice salads and I plan to make some rhubarb muffins this weekend. I have some chives and other herbs that I haven’t used yet, so those should be yummy in something soon.

I love that spring is here (well, mostly) and that I have fresh vegetables in my house again.
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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seventh Generation

I never intended this to be a coupon or deal finding website, but 7th Generation is giving a $5 rebate right now if you purchase three of their products. If you are buying this stuff anyway or wanted to give it a try, this is a nice opportunity to get a discount. The rebate can be found here. I think that the only items it excludes are the single roll toilet paper.

Some more information to help with this deal is that the 7th Generation website has some pretty generous coupons. You do have to register to receive them, but it is worth the time. I also heard that starting April 9th, Toys-R-Us is having a BOGO 50% off all of their 7th Generation products. And that a lot of the products are on clearance right now (I suspect a label or packaging change).
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Green beans, carrots, and winter squash

I was uploading pictures of the little guy last night and realized that I had taken some pictures of baby food making and never wrote about it. Overall, the baby food has been going very good. I really thought that I would start this project and after about a week realize that it is time consuming and resign to buying baby food. That isn’t the case, though. Each time I make the food it takes anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes (minus cooking time which I don’t count because it is either steaming or baking and neither of these methods take any effort on my part).

I have made green beans, carrots, and winter squash since my last post. I made the green beans and carrots at the same time and that is when I took the pictures. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the squash. I bought frozen organic green beans and just steamed them. I used the water from steaming to help with the consistency. My son was not at all impressed with the green beans. I even added some butter and salt the second time around, but still no luck. Fortunately, I didn’t make a huge amount, but now I do have pureed green beans just sitting in my freezer. The carrots were on sale, so I got the organic baby carrots for $1. I also steamed those, but I read somewhere that the water from steaming should not be used when pureeing due to high nitrate content, so I used formula instead. The carrots also did not go over very well at first, but I think that it was mostly from confusion. They look very similar to the sweet potatoes and I am sure that he thought that’s what he was getting and was surprised when it wasn’t what he tasted. Anyway, the second try with carrots went much smoother and they are in our regular rotation now.

A couple of weeks later I decided to tackle squash. Quite honestly, I was kind of frightened of it. I think that it’s because I don’t eat much squash, so it felt like unfamiliar territory. I couldn’t even tell you which kind of squash I used. I had a friend with me (who has a pretty green thumb) and she helped me choose one. I cut it in half, put it face down in a casserole dish with about an inch of water and baked it for about 1 ½ hours at 400 degrees. The recipe suggested 40 minutes, and the skin should “pucker” and the squash should feel soft, but mine was doing neither, so I increased the time. In retrospect, I wish that I would have done less time because it did start to burn a little around the skin. After it was finished baking and cooling, I peeled it and used the water from baking in the puree. Squash was an instant favorite with my son. He actually had it for the first time for Easter dinner and it is eaten regularly now.

I have only made four different types of food, but he also eats rice cereal (which I bought organic, but have not made myself) and avocado at every meal. Avocado is still his favorite (I would have never guessed that in the beginning) with the winter squash and sweet potatoes a close second. I rotate the carrots, potatoes, and squash, and for at least right now, this seems to be plenty of variety for him. I am also introducing a sippy cup with apple juice (store bought organic that is quite watered down). He had the same reaction to the juice that he did the carrots, but now he likes the taste.

I did learn something with the avocado. When I originally froze the pieces, I just chopped it up and put them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. The pieces ended up frozen together and difficult to break apart. This time I cut the pieces and just set them in one of the trays and once they were frozen I put the pieces in the Ziploc bag. Now each piece is separate and it is much easier to grab one to thaw.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Organic odds and ends

I am so excited that Jamie Oliver has a new television show coming out! So far, the only show that I have watched is Jamie Oliver’s School Lunch Project. I loved it and I have a feeling that a lot of his DVDs will appear on my next Christmas list. I truly believe in his mission and I am impressed with his efforts. For those of you that feel the same way, you can sign his petition here. If you aren’t familiar with him (or already love him) and get a chance to watch his upcoming Food Revolution (debuts Friday, March 26th 9pm – 10pm ET on ABC), you definitely should.

As I wrote in past posts, costs and budgeting are huge concerns of mine. In my household, as our family grows, it seems like the raises, bonuses, and opportunities to earn a higher income (like overtime) are becoming fewer and farther between. Especially in this economy. There just doesn’t seem to be nearly as much to go around.

