Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monday Cooking

After a week of 60-70 degree weather this weekend I froze my butt off going to the farmer's market and I didn't get my regular grocery store items until Sunday and thus made the week's meals Monday instead of Sunday.

New Foods Being Introduced this Week:
  • Mon-Wed: Portobello Mushrooms
  • Thu-Sat: Barley

Breakfast: Pureed sweet potato

 Pureed baked sweet potato

 One batch for the fridge

One batch for the freezer

Lunch: Yellow Split Pea Soup w/ Carrots, Celery, Onions, Garlic & Parsley (Barley to be added Thur.)

 Added the ingredients to some vegetable broth, water, spices

Stuck it in the crockpot for 8 hours...

After 8 hours cooking.

 Blend it up real quick


Dinner: Portobello Mushroom, Green Pepper, Cilantro, Red Onion

 Half about to go in the freezer

Half about to go into the food processor

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On the Go with NO Food??

A "quick outing" goes longer than you were planning and your typically lovable baby turns into a hungry monster? It has happened to the best of us. Poor planning can ruin a day---and an eating regiment! Depending where you are there might not be any healthy/affordable options around. I took a quick stop in the CVS today on my way home from the park with MJ. Luckily we weren't in such a situation, but had we been CVS would have been our last vestige of hope.

Imagine my surprise (or lack thereof) when aisles of chips, cookies, overly processed foods and high sugar contents were not in fact hiding healthy options. In my mind I had predicted that they would at least have a couple bananas in the fridge next to those salads that you can't imagine people actually buy---and eat! But no such luck. I found a few options available of what could be acceptable options if I were unwilling to trek 15 minutes out of my way to the grocery store.

1) Extremely overpriced non-organic baby food. At around $2 per container this seemed ridiculous to me.

2) Dried fruit. They only had a few options (which I would CAREFULLY check to make sure there were no added sugars) Even the natural sugars in dried fruit and the difficulty they might present for a toothless baby....eh, I wouldn't go for this option.

3) Canned vegetables. MJ loves fresh green beans, but the preservatives and salt that are included in canned versions make me wary. Plus this isn't a very easy "on-the-go meal"...

4) OUR WINNER: Unsweetened applesauce. I found this gem tucked away where probably no one has bought it for ages *shudder,* this would be the best and probably healthiest option AND for the quantity the price wasn't too bad.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black bean & Chickpea Cakes

I had half a can of black beans leftover from a midnight black bean quesadilla (don't judge me!) so I decided to make black bean burgers for lunch. Turns out half a can wasn't enough for me AND greedy :). So I mixed in a can of chickpeas too to make chickpea-black bean burgers.

I started off by mashing all the drained/rinsed beans together and added cumin, garlic powder, chile powder and pepper.

Then I separated the mixture into my burgers and MJ's. I added panko and wheat gluten to hold my burger together, but since MJ hasn't been introduced to wheat I used brown rice flour for his (I also added salsa to mine--yum!).

I decided that perhaps a whole burger might be a tad overwhelming for him, so I made what I called "cakes" in my mini cupcake pan.

Going into the oven

Finished product:if I didn't know better I'd think they were chocolate chip cookies (minus the chunks of chickpeas!)

Did he like them?

I don't particularly love rice flour the texture is weird to me, so when I tasted the cake they were a bit grainy. He loved them though. Next time I will probably use oat flour instead. They were also pretty messy (why i envisioned him eating them bite by bite I don't know....). 

All those crumbs---UGH!

Monday, February 20, 2012

When MJ Doesn't Like What I Cooked...

I knew it was a risk attempting Brussels Sprouts again, but I had to do it. They looked so good and fresh! AND I'm determined to get MJ to like them again. Initially around Thanksgiving when we were visiting relatives I introduced them and he liked them, but when we came home and I let him have them again he REFUSED. Some time has passed so I thought maybe he'd like them again....wrong.

Sitting down for dinner with a bowl of zucchini, Brussels Sprouts and quinoa and MJ immediately spits it out into his hand and flings it on the carpet. One more bite perhaps?? Same result. I have learned from past failures not to try and force it. If he doesn't like it he doesn't like it period.

