I’m Back, Maybe

So it’s obviously been a while since I have written anything.  When I expressed in an earlier blog that babies were time suckers I underestimated how much a toddler would steal my time!  I have a great support system here and a great preschool that my little man is going to so I am hoping to be able to get back into the writing game.  We will see.  I will try to be back here soon with more blogs to share.  Of course, you may not hear from me again till next year.  At least this is a start.

I wanted to share my new love of the bread machine with you!  I am crazy about my Cuisinart and have been making a loaf or two of bread a week I love it so much.  I cannot tell you how much fun it is experimenting with new recipes in this machine.  Not only because it is fun but because it is so easy that if it doesn’t come out right I’m not pissed that it didn’t work.  I just compost that sucker and start again (more on my composting at a later date).  The bread machine came with a couple of recipes that are great but I, of course, needed to make them my own.  The problem is making a soft whole wheat or whole grain bread.  So far I have not been successful with a true whole wheat recipe but I am going to share with you my favorite recipe so far.  I am going to keep trying and will share any improvements I come up with.

Multi-Grain Bread for the Bread Machine – 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 cup almond, soy, coconut, real milk (whatever you have in the house)

1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on how dry your climate is)

2 tablespoons butter

1-2 tablespoons honey (I usually don’t measure, just pour in a glob)

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup bread flour

1 2/3 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup multi-grain hot cereal (I use Trader Joe’s found near the oatmeal)

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 1/2 teaspoon fast acting yeast

3-4 tablespoons seeds or chopped nuts of choice (I use 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe’s super seed & ancient grain blend then add a tablespoon of raw pumpkin seeds)

Warm milk, water, and butter in a microwave safe cup for about 1 minute or until the butter just starts to melt.  Place everything but the nuts/seeds in your bread machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.  I do mine in the order listed above.  Select the wheat setting if your machine has one for 1 1/2 lb loaf with medium crust color.  After the first mix check the bread to see if you need to add more water.  Where I live I use 1/4 cup in the summer and 1/3 cup in the winter.  My machine has a timer to let me know when to add the seeds/nuts but if yours doesn’t add them before the last rise.  Let the machine do the rest.  I do cool my bread with a clean towel wrapped around it to help keep the crust softer.  As tempting as it is to eat this right when it is done it is best to let it cool before slicing into it.

That’s it for now.  Hope you enjoy this recipe and let me know how it turns out or if you have any suggestions to make it better.

 

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Babies are Time Suckers

So it has been a long time since my last blog.  Why, you ask.  We’ve had an addition to the family and he is absolutely the cutest, sweetest little time sucker.

Now you have to know that I have it easy.  My son is probably one of the easiest babies out there.  He is very chill, plays well by himself, and for the most part is a good sleeper (well, now he is).  That doesn’t mean that I have all this time to do whatever I want however.  This blog is going to take me about a week to write as I have to make sure I’m keeping said time sucker alive as well as uninjured, healthy, and happy!  Who knew children were so much work?!?  Oh wait, every person ever who has had children.  People do not warn you, though.  For those of you who don’t have children, this is your official warning.  CHILDREN ARE HARD WORK AND YOUR LIFE IS VERY DIFFERENT WITH CHILDREN!  Please do not take that the wrong way.  I love my little man more than I will ever be able to express.  Just know that everything changes.  Some things are great and some are not so great, but be sure that it happens whether you want it to or not!

Now that I have that off my chest, I did want to share that making food for my son has been an absolute joy.  I have been making all of his food from scratch and when he loves something that I’ve made him it makes my soul glow!  He has been willing to try everything I make him and so far has only a few things he doesn’t like.  For the life of me I cannot get him to like bananas.  What kid doesn’t like bananas?  Apparently mine!  I have to say it’s been amazing to watch him eat foods that are good for him and teaching him (even if he does not know it yet) how to eat.  Vegetables, no problem.  He’ll eat broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, carrots, green beans, artichoke, pretty much anything I make him.  Now I know this will probably change down the line and some of these will become challenges, but right now in this moment I am enjoying that he’s eating so many foods.  I am always looking to introduce new foods, even foods I am not familiar with.  It makes it fun and makes me try new things as well.  If you have children (and the time) I highly suggest getting creative in the kitchen and making some baby food.  It is pretty easy and you definitely do not need any special tools other than a blender or food processor.  I believe those baby food machines are a waste of money!  I happen to have a NutriBullet and that worked great for small batches, but the blender works great too!  When you are first trying new foods introduce one thing at a time and wait 3-5 days before introducing a new food.  This helps to identify any allergies a baby might have.  I started by steaming vegetables and fruits for 20 minutes or until tender and then blending with formula until smooth, then I ran through a sieve to remove any chunks.  As your child gets older feel free to start leaving the food chunkier and using no-sodium stock (with vegetables).  You can also roast vegetables with a little olive oil to give them more flavor as your child gets older.  My little man loves these recipes below so I thought I would share them.

Carrots, Onions, and Potatoes (Sweet or red potatoes, whichever you like best)

2 onions, quartered

1 small bag baby carrots

1 lb potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place all veggies on a sheet try and drizzle olive oil over.  Mix veggies to coat every piece with olive oil.  Roast 30-45 minutes or until tender.

Spinach and Butternut squash

1 large bag of frozen spinach

1 butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes

Steam vegetables for about 20 minutes or until butternut squash is tender.

Prunes and Apples

1 lb apples (your favorite variety is fine, I used Gala)

1/2 lb of dried prunes

Steam apples and prunes together for about 20 minutes or until apples are tender and prunes start to plump.