I have really made an effort to buy primarily organic food since I started this blog. And, plain and simple, organic just costs more. I get frustrated at the grocery store when I see that my selection is reduced to a corner and the prices have risen considerably. I hope that once I receive the CSA share (just two more weeks!), that supplementing with meat and starches won’t be quite as pricey, but meat is the highest portion of the food budget, so I don’t have my hopes up too far. I have found a few tricks that I will share, and if anyone has anything else, please comment. Every little bit helps!

First, shop around. I know that isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially if your time is as limited as mine. I take one Saturday and month and meet a friend and travel out of town to at least one health food store. We can split the gas, it’s nice to have company, plus if there is anything else we need to do in the area we can do that, too. Health food stores aren’t necessarily always cheaper, but I usually find a better selection (especially with produce) and I have become so familiar with my grocery store corner, that I know when something is a deal. Eggs, for example, are ALWAYS cheaper at the health food store. And, come prepared. If you use your own reusable grocery bags, make sure to pack them, along with a cooler (you can usually get a bag of ice anywhere). I get a discount if I bring my own bags. And, one of the stores that we go to has a discount card program, which also helps.

Second, become familiar with prices. It’s difficult to recognize a deal if you don’t know what the item usually costs. My family has a few “go to” foods and dinners that I will purchase regardless of how much we have at home if I find a good price. I heard it referred to once as a “stock up price” which is exactly what it is. If I can find organic macaroni and cheese on sale for under $1, we stock up. The same with cleaning supplies. I have been lucky with coupons for the 7th Generation all purpose cleaner (spray and wipes) and have been purchasing them for 99¢*, so we have quite a few stored away right now. It retails for about $3, so I am saving 67% and that is worth it to me to buy a few extra.

Next, find out if your grocery store has an organic store brand. I shop at Kroger and just found out that they have a Prime Selection organic line. They sell various meats, pasta, and other things. These prices are much more reasonable than the name brand (even without a sale), so it has helped our budget quite a bit. Also, Kroger gets tricky with these items and doesn’t stock them in the health food section with the rest of the organic food, but along with the non-organic items (which is one of the reasons that it took me so long to find). Also, look at different ways to keep perishable food. For example, milk freezes really well. If I see about to expire milk on clearance (which is always a big yay! because organic milk is super expensive) then I stock up and stick the gallons in the freezer. Something like eggs is a bit tougher…

Lastly, use coupons and watch weekly ads. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I did post links to a couple sites that pretty much give them to you. Check them weekly or monthly even. Sunday is coupon clipping day for me. I check the websites and the newspaper (except for Kroger which changes on Mondays). I have a small filing envelope (made specifically for coupons that is from the dollar store) that I keep in my purse, so I always have them with me. If you find an organic brand that you like, visit their website. The company usually has a coupon (especially for signing up on an email list) and some even post different ones regularly. Quite often I can get name brand items for less than the price of the store brand items by pairing my coupons with sales. Once I got my system down, it really only takes me about an hour. Everyone has different needs, so it may take you more or less time, depending.

Organic is just more expensive. But, I have managed on a very tight budget by doing these things and I still believe that for the health of my family and me it is worth it. It can be done; it just takes a little time and planning. I am interested to hear about how everyone else saves.

Also, check me out! Yeah, I'm that Mollie - yay!

*If anyone is curious about how I get a particular deal, just let me know.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sweet Potatoes and Avocados

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. And I did actually make some baby food since my last post. I had some personal stuff that needed tending to, but now I should be back to at least once a week posting.

Well, my little guy has progressed quite a bit since we first started with the solid food. I think the “beginner” food was just too runny for him. He had a lot of problems keeping it in his mouth. The second he would close his mouth, all of the food came out. I started thickening the cereal quite a bit and noticed that it was easier for him to eat, so he ate a lot more than the runny stuff.

I introduced avocados which he LOVES. I think that they may be his favorite. I just bought a couple organic ones, chopped them up and then popped them into a plastic freezer storage bag in the freezer. Now when I feed him, I just take out one of the chunks and in a couple of minutes it is soft enough to smash and feed. He really loves it. I usually give him that alone, but mix the sweet potatoes with the cereal (not in the bowl, but on the same spoon).

