Baby Food Snob

(I have been thinking about writing this post for a while, and I was tentative to start because of how much ground could be covered, should be covered, and would likely be covered by my knowledge.  This topic has come up too many times in the past few weeks for me to ignore it, so I will share with my readers what I know and where they can learn more for themselves.)

A few days ago Beard was telling me about a conversation he’d had with some of his man buddies about their children.  One man’s daughter had just begun to eat baby food, and the other was enlightening him about the different stages and different types of containers that baby food comes in.  They laughed shortly about the weird pureed foods that come in jars, and apparently, my husband was fighting his judgmental disposition from writing itself all over his face.

You see, we are baby food snobs.  There are no two ways about it.

When we found out we were going to have Bitsy Girl, my mother gifted us with the very food processor she used to make my baby food.  (Yes, this appliance is over 20 years old and still works like a dream.)  She explained that I never ate jarred “baby food”; instead she and my father would puree already cooked foods to feed to baby me.  Newly pregnant, I hadn’t really considered anything along these lines; I was more focused on labor and delivery than what I would be feeding this little child over a year from then.

As we grew more accustomed to the idea of parenthood, Beard and I researched things we would like to do for our children, and the topic of baby food came up again.  This time we were paying better attention.  With lots of advice from my mom, the instructor of our birthing class, and an excellent book called Super Baby Food, we felt that we were armed and ready to take on making all of our daughter’s food.

At almost 15 months old, Bitsy Girl has never eaten baby food from a jar or package.  We have literally made all of her food.  Of this, we are both very proud.  And a bit snobbish.

Why did we choose to make our own baby food?

First and foremost, we made this decision because we would know exactly what was in our daughter’s food at each meal.  If we made her food there would be no hidden preservatives.  Foods could be as fresh as we’d like.

Another factor for us was cost.  I tend to be a little bit of a budget freak (hey, we’re still paying off student loans!), so I try to shave little bits out of our budget if possible.  And the fact is that jarred baby food can get very expensive, especially if you are going to buy organic and natural.  A typical jar of baby food vegetables, let’s say carrots, costs between $0.50 and $1.  I could easily buy a pound of organic carrots at the grocery store or farmer’s market for $1.50 and make about 20 – 25 servings of pureed carrots.  It just didn’t make sense to me to purchase something I could so easily make at home at a lower cost.

How did we make our own baby food?

Some baby foods are more difficult than others to make.  Most vegetables and some fruits can be easily pureed after being steamed or boiled.  Foods like carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, potatoes, peas, green beans, and more fall into this category.  We simply cooked a portion of the food without salt or sugar, then put it in our food processor and let it do its thing.  We would add enough water to food to make a thin puree for Bitsy Girl when she was very young, and as she grew older and more used to food, we would use less water, allowing her more of a mashed food.

Some fruits, like pears, bananas, and avocados can be pureed raw or even mashed with a fork.  These were great in a pinch when I didn’t have very much time to make something for Bitsy Girl to eat and had nothing already made for her.  And as strange as it sounds to eat avocado by itself, most babies love it.  It is rich and creamy, plus babies aren’t usually born with an aversion to green foods.

In addition to fruits and vegetables, Bitsy Girl ate a few kinds of homemade baby cereals. My favorite to make was oatmeal because it was easily ground, but you could use rice, millet, barley, etc.  We simply ground up uncooked grains, then cooked them according to instructions found in our trusty Super Baby Food book.  

For protein, we would feed our daughter foods like yogurt, which can be fed to babies without any real preparation.; it is already easy for them to eat!  Several books and websites I had read suggested tofu, but the stuff kind of grosses me out, so we would feed Bitsy Girl beans instead.  Beans could be pureed with other foods to add some protein to the mix.  

How did we store our homemade baby food?

Of course when we were going through the trouble of pureeing and mashing all of Bitsy Girl’s food we didn’t want to make single serving sizes.  Instead, we would make several servings of food at once and store them.  For pureed fruits and vegetables, we would pour the puree into ice cube trays and freeze them until solid; then the “food cubes” could be stored in a freezer bag or container in the freezer, labeled with the type of food and date on which it was made.  These foods stayed fresh for up to 6 months.  We stored grains and cereals in a container in the refrigerator, and they kept for 3-4 days.  Yogurt, of course, could be scooped out of its regular container, so there were no special storing processes for that food.

What kinds of finger foods can babies eat and when can they eat them?

Beard and I used a lot of Bitsy Girl’s cues for our parenting, and feeding was no exception.  When we noticed her picking things up and putting them in her mouth (about 8 or 9 months old) we cut up mushy bits of food for her to grab.  Bananas were first because the texture is easy for babies to eat and because they were and still are her all time favorite food.  We moved on from bananas to avocados, then veggies cooked until soft.  Medium textured cheeses (mozzarella, cheddar, etc.) came soon after, and with all that Italian and Wisconsinite blood in her, Bitsy Girl was a fan.  

Bitsy Girl began to eat meat around this stage.  Chicken or turkey could be cooked and shredded for her to pick up with her hands.  White fish worked well, too.  We held off on beef for a little while, but by around 10 months, she was enjoying homemade Swedish meatballs.

Once Bitsy Girl could eat foods with her fingers, we began giving her foods that we were eating, as opposed to bland, unseasoned foods.  She would eat the pasta we were having for dinner or some succotash with butter and garlic.  As young as 9 months, our daughter was eating most seasonings that I use in the house.

