Animal crackers in my soup…

Once upon a time, a new mother thought that it would be simple to provide for her child the best food on the planet.  She ate organic, sustainable, local foods throughout her pregnancy.  Her worst craving was for fresh kale salads.  Once that child was born, she nursed him faithfully even when her body stopped producing, caving to feed him organic formula only because he was hungry.  When the little baby was ready for solid foods, his mama steamed and pureed and mashed everything in sight.  She even tried making her own version of biter biscuits (an epic fail).  Little by little, the baby realized that the food on his parents’ plates was what he wanted and suddenly abandoned all purees in favor of whole solids that he could nosh on with his stunning 6 teeth.  As he was weaned onto whole milk, the mama realized that it was now time to give him an afternoon snack to tide him over until supper.  But what to feed him?  The mama didn’t want to hand her son preservatives at every snack, but she also didn’t want to spend the bulk of her food budget on organic snacks!

I was really surprised how many recipes there are out there in cyberspace pertaining to snacks.  Healthy snacks, guilty snacks, weird snacks.  Most of the healthy ones called for honey, though.  Almost every medical resource I have agreed that children under 12 months shouldn’t have honey because they can contract botulism.  This posed a slight problem given that the honey is used to hold the rest of the dough together.  I don’t like molasses, so that was out and I didn’t want to add another liquid for fear that would make the dough tough.  So I abandoned the idea of homemade teddy graham crackers.  Then one day, I came across a jar of malt barley syrup.  The light came on and I am thrilled to present to you the product of a well-used afternoon naptime for Liam!  These crackers have a graham-like flavor, but are crisper like an animal cracker.  I love them and Liam always points to the jar whenever he sees it now!

Zoo munchers

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  3/4 tsp. salt
  •  7 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. malt barley syrup (or honey if not using this recipe for a child under 12 months)
  • 5 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place them in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until fluffy and then gradually  add in the milk, vanilla and syrup.  Mix in the dry ingredients until dough forms a ball around the paddle.  Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in saran wrap.  Chill for a minimum of 2 hours.  (I made the dough during a nap and then shaped them when I had time the next day.  The dough was still fine to work with and didn’t get tough.)  Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out shapes.  Freeze the dough for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool before storing; they keep well for 2 weeks in an air tight container… if your kids don’t know where you hide them!

** I tagged this as a frugal recipe since when I worked out the math, I am saving myself $7.35 a month in graham crackers for Liam.  This includes the price of the barley malt syrup in my calculations.  It honestly takes very little time out of my day and will eventually be something Liam and I can do together!
** Since barley is non-allergenic to most babies, I plan to play around with the end form of the crackers and use this as biter biscuits for my future children. 

Baby food 301

With the introduction of teeth, Liam was super anxious to start chewing on things besides his toys.  It then became an issue of trying to find the perfect balance between food soft enough that he wouldn’t choke, but bulky enough to satisfy his need to bite. Up until he was 8 months old, I was still giving him the finely pureed food and then a rice rusk to play with.  This became a huge disaster because purees and rusks are vile once mixed together.  So I had to get creative with his food.  It began small, but for months 8 and 9, I put fork mashed potatoes or cauliflower or even pastas into the purees. I also spent a lot more time with finger foods like puffs and tiny pieces of steamed broccoli.  

This is also where the mesh feeder became a god-send.  Because Liam had to do everything himself, I was worried about him choking.  Thankfully, I could all the fruits and veggies he desired into this little gadget and he would go to town, mashing and slurping his way to bliss.  

Vegetable Stew:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 medium potato, baked

Steam the carrots and peas until tender.  Whirl them in your food processor or blender until smooth.  Fork mash the potato until it is mashed but still slightly lumpy.  Mix all 3 ingredients together and freeze.

