Cool Gear and Fun Food

18 08 2008

After Masher had a couple of good poops (no crying and an excellent consistency!), I decided to get serious with homemade baby food preparation.  I picked up a couple of tasty organic summer squash and a few organic apricots on my weekly visit to Whole Paycheck Foods, and I headed home … at which point I met face to face with the dilemma I had been dancing around for the last few weeks.  In what type of vessel would I be freezing this food?  With all of the talk about the dangers of the plastic products surrounding us in this modern world, should I nevertheless take my happy organic baby mush and freeze it in some Chinese plastic ice cube tray?  Frankly, I’m sure there would be no harm in doing so, but were there any other options?  After all, I didn’t even own a Chinese plastic ice cube tray, so I’d have to buy one or beg for one on Freecycle, and that just didn’t make sense.  Luckily and not surprisingly, however, there was another option!  After finding these cute red silicone ice cube trays online, I called our nearest Sur La Table and had them set a two-pack aside for me.  And what’s so great about silicone?  Well, mainly just that they haven’t positively identified any truly harmful substances in its production, and – considering the extreme temperatures it can withstand – it must be substantially more stable than most plastics.

Full steam ahead (literally) with baby mush preparation, I steamed my squash (one yellow and one zucchini) in a pot and warmed my apricots in a cast-iron pan before tossing them (first the squash, then the apricots) into the food processor.  Pretty easy, actually.  After freezing the mush in my new trays, I got these cute, little, space-age food cubes, ready to heat any time for a meal.  I even tried a couple myself.  Not bad …

Pretty little squash and apricot frozen food cubes

Pretty little squash and apricot frozen food cubes

And Masher liked it … a lot!  He gobbled up every bite of a squash cube I melted along with some sweet potatoes from a prior freezing episode.

But I promised you cool gear, and that probably means more than just ice cube trays, right?  Well, my other find last week was a BPA-free sippy cup sampler sold by The Soft Landing.  Since I had no idea where to start when it comes to the almighty sippy cup, and since I figure a variety of cups will prevent overload from any one contaminant from any one particular brand of cup, this seemed like a really good option for us.  The package arrived, I carefully opened each individual cup, read the instructions, washed and/or soaked and/or scrubbed the cups as needed, and settled down to watch Masher try to suck water out of the bottom of each cup and entirely ignore the sippy spouts he would actually need to engage.  Do the instructions come in baby talk for him, too? 

Finally, a tasty 20-minute adult recipe I prepared tonight with some of our leftover CSA veggies:  What does one do with some chard, a few potatoes, an onion, and a couple of carrots?  By themselves, these sad veggies looked like a Polish peasant’s dinner, but add some spices, some jalapenos from the garden, and some canned wild salmon and stuff the whole thing in a whole wheat pita pocket, and you’ve got …

Wild Salmon and Veggie Pita Pockets

  • A few carrots, potatoes, or other root veggies
  • Onion and/or garlic
  • A couple of jalapenos or other hot peppers
  • Chard or another dark leafy green
  • Canned wild Alaskan salmon (low in mercury)
  • Spices to taste, such as salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano
  • Pita pockets
  • Olive oil and/or butter 

Chop the root veggies into bite-sized chunks and throw into a pot of boiling salted water for about 15 minutes or until done (but not too mushy).  While these are boiling, chop onion/garlic and peppers and sauté in olive oil and/or butter for 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add chard and cook until it wilts.  Drain the root veggies and combine them with the chard mixture, a can of salmon, and the spices.  Lightly toast the pita pockets, stuff them with the mixture, and enjoy!

God Bless the Internet …

26 07 2008

… Because I don’t know how we lived without it.

See, I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable about this whole “solid foods” thing.  It’s something I hadn’t quite admitted to myself or on this blog, but it’s true.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, and I definitely felt as though it was something very personal, but I kept wondering to myself why everyone asked if we had tried the baby cereals yet.  I wondered why everyone asked automatically about the cereals, even the doctor.  I wondered whether babies started with rice cereal in Mexico, or Pakistan, or Zimbabwe, or Japan.  Looking at the cereal, which resembles fish food more than anything else, I wondered what magical properties it possessed that the brown rice or oatmeal in my cabinet didn’t have.  Okay, so I can read on the box that there’s an iron supplement, but what the heck?  If the babies NEED the iron, isn’t there some other way for them to get it besides adding some supplement, which more than likely can’t be absorbed by the body anyway?  And I especially wondered how Masher would transition to eating the food that we eat when he’s starting out eating food a world away …  and in a part of the grocery store I rarely visit, the aisles.  As a girl who shops around the outskirts for fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, and dairy, with monthly ventures into the aisles for whole grains and beans, I couldn’t understand what I was doing staring at a small shelf of canned strained chicken and peas and the like.  I eat at the farmers’ market.  Can’t my baby do the same?