I found some HUGE organic sweet potatoes at a health food store, so since it was out of town, I stocked up and bought four. Here they are with the avocados.

To prepare the sweet potatoes, I used the recipe in my last post. I baked the sweet potatoes at 410 degrees for over an hour (somewhere between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes). I don’t think they would normally need to bake that long, but these were humongous. When they were finished baking, I set them on the counter to cool and once they got to room temperature, I put them in the refrigerator. We had plans that day, so I couldn’t get back to them until the next day. Once I started making the food, I just peeled off the skins, which was super easy because the potatoes had baked for so long. I chopped up the potato and put it in the Magic Bullet* with some formula. After blending a couple of seconds, we had sweet potato baby food!

I used a smaller spoon to spoon the food into the trays.Once the trays were filled, I covered them with plastic wrap (mostly to make sure that no debris could get into them in the freezer) and stuck in the freezer.

Again, due to work and some commitments, I didn’t get back to the cubes for a couple of days. By then they were definitely frozen and kind of difficult to remove from the trays. I set them on the counter to thaw for about 30 minutes, which made them much easier to remove. Then I put them in a plastic freezer storage bag, dated, and put back in the freezer.

I did try some of this food, although I was nervous because I know how awful the formula tastes. It really wasn’t that bad and the sweet potatoes really overpowered the formula, which is good. I finally got through the jar of organic sweet potatoes, so I am going to give him the homemade stuff tonight. Of course with some avocado!

I know that this was my first try, but so far it really is super easy. Besides the baking (which I don’t count because you don’t need to be there for it), the entire process (including clean up, but we do have a dishwasher) took around 30 minutes. And I have a ton of food. I think that I got about 57 ounces out of the four potatoes. And I only spent $4 and some change on the potatoes. Of course we always have formula around, and I would say that I used about 15-20 ounces of it. The teeny, tiny 2.5 ounce jar of food cost about 59¢ (on sale). So, I can see how this can save money and it really wasn’t difficult and didn’t take up very much time. Of course, I also have the advantage of totally knowing what I am putting into my son’s body.

Next up, either green beans or bananas. I am still unsure, but I am leaning towards green beans.

*Hint on the Magic Bullet – always use the smaller bullet cup for baby food. The larger bullet cup was too big and would not blend the food on the top. The larger is pictured, but I learned my lesson.
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

The baby food begins

As planned, we started the little guy on organic rice cereal Sunday. He is a much better eater than I expected. Not that he is eating very much, but he knows to open his mouth and is really excited about the bib and high chair. Actually, I think that he likes the bib more than the cereal. He does get excited to put the cereal in his mouth, but usually makes a disgusted face once he tastes it.

For the first two days, he was only eating the cereal once every evening. I planned to introduce sweet potatoes next, but when I went to the grocery store there weren’t any organic sweet potatoes. I was forced to buy the jarred food (all organic, though). He started eating the sweet potatoes Tuesday night. He seems to like them a bit better than the cereal, but overall he seems unimpressed with solid foods. He does get excited about the bib and high chair every time.

I did find organic avocados that I hope will be ripe by the weekend. Also, this weekend I am traveling out of town anyway, so I am going to try to find organic sweet potatoes. If I can find them, I may just stock up.

If I do find the sweet potatoes, this is the recipe that I am going to use to make the baby food:



Sweet Potatoes
(age 6 months +)

1. Preheat oven to 410 degrees

 2. Wash and poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Run under water again and then wrap in tin foil (do not peel potato)

3. Place on lower rack and bake for 30 – 60 minutes (until soft)

4. Remove skins (cut lengthwise and scoop out the “meat”)

5. When cool puree (or thin) with your choice of liquid (I am using formula)

And this is how I am going to prepare the avocados:

Avocados
age 6 months +)
No need to preparation. Mash and serve with applesauce, peaches, pears, or bananas.

To freeze, cut into slices and freeze as a slice (mashing before freezing tends to turn the avocado browner).

I am not going to introduce any fruits yet, but when I do I will mix those mentioned above with the avocados. Very simple, easy recipes. The sweet potatoes should freeze nicely in the cubes (I plan to make it in bulk).

I read very mixed ideas about what ages certain foods should be introduced. Most of these only vary by a month or so, but I still don’t want to give my son a food that his stomach is not prepared to digest, so I always go with the highest age. In most cases Super Baby Food has the highest ages, so I use that as my primary resource.