So what to do? I hate wasting food and I hate wasting money so throwing out the prepared Brussels Sprouts is the last possible option. Usually when MJ doesn't like a food or is ambivalent about it I mix it with something else. I mixed the Brussels Sprouts with zucchini, but zucchini doesn't have a strong enough taste to mask the Brussels Sprouts. BUT for the sake of not wasting I can add other ingredients and see what works.

What can I do to salvage the Brussels Sprouts?

Another vegetable? I could add some collards which he likes and have a pretty strong taste. 

A protein? I have salvaged meals before by adding some spiced beans and I do have some leftover curried chickpeas from last week.

Did it work?

When I mixed the Brussels Sprouts with cooked collard greens he still wasn't a fan (womp, womp). But when I added the curried chickpeas (after sticking them in the food processor for a few seconds) this week's dinner was saved and I tricked MJ into eating Brussels sprouts!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Cooking

Usually Sunday is when I prepare meals for the week for MJ. There are some things that I make on the fly (like bananas, avocado, etc.) but most other meals I store in the fridge/freezer for the week.

Today I cooked while jamming to my "Burnin in the Kitchen" playlist and was finished cooking with only dishes left to do by the time the playlist ended. (So approximately an hour and 15 minutes worth of work---not bad right??).

Burnin in the Kitchen by Stephanie Alishia on Grooveshark

Prep: Rinse all vegetables, slice Brussels Sprouts, slice zucchinis, rinse beans, rinse quinoa

Chopped zuchinni perfect for toothless chewing.

I don't cook zucchini ahead of time because it doesn't freeze well (in my opinion), but I chopped it for quick 2-3 minute steaming before the meal.

Cooking: Bake sweet potatoes, roast Brussels Sprouts, slow cook beans with low sodium vegetable broth and spices, cook quinoa in low sodium vegetable broth.

Sweet potatoes going into the oven.

Brussels Sprouts going in to roast.
Kidney beans starting to simmer

Red kidney beans & sweet potatoes

The chunks looked a little too big so I threw it in the food processor for a few seconds.

I adapted this recipe  Red Kidney Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes
(I made necessary adaptations to fit MJ's dietary restrictions, but did use the suggested combination of spices which was DELICIOUS!)

Storing: Store each item separately to allow for additional meal combinations through the week. I left food for 2-3 days in the fridge and froze the rest for later in the week.

8 servings of Brussels Sprouts (2 in the fridge & 6 in the freezer)

Kidney Bean & Sweet Potato Chili (1 container in fridge & 2 in freezer)

Lunch & dinner for the week: 14+ meals (L-R quinoa, chopped zucchini, Brussels Sprouts, red kidney bean & sweet potato chili)

Surprise! I have enough Brussels Sprouts left over for me to eat or juice throughout the week AND 1 sweet potato was enough for the chili, so I had extra left over for finger food.

Leftover Uncooked Brussels Sprouts

Finger Food!

Cleaning: Not a lot of dishes huh?

Did he like it??

MJ waiting for his Chili & Brown Rice

All done! (and he demanded seconds)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eating Like Royalty on a Budget

Another reason many parents might choose not to prepare their own baby food is the cost involved. However, with meal planning, budgeting and restraint (!!!) it is possible for it to actual be cheaper than buying jars. The following menu is not fixed and throughout the week I will make adjustments and combinations to keep it interesting.

Breakfast for the week: Oatmeal & Banana

9 Organic Bananas [grocery store]: $0.99/lb ---------------$3.71
8 oz Sprout Organic Baby Oatmeal [grocery store]--------$3.65

Lunch for the week: Red Kidney Bean "Chili" with Sweet Potatoes & Brown Rice

2 Organic Sweet Potatoes [Farmer's Market]: $1.50 each-----$3.00

2 Cans Reduced Sodium Red Kidney Beans [grocery store]: $1.00/can ---- $2.00

8 oz Sprout Organic Baby Brown Rice [grocery store]-----$3.65

Dinner for the week: Zucchini, Brussels Sprouts  & Quinoa

2 Zucchinis [Farmer's Market]: $1.75 each--- $3.50

1 Bag of Brussels Sprouts [Farmer's Market]: $4.00

12 oz bag Organic Quinoa [Grocery Store]: $5.28

Total of 21+ meals: $28.79

*Brown rice, oatmeal & quinoa are staple items which aren't bought weekly (and rice and oatmeal typically are bought by parents of jar-fed babies as well). I actually didn't buy them this week because I already had them. So I actually only spent: $16.21!!*

