Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homemade baby food

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am the mother of an 8 month old baby girl.  I decided that I would make her baby food when it was time for her to eat solid food.  Part of the decision to do this is my mistrust of baby food manufacturers and partly that I am cheap thrifty.  Making baby food is not difficult to do, less expensive and produces far less waste since there is no packaging.  Essentially, you are making purees.  You control what goes into it and how fine or chunky it is.

Always check with your child's doctor first before starting solids.  My daughter, E. was exclusively breast fed until she was 5 months old.  First I gave her rice and oat cereals.  She tolerated those well and I tried single fruits and vegetables, one at a time.  Her first solid foods were store bought little pouches of sweet potato or pear.  These are still great for when you're traveling since you can squeeze out what you want and reseal them.  But for home meals I make her food.

To make homemade baby food you'll need a steam basket, cooking pot and blender, or a special appliance for steaming and processing the food.  I was given one of these special machines but I was planning on just using a steamer and blender originally.  Buy the best produce you can; organic is best.  Since you're going to the bother of making your baby's food, don't buy food that pesticides were used on. I buy organic at the market or use produce from our farm share that was grown without pesticides.  Wash the food, cut it into smallish chunks and steam it.  Steaming preserves vitamins better than boiling in water.  You can bake some fruits and vegetables.  Apples, pears and sweet potatoes are particularly good baked because they caramelize a bit and taste sweeter.  Once the food is cooked, it's time to puree it.  You can use a blender or a food processor.  You can also use a food mill if that's what you've got.  My little machine blends the food up as well as cooks it.  I reserve the cooking water from the machine's bowl and add it a little at a time until I get the consistency that I want.  If you're using the steamer basket method just add water. Think apple sauce, that's how loose it should be.

Let the puree cool and pour it into molds.  I use ice cube trays.  I like the size of the cubes of food it makes.  Store the food in the freezer until it's solid and then remove the cubes to freezer bags.

To feed my baby I just take out a couple of cubes of different vegetables or fruits and put them in a microwavable bowl.  I heat it for about 40-50 seconds and stir in some oat cereal and water.  At first you should try single foods to make sure the baby can tolerate them.  Once you're sure the baby isn't allergic to any foods you can then combine those foods together into more complex tasting meals.  That's it!  So far, E. has had sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, pear, apple, broccoli, spinach and legumes.  I've made lentils and rice on the stove top and pureed them with vegetables for lentil-rice-sweet potato and split mung bean with basil.  Herbs (organic) and some spices can enhance the foods.  I've added cinnamon to apples, pears, carrots and sweet potatoes.  Just don't add any sugar or salt to the food.  It's not healthy for the baby and I think it's wise to let the baby taste food in an unadulterated state first.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

On sleep (or lack thereof) and scapes

So, our 8 month old baby girl, E., woke me up at 5:30 AM today. Yesterday, it was at 5:00AM so I guess that's improvement. We've been working on her sleeping schedule. When she was just 2 months old she began sleeping through the night. I mean, sleeping from 10PM until 9AM without waking. She did this until she was about 5 months old. We got used to that and got cocky. Then, teething started and all bets were off. We moved to New Haven when she was 7 months old and changed everything on her. New house (rental), new room, new bed (she'd been sleeping in our room in a play yard bassinet, not in her crib). Needless to say, she wasn't sleeping well. Not at all.  We'd put her to bed at 7PM, she'd wake at 8, then again at 10, 2, 4 and eventually get up at 6:30 or so.  Ugh. I can see why this is a younger person's game. In desperation I searched the web for help and found a book that seemed like it might help.  I found The Sleepeasy Solution, by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack.  I'm not getting paid to promote the book, just letting people know that it helped us.  The "solution" is a modified version of cry-it-out.  Previously, we'd been running into her room every time she made a peep in the night.  That wasn't working.  I'd rocked her, shushed her, nursed her, let her sleep with us.  None of that was working.  The first night we implemented the new sleep routine she cried for an hour.  During which time we'd go in to check on her about every 10 minutes to make sure she was okay.  She fell asleep just about after that hour of crying.  And she slept all night!  I awoke in the morning and immediately panicked.  Something must be wrong, she didn't wake all night.  Nope.  She was fine and still sleeping.  We still have nights where she wakes up but it's not more than once and she drops right back off again.  She does sometimes wake up earlier than we'd like, but that seems to have to do with her nap schedule during the day.  We're working on her napping, too.