These are the foods that (in my opinion) are safe to introduce at 6 months:

Sweet potato, Avocado (raw), Organic rice cereal, Homemade whole grain cereal, Apricots, Banana (raw), Mango (raw), Nectarine, Papaya (raw), Peaches, Pears (either), Plums, Prunes, Whole milk yogurt, Winter squash

All of the fruits and vegetables need to be cooked, strained, and pureed into a smooth, consistency free of lumps. Fruits that are safe to serve raw are indicated.

I have read a few different methods to introduce food and have also asked a few people for advice. The general consensus is to feed vegetables before fruits because after tasting the sweetness of the fruit, the vegetable isn’t nearly as appealing. So, I am a little bummed that there aren’t more vegetables in this list. Also, we know that my son has some difficulty with milk, so I am going to postpone the yogurt for a while.

I’m not sure which food I will try after the avocados. Right now, I would guess bananas because they are easy to find and prepare. I am going to check around this weekend to see what is out there and maybe I can get some of the other fruits, especially those that will be difficult to find in my town.

It looks like 7 months is when the fun will really begin. There are a lot more vegetable options and he will have eaten enough of the 6 month food that I can start getting creative with combinations. There are already a couple of recipes that I want to try.

Also, everything that I read suggested that when introducing a food to offer it four days in a row before introducing another food. This can help to identify any food allergies. I didn’t do this with the cereal because we had tried cereal before, but I plan to do this with other foods.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

More reactions plus cost worries.

Last post, I mentioned the negative/defensive reactions to organic living. I forgot to mention all of the positive reactions I receive, though. I found numerous supporters, especially (and surprisingly) at work. People have offered to help me with various things, from making the baby food (I already mentioned Teresa) to canning portions of the CSA share. I had a shop employee bring in his book about canning today, not to mention all of the tips that people have been verbally sharing with me. I am so grateful for all of the offered help and I now have so many resources to consult.

Even last night during a church dinner the use of antibiotics in livestock became the topic of discussion. After talking about how antibiotics are used with cows and other sources of meat, someone at the table made the comment that it really seems reasonable to go organic. She was met with the usual complaints about how it isn’t cost effective and that there aren’t many resources in our town. That’s when I got to talk about what my family was doing to successfully make the switch. I gave them the information about the CSA and told them how much it cost. Everyone at the table thought the price is reasonable (although someone did mention it would be tough to come up with all of the money at once). One person asked about the variety of foods in the CSA and if there is anything strange. I told them that I really didn’t know, since it was all new to me, but I plan to use the Cookus Interruptus website and how I hope that it is going to help me cook and prepare any produce that isn’t familiar to me. I also told them about how I want to make my own baby food and also can as much as possible. The common reaction is that I am taking on a lot of work. And I know that may be true, but I hope that by taking steps it really isn’t overwhelming.

One thing that is becoming overwhelming is the cost to do all of this. I am not much of a garage sale or auction shopper and really don’t have any tips on how to save money with that. I am a coupon cutter and a warehouse store shopper, so I guess that helps some. I feel like every time I think of something that will benefit us (making baby food, canning, etc.) there is a list of tools or appliances that I need. First it was the Magic Bullet and cube trays. Now it is a pressure canner and mason jars. Plus, today someone recommended a juicer to can certain things. As the list grows, I get stressed and overwhelmed thinking about everything I need, but can’t afford.

Today I started talking to a friend that does his own canning. He suggested I borrow for a while. I will probably need my own mason jars, but it doesn’t hurt to ask around in my circle of friends and family to see if anyone has any sitting around. I have a relative that has a pressure canner that I am sure she would let me borrow for a weekend. I also have a friend with a pretty nice juicer which I am going to ask to borrow for a weekend. I know my dad has a dehydrator that I don’t think he has used in over 10 years that I am sure I can borrow. I have another friend with a bread machine that they use about monthly, so hopefully I can borrow that one weekend. Which reminds me, does anyone recommend a particular brand/model bread machine? I have never really thought of borrowing to save money, but I think that I have to reach out to make this work. And the best part is that most of these people live within a 5 mile radius around me and I usually visit them weekly anyway. Meanwhile, as I am borrowing, I will try to save money to buy my own and also ask for these items for my birthday or Christmas. I really felt a lot better after realizing that all I have to do is ask for a little help and this project became much more do-able again.