Totals based on rate of 2 (stage two) jars per meal x 7 days= 42 jars
Gerber Baby Food: $1.01 per jar------------------ $42.42/wk
Earth's Best Baby Food: $1.15 per jar ------------$48.30/wk
Sprout Organic Baby Food: $1.21 per jar---------$50.82/wk
HappyTot Baby Food: $1.43 per jar---------------$60.06/wk
Plum Organics Baby Food: $1.68 per jar---------$70.56/wk
Gerber Organic Baby Food: $1.89 per jar--------$79.38/wk

Based on the prices of baby food at my local grocery store compared to the selection of local, fresh vegetables and organic selections from the farmer's market and grocery store I actually saved money AND am able to prepare delicious, wholesome, healthy meals for my prince. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thoughts on Juices

My 12 year old niece has always been a water junkie. Whenever we eat out or are just eating at home her beverage of choice is water. I have always been impressed with that by the sheer fact that I just never have really loved water. When our pediatrician recommended introducing fluids (aside from breastmilk) to MJ I automatically thought that water was the best option. I still hold firm to that and the majority of what he drinks (when he decides he wants to) is water.

However, there is still the matter of juice. I had worked really hard to make sure that MJ's palate wasn't geared toward sweet snacks more than savory and I thought juice would just become a problem. Also add in the fact that the juices in the infant aisle all looked suspect. I settled on some natural organic pear juice and halved it with water, but I still wasn't completely satisfied.

This week I stumbled upon the answer. While indulging in a Valentine's Day feast with my dear friend and MJ at my favorite restaurant, Everlasting Life, we were served by THE best juice barista (barista might not be the right word, but the point is she was amazing). After our initial orders from the juice bar she kept doling out new concoctions to us, each one better than the last.

She then looked at MJ and said, "I bet he would love some too," as MJ smacked his lips at us. She then proceeded to juice him some spinach, an apple and a carrot in a small cup. He gulped it down happily and demanded more. Why hadn't I thought of it before?

I recently purchased my first juicer with the intention of adding a mid-morning juice to my meals and increase my vegetable intake, but never even thought that I could also juice for MJ AND increase his vegetable intake too.

MJ's First Homemade Juice: Swiss Chard, Cabbage, Collard Greens, Romaine Lettuce, Carrot, Apple, Ginger Root (& he loved it!)

I still plan on encouraging water as his principal beverage of choice, but I am no longer opposed to giving MJ a couple ounces of my morning juice.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fun World of Finger Foods

Although I enjoy making my own finger foods for Marley (cubed & steamed veggies are a favorite of his), it isn't always convenient when we are on the go. When looking at the snack selection in the baby food aisle one thing I noticed was that the majority of baby finger foods contain wheat. Major no-no for MJ. There are however a few snacks (intended for babies) and others that I have found that MJ really loves.

Baby Mum-Mums

Organic rice biscuits
The shape is great for starting finger foods and dissolves easily in baby's mouth.
(One issue I had with these is that they do contain sugar, but when I tasted them it wasn't overpowering.)

Earth's Best Pop Snax
Air popped rice and potato snack
(Earth's Best is a brand I trust when I do buy jarred baby food so I was comfortable trying the snacks, they are intended for toddlers, but when your baby has developed the pincer grip they are a good snack.)

Veggie Chips/Sticks

 These can usually be found in the "health" section (at least at my grocery store), but check the nutrition facts for added salt, etc.
Have great salt-free chips/sticks that can easily be broken into small pieces for baby.

I'm sure there are other brands/options on the shelf, but these have been good on-the-go snacks for us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Making Baby Food is Fun!