Black Beans

1 bag dry black beans

Chicken stock or water

Soak beans overnight in water.  After soak, rinse beans and sort to remove any bad beans or stones.  Boil beans for 20-30 minutes or until very tender.  Drain and rinse again.

With all above recipes, let cool, then in a blender or food processor blend veggies with enough liquid of choice (you can use formula, breast milk, or water when baby is younger and any flavor stock when baby is older) to make a puree.  Depending on how old your child is you can make this as smooth or as chunky as you like.  As I stated above when he was younger I would run these through a sieve for my son.  This can make a lot so I divided the mix up between 2-3 ice cube trays and froze it.  When ready to eat, pull out the portions you want and either heat up in a pan or in the microwave until warm.

Protein is super important for a baby and can be a little more difficult to get in.  Here are a couple of ideas I use to help boost my little one’s protein intake.

  • Mix full fat plain Greek yogurt with any fruit puree.  My little man has been eating this since 6 months and he loves it.
  • When making my dinner (i.e. chicken, beef, pork, etc.) I make an extra bit without any salt and give to my little one.  In the beginning I blended the meat with a little water (or if I made a sauce I would make some without salt and use that) to make a puree.  I sometimes blend the meat with a vegetable puree to get an easy one dish meal.
  • Blend tofu with cooked vegetables to give him an extra bit of protein.
  • Do not forget that legumes are a great choice as well.  I know, giving beans to a baby sounds weird, but my little guy loves them.

Thanks for letting me share some of my baby culinary experiences with you.  I hope that if you have a little one some of these ideas help you out.  I know how hard it is to try to come up with ideas for a baby and how overwhelming it seems to make their food on your own.  Don’t be scared!  You can do it and try to have fun with it!

Fresh Produce

At the request of my smart, beautiful, talented sister-in-law, Candy (follow her blog at candysbrain.com and see for yourself), I am providing a couple of ideas on where and how to buy fresh produce.  Note that not all of these options are year round in some places so make sure to read the details at all sites/markets.

Option 1 – Find a Farm Co-op near you:

This option is a great way to explore what is in season and what fruits and vegetables grow around where you live.  In most situations you pay upfront for a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly box of fruits and/or vegetables from a local grower.  Some farms will let you pay per box but this is harder for the farmer as they need the money upfront to pay for the seeding and growing of the plants.  Depending on where you live you may be able to buy a full year.  I know by me (Midwest region) you can only get three seasons at the most, but it is  sooooo worth it!  This can be a pricy option upfront but compare what you normally pay for produce in the same time line and you will see that it may be very comparable.  If you feel that this might be an option for you I highly recommend http://www.localharvest.org/ to help find an organic farm near year.  I have to warn you that most of the time you do not get to choose what’s in the box, it is whatever is ready to be picked at that time and you may not recognize everything in the box.  If it is an unusual vegetable or fruit most farmers will provide a description of that item as well as how to eat/use it.

Option 2 – Supermarkets

Every supermarket has the potential to have great produce, you just have to be willing to take the time to find it.  As a rule of thumb buy what is in season.  For one it will be less expensive and two you will be more likely to find better quality items.  If you need help knowing what is in season the Eat Local app (as I mentioned before in Eat the Rainbow) is a great way to find what is in or you can go to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-fruits-and-vegetables-are-in-season and search by season before trekking out, they even provide some great recipes to try!    Also, make sure to check your produce before putting it in your cart as well.  I’ve listed below some guidelines on how to pick ready to eat fruit and vegetables.

Every region has a different set of grocery stores so I don’t think I can accurately suggest the best store to buy from but if you have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near you these are your best options.  Not to say there are not other great stores, I just know these two to have a great variety and provide great organic produce.

Option 3 – Online

There are probably more options online than I can even begin to think of but I know only know of a couple and I personally have only tried one, PeaPod.  I am a big fan of PeaPod, especially in the summer and fall when they offer a box of locally grown vegetables that I can order along with everything else that I need from the grocer.  They also offer a year round “what’s in season” fruit box where they pick 8-10 in season fruits for you.  It’s fun not knowing what you are going to get and finding new recipes or trying something you’ve never had before.  I have had a couple of family members be disappointed in PeaPod’s produce but it has never let me down (yet)!  Another option is again http://www.localharvest.org/.  They have an option to search for an online store for items that you may be looking for!

Whatever option you decide is best for you here are a couple of tips for picking the best produce.

1.  The following should always be organic:  potatoes, apples, pears, nectarines/peaches, any berry (i.e. strawberries, blueberries, etc), spinach, celery, and bell peppers.  Anything that has a skin that is removed before eating is not as much of a concern of containing high amounts of pesticides as the above.

2.  Look for non-blemished, bright colored fruits/vegetables.  Not all fruits/vegetables should be squeezed.  Most ripe fruits will smell like that fruit (I know this sounds funny but an unripe peach will not smell like a peach, check it out the next time you go to the store).  Melons should be heavy for their size; cantaloupe, mangoes and avocado should have a little give when you push into them; and most vegetables your eyes and nose are the best way to know if they are ready to be used.

3.  Don’t panic if you realize when you get home that you didn’t see the blemish on that apple or two of the strawberries are mushy.  You can still eat that apple (do not throw it out because of one bruise) just cut that section off.  Those strawberries can still be eaten, just throw out the ones that are over ripe to prevent them from ruining the rest of the batch.   Use your best judgement, though, if it smells rotten or you see mold toss it!

If there is something here that I did not cover and you would like information about or more information about any of the above please ask!  I love inquiries and comments!