And if anyone out there is feeling benevolent, I do have a Wish List on Amazon.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deliveries. Cookus Interruptus. Reactions.

Unfortunately, I had a set back. My soon-to-be little eater caught a terrible cold last Friday and is still fighting it. With all of the problems that he is having, I didn’t feel comfortable introducing something foreign into his system. He seems to be getting a little better every day, so hopefully we can experiment with some organic cereal this weekend.

The only food making news, I did receive my Magic Bullet last Friday and the cube trays on Monday. My little man turns six months on March 3rd, so I can feed him homemade cereal after that. I plan to experiment with some vegetables the weekend after. Hopefully I will remember to take pictures so that I can add them to the post.

I did find a website, Cookus Interruptus, that I adore. Her recipes are quick, easy, good for the entire family, and organic. I really like that I can find recipes that will help use the vegetables from our CSA. I also like that there are a lot of recipes for foods that I have heard of, including some comfort foods and baked goods.

I have mixed feelings about the videos. I know that they are trying to give a real life feel, but sometimes I find it annoying. Based on the comments, though, most people think that it is hilarious. Either way, I can definitely stand it and I love the short length of the videos. Also, if it bothers you too much, the recipe is written, too, so you can bypass the video. The recipes are simple enough and sound flavorful. The downside is that she uses some specialty ingredients and spices that I am probably going to have to travel out of town to find.

I read some of her blog entries and find them useful. She answers a lot of my questions. She is also a fan of Jamie Oliver, who I have liked every since I watched his show, Jamie’s School Lunch Project. I think it originally aired in 2006. Anyway, I really enjoy his research and ideas and completely support his desire to turn school lunches into a healthy meal. Kate sent me a link (which was also featured in the Cookus Interruptus blog) to a recent TED talk featuring Jamie and his fight against chocolate milk. It is about 20 minutes in length.

On a completely different topic, I just want to comment that I am kind of surprised at peoples’ reactions when I told them I am doing this. A couple of close friends advised me that organic food is just a governmental scam with a hippie mindset designed to provoke a higher bill at the grocery store. Others claimed that their food growing up didn’t contain nearly as many preservatives and additives as today’s selection, so they were conditioned to not consider this in their food choices. And no matter what facts I would bring to the table, no one would even think about incorporating more organic food in their diets.

I found it odd how passionate people are to protect their overly processed food. Or maybe they were just defending their lifestyle choices. I almost felt that they thought that I was attacking their values when I was really just excited about my own decision. Anyway, I just thought that the negative reactions were interesting.

My husband and I are pretty cynical people and I will admit that I am surprised at how quickly he jumped on board. I think for both of us, though, there is so much evidence to support this. Even if it is just to eat healthier by including more fresh produce in meals or sit together as a family during dinner, it is improving our lives.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My life with food

I have always been conscious of food. Not that I have always been the healthiest eater, or am now, but I have maintained an interest in food information, origins, and packaging.

I think that my first experience was in elementary school when we were shown a video of a fish packaging company. The video laid out (in detail) the step by step process from when the fish were caught through their journey to our grocery stores. My family didn’t eat a lot of fish and my mom was not much of a cook, but for some reason she decided to pour her heart into a fish dinner for her family that night. And not an unidentifiable fish (like fish sticks), but an unbreaded, very obvious filet. I still remember my older sister (who was also in elementary school) and me prodding it with our forks and refusing to eat it. I am sure that I had refused food previous to this, but this was the first occasion that it was due to knowing too much about the origin. Looking back, that fish dinner was probably pretty good and something that I would love to eat in present day.

Quite a few years passed before my next encounter with food during high school. I thought that I had found my calling and I was desperate to be a veterinarian (despite being horrible in all science-related subjects and horrified by blood and guts). Realizing my love for animals made me an instant advocate for animal rights. Around my sophomore year, I proclaimed myself a vegetarian. I was faithful, although I don’t think that my father approved for a while. Knowing my beliefs, he would still include a slab of meat on my dinner plate. I did have some guilt, realizing that he came home every night to make his family a good meal, but every time I looked at that meat I only saw a carcass. Not really knowing much about nutrition, eventually I became ill due to my lack of protein and iron and my physician suggested I eat fish. That’s how my love for fish (after about 10 years) was born. And Dad finally consented and would prepare fish for me pretty much every night.