Freezing the baby food was a challenge for me.  I had purchased an exorbitant amount of ice cube trays several years ago because our fridge doesn’t have an ice maker and we were always running out.  As time passed though, I no longer had 8 trays of cube sitting in the freezer and they were instead piling up in my cupboards.  Initially, I made a large batch of butternut squash and froze it in the ice cube trays.  Then, I popped each cube out and saved them in a freezer bag.  It seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but then I had several different flavors and combinations and it became easier to just leave them in the trays.  Which was great, but then I had to pry them out of each tray with a knife.  So then I saw someone on a blog saving their food in the plastic gerber containers.  Over time, I will confess that I have amassed far more of these containers than I had planned to.  However, they are wonderful for freezing things.  I have erasable markers and write the contents of the container on the lid; the marker stays on the container until I wash it off.  When I want something out of the container, I run it under some hot water to loosen it up and then pop Liam’s dinner out into a bowl to warm up.  (I microwaved a container once and it melted… it totally freaked me out and I never did it again.)  However fantastic this idea is, I’m putting these trays on my wish list.  Mainly because once I froze some plums in the only silicone trays I had and they were a cinch to get out.  And they were in the shape of hearts.  So it was cute.

Baby food 202

Looking for some fun food combinations for your budding foodie?  Here are a few ideas that I tried that were winners with Liam!

  • Broccoli, peas and pears
  • Carrots and apples
  • Carrots, apples, pears
  • Apples, Oatmeal and a dash of cinnamon
  • Carrots, peas and potato 
  • Butternut squash and cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes and apples
  • Peaches and cereal
  • Banana and avocado
  • Homemade yogurt and mango
  • Spinach, peas and apples
  • Avocado, apple and pear
  • Peaches, banana and oatmeal
  • Homemade yogurt, raspberry puree and pear
  • Peaches, apricots, and raspberry

Baby food 201

I could also title this “Introduction to the Early Foods”.  So you call this what you’d like.  As I said yesterday, I started Liam on baby foods at 4 months.  We did applesauce and butternut squash for about a month and a half.  After the Christmas holidays, I started to introduce more and more vegetables and fruits each week.  By Liam’s 7 month birthday, I had introduced all of the following:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Green beans
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes

This is where the fun really began.  Up until this point, I hadn’t mixed any flavors together.  Mainly because I wasn’t sure of what would work.  I got this book out of the library, and this one, and this one.  I also went to the store.  I started to take note of the food combinations that were on the shelves and started to play.  I’m not one to use measurements much when I cook for my husband and I, but when it came to looking for a baby… I wanted everything perfect.  I the end, I wound up using equal measurements of each ingredient and mixing it together.  This recipe was the absolute favorite of Liam’s in the puree eating days (he has since sprouted 7 teeth and no longer deigns to be fed purees), I had to make a full batch every month.

Sweet potato carnival:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled.
  • 1 1/2 cups corn

Scrub the sweet potatoes until all dirt is removed.  Poke holes in them with a fork and then bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a fork can be easily inserted in to the flesh.  Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle.  (*Note: if you desire, you can bake and puree the sweet potatoes in advance.  They will keep for a few days in the fridge, unpureed or can be frozen as a puree until you are ready to use them.)  In the meantime, boil or steam the carrots and corn.   Remove the sweet potato flesh from the skins and set aside.  Place the carrots and the corn in a food processor or blender with about half a cup of the cooking water.  Puree until smooth.  Add in the sweet potato and any additional cooking water until you are at the consistency you desire.  When I first made this recipe, it was fairly soupy.  After a month, I didn’t have to add as much water and I didn’t puree the sweet potato, I mashed it with a fork.  This  was so that I had some texture for Liam to work with in this mouth since he became obsessed with chewing.  

This recipe makes a large batch of food.  Liam enjoys eating at the table with the rest of us, so we went through a lot of baby food.  I started out freezing the foods I made in ice cube trays, but I must admit that was a huge hassle when I needed to get it back out again.  I have a friend who saves all her formula cans for me so I can recycle them and I asked her to save her plastic baby food containers as well.  Since I used the store-bought baby food when we weren’t going to be home, I just made a point to purchase the containers and not the jars.  More on how that worked for me tomorrow! 