...no really it is. I promise you it is not as tedious at it seems. I think that the effort and time you have to put forth to make food rather than just buy the jars really is what holds some parents back. MJ doesn't sleep through the night and I am constantly tired from his early morning wake-up calls and late night antics, however making his food is so simple and easy that I can do it even in a zombie-like sleep deprived state.

Every Saturday MJ and I go to Eastern Market (our local farmer's market) to go get our fruits/veggies and then go to our grocery store to pick up everything else. I usually have planned what I want to buy based off of our introduction schedule, I will typically introduce 1 or 2 foods a week with a 3 day introduction period for each food. For example: this week I got spinach, apples, bananas, kale and black beans. Our two new foods of the week are kale and black beans (yum!) So I'm sure that seems like I'm buying a lot of food for a 10 month old, but the easiest way to introduce foods to MJ is to lead by example.

I typically will make most meals for the week all on Sunday and refrigerate/freeze (depending on the food) for the week, some I make on the fly if it is an easier meal.

Our menu for this week is:
Breakfast: applesauce [I make one big batch on Sunday for the week]
Lunch: banana, avocado & brown rice   [I can easily mash up 1 banana & 1 slice of avocado on the fly or prepare in advance & pack up]
Dinner: spinach & black beans (Mon-Wed), spinach, kale & quinoa (Thurs-Sat) [Cooked quinoa on Sunday, used canned black beans without salt and spinach & kale chopped, steamed and then frozen into daily batches]

Usually the Sunday meal prep takes me less than an hour and with a great playlist and MJ napping it is actual pretty relaxing.

Feeding Schedule

Many people have questioned me and wondered about the schedule of introducing foods I have for my son. I have been very vigilant about avoiding the most common food allergens: dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, seafood, wheat, gluten and soy. However, I also loosely used the following timetable to establish an introduction schedule. I did not follow the listed serving size--my son is super greedy and I let him eat until he is full. I also introduced rice, quinoa and a few fruits/vegetables earlier than suggested.

"Further research needs to be conducted to determine the best schedule for the introduction of solids, but until this is available it would be prudent to go by the following guidelines which are based on the collective experience of numerous naturopathic physicians who work extensively with infants and children.
  • Carrots, poi, yams, squash, and zucchini are vegetables which are generally well tolerated. Beans, spinach, and peas should not be given before 12 months of age. Tomato and corn should be withheld until 24 months.
  • Raw fruit, other than very ripe bananas, should not be introduced before 12 months of age. Apples, peaches, and citrus fruits should be the last fruits introduced. Pears, plums and apricots are believed to be among the least sensitizing and best tolerated.
  • Rice or oats cereal, mixed with water or breast milk, may be the best grain to start the infant on at about nine months of age. Wheat, eggs and cow's milk should not be given to an infant before 21 months of age.

The following schedule includes some healthy foods and their approximate time of introduction.
6 months: hypoallergenic, pureed, mashed foods containing iron; 1-2 tablespoons per day carrots, poi, squash, yam, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, Jerusalem artichoke, sprouts (blended in water)

7 1/2 months: cooked fruits; 2-3 T/day kiwi, pears, prunes, cherries , banana blackberries, grapes, applesauce

9 months: foods high in zinc and good for the immune system; 2-4 T/day sweet potato, cabbage, oatmeal, papaya, potato, blueberries, lima beans, string beans, nectarine, peach, black strap molasses, split pea soup, millet, plum, rice cereal, beets

12 months: foods high in zinc and bulk; 4-10 T/day acorn squash, barley, chard, tofu, yogurt, parsnips, asparagus, avocado, egg yolk, rice, goat's milk, quinoa ( a grain), barley, buckwheat

18 months: foods high in B vitamins and calcium tahini, lamb, greens, kelp, eggplant, rye, beet greens, chicken, rutabaga, beans, fish, buckwheat, spinach, spelt & teff (grains)

21 months: foods high in protein, almond butter, egg, turkey, walnuts, wheat, cornish hen, beef liver, cashew butter, pineapple, orange, brewer's yeast, cow's milk

2 - 3 years old: sunflower seeds, corn, peanut butter, clams, soy, cottage cheese, lentils, tomato, cheese, beef"