That lasted until my junior year of college when my roommate was cooking a steak and it smelled really good. I do still have some trouble with chicken (especially wings). The meat is too similar to flesh and the wings are a visible shell of what was.

Fortunately, during college I was a dance minor and had numerous classes about nutrition. I did eventually gain the tools to have a proper diet. Unfortunately, it happened at a time in my life where bars and fast food were a constant occurrence. My health was not something that I thought about often (or at all). After college and a few years in the workforce, books and movies like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me were released. I devoured this information. I was fascinated and equally disgusted about what corporations were feeding the public. Around this time I watched a commercial featuring Beatrice Arthur (Golden Girl) discussing animal cruelty associated with KFC. I haven’t eaten there since. The same was true after reading these books. The fast food that I loved and consumed regularly was now something that I couldn’t imagine putting into my body. I succeeded in a total boycott for a few years, but, out of convenience, have eaten fast food in the past couple of years. I still try to avoid it, if possible, and still firmly believe that it should not be a significant part of anyone’s diet.

After joining the workforce and not dancing, my weight increased and I began eating a lot of pre-portioned frozen meals. They were so easy to bring to work and most of them tasted pretty good. After my son was born, it became very important to my husband and me to eat family dinners every night. Although my son is too young to participate now, we want to lay the groundwork for when he is able. My research about food began again as I found myself planning our dinners weeks in advance (to save time and money). This is when I started coming across the information about what is in the food at the grocery store. I had a vague idea, but never really looked into it extensively until now. My findings of animal treatment, pesticides, and other additives amazed and horrified me (yet again). I started looking at our kitchen shelves and our freezer differently and those frozen meals became less appealing.

That’s when I decided that I didn’t want this in my son’s body and I am happy that I can control it. I always viewed organic as an expensive alternative for rich people or hippies trying to make a statement. My opinion drastically changed. Now I am finding any way to purchase organic. I cut coupons, joined a CSA, and make special trips to health food stores. Anything that I can do to provide the purest, healthiest, and tastiest option for my family. Through my life, information regarding food has usually sickened me and led to a change in my (and my family’s) diet. This is no exception. I know some people don’t care about preservatives and what the cow ate before it was a steak, I just happen to be one of the people that do.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Update

My son started showing interest in food this past weekend! He is about 5 ½ months, so his age is right on, he just always loved his bottle and never seemed to care before. When we were visiting Bapa and Nana last weekend, they sat him on the table and he was reaching for any food that was near. He would also stare at anyone that was eating. So, now I really need to speed up this process and get everything ready. I am not prepared to make his food yet, and really thought that I had more time, but luckily cereal is the first food (it is even suggested to use store bought before 6 months and homemade after 6 months).

The CSA contacted me this past weekend. Good news – they still have shares available, so they sent me a contract. Plus, they have a pick up location on Saturday in my town. And, another bonus, I found out that they also supply some (organic) beef and that is included the share. Our deliveries begin in April and I intend to post pictures. If we plan ahead and freeze everything correctly, I doubt that we will have to buy additional produce for the year.

Teresa lent me a book, Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. She was also nice enough to attach a couple of notes and some advice. I have already been glancing through it and can’t wait to curl up and read (especially with all of this snow!), and hopefully I will have time this weekend. I want to use this for most of my recipes (particularly in the beginning).

Teresa’s advice:
I would look up fruit/vegetable/meat in the index and then read about when I could give it to my kids. I often just looked at the shelves of baby food too to get ideas of different pairings for foods (like strawberry banana or things like that). I would usually steam the food or microwave with a little water or bake (winter squash) and try not to overcook it too much so I didn’t lose many nutrients. Then, once cooled I would puree in blender or Magic Bullet (works best) with the liquid from cooking if needed and would use more water if I didn’t have enough liquid. Then I would freeze it in 16 cube trays (perfect size portions) and then once frozen, store in freezer bags. One more thing – I would buy (out of season) bags of frozen berries, like mixed berries and cook a little in microwave and add a little apple juice or even sugar to sweeten a little. Good luck!

I now have a partner for this journey, which I am really excited about. Yay, Sarah! I can’t wait to share stories and tips!
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Research, Recommendations, and Resources


 Research

To begin, I looked up some baby food recipes on the internet. This entire concept is completely unfamiliar to me and I do not have any close friends in the area that have ever done this. I really wanted to see if it was even practicable for our family, or if it was something that was incredibly time consuming or expensive that we could not accommodate. I was happy to find that making baby food is not only a cost saver, but the recipes seem simple and can be accomplished in just a couple hours during the weekend and also can be made in bulk.