Baby food 101

I think one of the big reasons for my excitement with having a baby was that I would be able to encourage someone’s (healthy) love for food right from the start.  I had visions of me and my baby outside in the garden, taking trips to the farmer’s market, baking bread together.  We’ve done all of these things, but Liam isn’t quite as into it as I had hoped.  He’s loving the garden because it involves dirt and I let him play to his heart’s content… although he has sampled a bit more than I had originally allowed mentally.  He hangs out with me in the kitchen and I’m pleased to say that he seems to be interested in what I’m doing… until he spies the dogs’ water dish and is off to make as a big a mess possible.  So far, grocery shopping has been so fun with him.  I let him pick which cabbage we buy or let him feel the kiwis and he sits in the shopping cart, kicking his legs and pointing at the lights above us.  The only time we’ve ever seen a sour face on any of the trips was when he and I were in Whole Foods and the sprinklers came on over the greens and it scared him.  We purchased an absurdly priced bunch of asparagus just because it calmed him down.  Oh well, it could be worse, right?

Around 4 months, I started chomping at the bit to feed him solids.  Not so much because I thought he would sleep better, but because I was tired of feeling guilty when I ate in front of him.  Liam would lean in and smack his lips like he was starving.  I had some rice cereal on hand, so we tried it.  It was not a hit.  Given the taste, I can’t say that I blame him.  Liam had horrible acid reflux and I wondered if applesauce would help.  I don’t know if he just happened to be growing out of it or it was my awesome, organic, locally grown applesauce that did it, but after a week of trying the apple sauce, we never had another reflux issue.  From moth 4-6, Liam ate from the stash of pureed applesauce and butternut squash in my freezer.  Every now and then, I would think that I would someday be introducing other flavors, but for the time being, I was content.  

After the holidays, we started trying new foods.  When introducing foods to a baby, there is a 4-day wait rule.  I was terrified for the first 3 new things we tried, but have since calmed down and no longer have a migraine the day of a food introduction.  Since I work part time, I tried the new food on Friday morning and then had all day, plus the weekend and Monday to make sure nothing happened.  Nothing ever happened.  For this, I am eternally grateful.  I followed this chart for the 4-6 month food ideas.  At that time, all I had to do was put a fruit or a veg in some water and boil/cook it until tender.  I ran it through my food processor with some of the cooking water until I was pleased with the consistency.  I froze the food in ice cube trays and Liam would usually eat one per “meal”.  Please keep in mind though, that solid food is not meant to take the place of milk during the first year, so if your little foodie doesn’t eat “enough” it’s not worth getting your apron in a knot over it.

By the time Liam reached the end of 6 months, he was a pro with the food.  Only occasionally did he try to grab the spoon from me, he was far more interested in getting that food in his mouth.  My little guy ate anything I put in front of him, except avocados.  He absolutely refused them.  I tried mixing them with bananas, cereal, milk; nothing worked.  Then one day I realized that the pears I was going to make for him had gotten really too ripe and there wasn’t enough to make it worth my while.  Since I hate to waste things, I was trying to figure out a recipe to use them up in when it occurred to me that my mother had a fruit dish that paired apples, pears and avocado together.  At that point, the only thing I was going to lose was the money I had put into the avocados I had purchased, so why not try it?  (For the record, I also dislike loathe avocados.)  Liam ate the whole batch without complaint.  

For the next few days, I have posts coming about baby food from the very beginning to what he’s eating now at 10 months.  Since I felt like an idiot because there was no way it could be so simple, I’d like to assure you, it is.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the simplicity of my ideas and I will also begin tagging meals on this blog as to their age friendliness!  Good food habits start now, so let’s feed our children well!