I thought I'd show what I made with the onion scapes from our CSA share once I got her to sleep.  The scapes were totally foreign to me.  First of all, they were huge.  The longest one was more than 2 ft. long. Some of them were quite thick and they were hollow.  If you don't know what they look like, check out my previous post about our CSA share. I cut the scapes into short segments and cooked them in a hot, cast iron skillet in a little sesame oil until they caramelized a bit.  I served them with the last of my homemade tofu and sliced shiitake mushrooms that we got at the farmers market.  I made a thin sauce with mirin and tamari and drizzled it over.  It was a nice and simple meal.  The scapes were mild and reminded me of leeks.  Caramelizing them brought out a nice sweetness in them.

The cut onion scapes and shiitakes

The finished dish-yum!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

CSA share

We got quite a haul in our first ever CSA share.  It's only a half share and since it's the first one of the season I didn't expect it to be so large!  We got 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 1 bib lettuce, 1 red leaf, small bunch of carrots, bunch of colorful radishes, onion scapes, bunch of spinach and potted basil plants (purple and Genoese).  It all looks so good!  The market was bustling this morning even though it was sprinkling rain.  The sun broke through while we visited the vendor stalls and it's turning out to be a gorgeous day.

                                                          Our farm share.  Isn't it pretty?
Scapes and radishes.

                                                                      Multigrain bread
                                                                  Shiitake mushrooms

It's going to be a delicious week!

Wooster Square

Today we are getting our first CSA share.  When we lived in Buffalo I tried several times to get on a CSA share waiting list but they were always sold out.  As soon as we moved to New Haven we found a CSA with a few shares available.  The farm is out of Madison, CT.  It looks like the quintessential New England farm.  Maybe we'll visit the farm with our baby girl, E. this Summer.

We go to the City Seed Farmer's Market New Haven's Wooster Square in to pick up our farm share. Wooster Square is famously home to Pepe's Pizza, where there are lines out the door even in the morning.  I'm not kidding.  The park in Wooster Square is very pretty.  When we first moved here the cherry trees were blooming and I went over there one day to take photos.  I think I waited a little too long.  We'd had some windy days and many of the blossoms have fallen off the trees.  It still was quite pretty.  Here are a few of shots from that day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pretty. Healthy.

Tonight's dinner. I think that it's one of the prettier meals I've made.  Quite healthy, too.  Matchstick carrots, pea shoots, red peppers, mushrooms, mirin, tamari, sesame oil and homemade tofu.  Yes, I made tofu!  I followed the recipe on Instructables, here:

It was pretty easy and I didn't need any special equipment.  I used organic soybeans, of course.  First you have to make soy milk from the beans to make the tofu.  I saved a pint of that just to see how it would come out.  It's really good and better than store bought tofu.  The soy milk is also excellent.  Fresh makes a difference.  Below are some photos of my tofu and soy milk.  We don't eat a lot of soy but since we currently don't eat chicken, pork or beef we sometimes use it as our protein.  I happen to like it and I certainly feel better about making it myself since I can control what goes into it.
This is the tofu that I scooped out of the cooking pot as soon as it was ready, before I pressed it.  It was soft and almost decadently creamy.  I added a splash of mirin and tamari and called it lunch!    

Finished soy milk and pressed tofu.  I made nearly a pound of tofu and about a pint of soymilk.


Ok, I finally broke down and started a blog.  Who knows how long I'll be able to keep it going.  I am, after all, the mother of an 8 month old baby girl who has just learned to crawl.  A little about that; I'm a first time mom and over 40 (just a little bit over) ;-)  My husband, M, and I just moved from Buffalo, NY to New Haven, CT. for his new job.  I was self-employed as a decorative artist in B-lo but currently I am staying at home with our baby until she's old enough for daycare and I can get back to work.

It's pretty nice here but the thing that stands out for me is the food. There is so much good food here! I love to cook and, of course, eat. I'll be writing about restaurants, food trucks and meals we make at home.  Also, we just bought a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share since moving here and we are excited to see what we get and what we can make with the fresh produce.  Some of that produce will go into homemade baby food.

Occasionally, I may write about my mosaic artwork or painting.  I miss working and being creative so this blog is a bit of an outlet for me.

I'm going to see where this takes me.  I hope you'll come along with me.