I should say here that I cook with very little, if any salt, so I felt comfortable feeding these foods to my baby.  If you cook with salt, I would save a small portion for your baby before salting your foods.

Making your own baby food may sound like a scary undertaking, but Beard and I learned that it really isn’t.  It has so many great rewards, and it really only takes a bit time than shopping for baby food, opening a jar, and heating it up.

As a final note I want to leave you with an internet resource that was invaluable to us on our baby food adventure:

http://www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/

This website has so many great charts depicting what foods baby can and should eat when as well as ideas on how to serve and prepare different foods.  Enjoy!.  Enjoy!

A Few Green Updates on a Usual Day Off

Somehow in central Virginia we have gone from very warm, humid summer weather back to  rainy, breezy spring weather.  I am not complaining, of course.  I am grateful for a short break before the real heat and soul-melting sun begins.

The recent bout of rain and cooler weather has meant wonderful things for our little garden.  After my a weeding extravaganza early last week, all of our food producing plants have had plenty of room to grow, and grow they did.

It looks like our strawberry patch will have another large harvest very soon.  It was covered in the familiar white blossoms, most of which have become green strawberries.  They’ll be ripe for picking in a few short days.

Our lettuce is actually having a second go around for this year’s early season.  Last year we had lettuce until about Memorial Day, then not again until late September.  It really doesn’t do well under the direct sun of summer.  Because of our cooler weather, though, some of the lettuce plants that had gone to seed have actually reproduced!  New lettuce plants have sprung up in the patch, giving me fresh green leaf lettuce again.

The zucchini and squash have been doing beautiful things, as well.  I see those tell-tale orange-yellow flowers already, and my mouth is salivating at the prospect of making my Nonna’s Patoli, an Italian zucchini fritter that I made in large quantities last summer due to our generous zucchini harvest.

Our final surprise this week was string beans.  We officially harvested our first three string beans this morning.  The plants themselves are doing well, and have been climbing the trellis Beard fashioned for them out of some pieces of old deck we had in our yard.

I’m glad to say that all of our garden successes (and failures) so far have come with them help of three very important things:  water, sunshine, and physical labor.  We do not use any chemicals to control our weeds, nor do we use a specific plant food to make them grow faster or bigger.

For weeding we just pluck weeds out as we see the little suckers stick out of the ground.  It’s hard work, and probably why organic produce is so darn expensive, but it’s worth it.  I know there isn’t anything unsafe hiding in our food.

We have started a compost pile in one of our raised beds, and I hope we’ll be able to use some of that nutrient rich soil next spring.  For now, though, we are faithfully adding organics and rotating it manually with a shovel.

Do any of you keep a garden?  What are you finding in your garden this week?

 

Natural Homemade Bathroom Cleaner

I am a closet germ-a-phobe.  On the outside I tell people that I don’t mind my daughter chewing on the dog’s toys because it will build her immune system, and I don’t have a problem eating a cracker that has dropped on the floor (within time constraints, of course).  That is why yesterday I had a bit of a panic attack when I realized I was out of my Scrub-oxy-super-bleach-bathroom-cleaner-of-doom.  This stuff could sanitize a truck stop bathroom floor so well you’d eat off of it.  (Maybe.)

But it was gone.  I tried the spray handle about 5,000,000 times in hopes of getting every last ounce.  I looked inside to see if I could dilute it with a little water, but alas.  It was gone.

How then, do I sanitize my bathroom (the grossest of all gross places in my home)?  I looked up several online recipes for homemade bathroom cleaners; thank God for the internet.  I found a ton of recipes, but most of them had at least one ingredient that I didn’t have on hand, so I had to study them to determine what really these recipes were trying to accomplish, then make my own recipe.

I determined a good bathroom cleaner recipe requires the following:

Some kind of scrubbing/grainy substance – This is usually baking soda or Borax.  The main purpose of this ingredient is to physically scrub soap scum, etc. off your sink, toilet, tub, and tile.  Both ingredients have an odor-eating element to them, which makes the great for the bathroom.

Some liquid soap – This is either Castille soap or dish detergent.  These have antibacterial properties and just make surfaces look clean.

An antibacterial/santization agent – This can be anything from lemon juice to vinegar to tea tree oil.  Any of these will kill the tiny living creatures the lurk about your bathroom.  Sorry to gross you out, but us admitting they are there is half the battle in getting rid of them.

Water – Self explanatory.  Water just adds a little bit more liquid to make your cleaner the right consistency.

Scent (optional) – You can use an essential oil to give your bathroom cleaner a specific scent.  If you are using lemon juice or tea tree oil for your sanitization agent, your cleaner may already have a pleasant smell to you.  Vinegar, on the other hand, is not a smell everyone loves, and you may want to mask it with something more like orange or lavender essential oil.

 

So the cleaner I made yesterday was:

1 cup baking soda

1 tbsp dish detergent

8 drops tea tree oil

3/4 cup water

15 drops lavender oil

I put all the ingredients except the oils in a Mason jar, closed the lid, and shook very well.  After the ingredients were well mixed, I add the oils and shook again.  I transfer my cleaner to a spray bottle first, but because of the baking soda, this cleaner didn’t spray very well.  It’s more of a paste.  So I used a squirt bottle instead.  Perfect!

Anyone made their own cleaning products before?  Let me know what you think of this breakdown.