So, like any good 21st century dweller, I Googled.  And I came across a really helpful web site that began to address many of my concerns … and led me to a book, which I ordered on (yay for the Internet, again!) and that was delivered to my house a day later:  Feeding the Whole Family:  Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.  And, after one read, I decided this would probably have to be my new bible.

A paragraph from the book that sums up the answer to my concerns:

When we give babies separate meals made of factory-created food that is bland and full of fillers, we do them a disservice.  This trains them to expect separate meals and prefer bland empty calories.  Do your children a favor and introduce them to food with flavor.  Let them recognize a variety of simply prepared whole foods as the familiar tastes that trigger “home” in their mind and bodies.  Feed them what you eat.  Make what you eat good enough to feed your baby.

             — Cynthia Lair

Look.  It would be one thing if I were still working 50+ hours a week.  And as the author of the book points out, there are organic processed baby foods out there these days, which is a huge step forward as far as processed baby food goes.  And it would be another thing if my husband and I didn’t already eat pretty conscientiously.  (I say “conscientiously” because we always cook organic and heavily local at home, but we are equally happy to stuff our faces with nachos and beef fajitas at Rio Grande from time to time.)  But I’m not working now, and – as family – we’ve already made huge strides toward eating primarily “whole foods” (Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma asks, “Would your grandmother recognize the substance as food?”).  I think we’re ready to go the whole way.

So, what does this Cynthia woman recommend as baby’s first food?  Apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, and winter squash, any of which should be cooked, mashed, and mixed with breastmilk or water (if necessary) to the consistency of soup.  Sounds delicious.  Scratch everything that came before.  We start anew.


Back to Work …

10 05 2008

A new day, a new dollar.  Or a new activity, as the case may be.  Inspired by my blog-like burblings from Norway a few years ago, I thought I’d start something new.  Something to keep me writing, something creative, why not?  But then, a realization:  I don’t know what to write about!  I don’t want to write anything too personal.  For one thing, who would want to read day-to-day dribble about my life?  For another thing, there probably are people out there who would, and that’s scarier.  So, something not too personal.  Something that’s actually about something real, so that it’s almost worth reading …  The less it resembles this first posting, the better.  Something that might even be useful …  

Lightbulb!  This blog will be about food.  Not about eating out around the DC metropolitan area; there are already plenty of blogs and web sites about that.  Not about cooking in a general sense, with recipes and advice on how long to boil a hardboiled egg, because that info is already easy to find, and I’m certainly no expert.  This blog will be about food and kids, or more specifically food and one cute kid (we’ll call him Masher), age 15 1/2 weeks (Aquarius in the cusp of Capricorn, should you be curious).

So, food and kids it is.  Yes, this is a topic I should be able to write plenty about, primarily because I know next to nothing now, but I’m about to have to learn.  I know a bit about food:  I love to eat and I love to cook.  I make a veggie chili that has won a couple of friendly contests.  I prefer organic ingredients and cooking locally and seasonally whenever possible (can’t wait for our farm share to start this summer!).  I recently finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I buy most of what it says about what’s wrong with the American diet.  I also know a bit about kids …  basically whatever most moms know after almost 16 weeks of having one, plus whatever I picked up babysitting in high school.  What I know about food and kids is limited to the following facts:  (1) My child really likes milk.  (2) You can eat no vegetables except carrot sticks until you’re 20 and still grow up to be 6’2″.

My husband Josh and I have had several discussions over the years on this and related topics, and we hope to raise children who eat well and enjoy healthy foods, but we don’t want to obsess over the occasional indulgences that make this life worth living, i.e., that second piece of flourless chocolate cake or a baguette consumed with an entire stick of butter.  So, is this possible?  For baby to have his cake but eat his carrots too?  In sh’Allah …