Recommendations

Next I wanted to talk to someone who had actually made baby food before. Luckily, a co-worker’s wife, Teresa, is a SAHM who is (well, was, her kids are older now) a firm believer in making her own baby food. I asked her for any recipes and/or tips that she may have to make the process easier. Her first suggestion was that I purchase a Magic Bullet. Although the Magic Bullet is a $55 appliance, she swore that I would recover the cost quickly with the homemade baby food and it would not only make the process easier, but it also is the best appliance for the job. She also said that she still uses it to make her kids homemade smoothies. Her other suggestion was to purchase ice cube trays. Once the food is made, it is divided into the trays and frozen. After the food freezes, it is removed from the trays and stored in a labeled Ziploc bag. In a regular ice cube tray each cube size is approximately one ounce, so premeasured food can be frozen and stored with minimal space consumed in the freezer.

Sticking to my eco-friendly ideas, I think that I will purchase this type of tray. But, since the food will need to travel to the baby-sitter, I am going to purchase at least one set of these, too. Although it isn’t stated on the Amazon website, these containers are BPA and phthalate free. Plus, I have read that some foods (like apricot and prunes) do not freeze solid, so these will keep the portions separate for those types of food. Maybe I should purchase two sets of these...

Resources

I realize that there are many benefits (in food quality and cost) in supporting local farmers. Also, I would rather not fund the overly priced, imported, organic section at the grocery store. With those ideas, I am pursuing alternative options for finding ingredients.

Both my sister, Jamie, and my friend, Kate, have participated in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I was interested in joining a CSA years ago when Jamie started, but was unable to find one in my area. Fortunately, I recently found this site that supplied me with the names of three CSAs in my community. With the information on this website, I compared prices and also the length of time that each provides shares. I found one that was not only less expensive than the others, but also offers shares for 42 weeks out of the year. And they allow a half share (which I think is more than enough for my family). I contacted this CSA for more details, but haven’t heard back yet. I really hope that this CSA works out; it is a great way to acquire seasonal produce while supporting local agriculture.

I also plan to visit the Farmer’s Market weekly once it starts again in the spring/summer and possibly some local orchards and farms to pick (if we have time as a family), or at least purchase fruits, as needed. I mentioned in the last post that there are a few health food stores in the area and I need to visit those in the near future to see what they provide. If necessary, I also have Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods about an hour away.

My last (and most important) resource is the group of people willing to help me with this transition. I know that you may think that I am being dramatic, because, seriously I am just purchasing organic produce and sticking it in a blender monthly. But for us, in a land of frozen pizza and Lean Cuisines, this is going to be a huge lifestyle change. I love that I have people in my life that understand how important this is and have offered to help. Thank you all (and you know who you are).
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Newly Organic

I am a working mom, who not only logs in full-time hours during the week, but also commutes. So, trust me, I am looking for easy, convenient, but still cost effective solutions. I am planning (and hoping) to make most of my son’s baby food, but do realize that there may be a need to supplement with premade store bought food. Luckily, I am a planner and a scheduler, which I think will be assets that will allow me to accomplish a healthier lifestyle.
 

As time goes on, I also plan to shift my husband’s and my groceries to organic, so as my son gets older, we are able to enjoy meals as a family. Although we live in somewhat of a farming area, I am surprised at how few options there are. There is a Farmer’s Market, but it is not year round and will only be viable in the summer and fall months. Our city only has one major grocery store with a limited (overly priced) organic and health food section and it took me a couple years to find a local CSA. Luckily, I believe we have a couple health food stores, so I will be visiting those to see what is available. 

Through this blog, I am hoping to provide some tips and recommendations to others who are considering this option for their families. But, I am also hoping that people will read this and provide me with information to help make a cost effective and smooth transition. I also hope to prove that anyone can do this, even with little resources available. 

A wonderful friend of mine (who continues to inspire me) also writes a mommy blog. Unfortunately, she no longer lives in the area, but I still rely on her for guidance and support. She recently wrote an informative blog entry that has helped me begin this journey: Choosing healthier food for your family. She is the real writer, so give her blog a shot!
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