Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Garden in July

July's weather has been just weird. First there was a heat wave, which the garden loved, but the past week has been cooler and rainy. It almost feels like early autumn rather than the middle of summer. No doubt the heat will return though, and the rain was very needed. I decided to cut back on watering this year and am experimenting with heavy mulching and soaker hoses. So far I've had a great reduction in water useage but little issue with plant growth, though the yards are rather yellow-ish. I can live with that though, as long as the gardens are happy.

Yellow squash "Sunray Hybrid"
Yesterday I started planting for a fall garden: more beans, broccoli, snap peas, and  cabbages. In the middle of July it seems odd to be thinking about October's harvest but I'm determined to eat from the garden year round.

Sweet Cherry Tomato
 Along with getting more seeds in the ground I'm starting to look around for PVC and greenhouse plastic to make more row covers. I've been scouting through Craigslist and Freecycle for things that could be re-used, re-made, or are just quirky. I'm also beginning to hoard free pallets to build a new-to-me garden shed/chicken coop to replace the ugly metal thing currently taking up space. I'd love for the chickens to wander the garden during the winter, eating bugs and spreading free fertilizer.

Onion bloom
Speaking of chickens, this year's baby chicks are getting big! We removed the partition between the big girls and the littles and so far everyone is getting along fabulously.


  About the only thing not doing well in the garden are the fruit trees. Leaf curl has removed all the leaves from the peach tree and I'm not sure if it will recover. These poor trees, they were an impulse purchase when I saw them on sale and then they were drug from one corner of the yard to another while I tried to make up my mind where they should be planted. They were in the pots way, WAY too long.


I still have this one pear to look forward to, though!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Butternut Squash "Noodles"

My family loves pasta. Like, LUUUUUURRRRRRVVVVVS pasta. Its been one of the hardest things to give up, until I stumbled upon rice pasta. Since rice doesn't bother anyone in the family I tend to keep several packages of different style noodles in the pantry. It makes for quick meals when time or energy is lacking.

I really prefer to use veggies to make noodles though. Not only do they have more flavor than rice (or wheat) noodles they also provide more nutrients. Plus, any day now I will start drowning in zucchini and noodlizing is great for the mini-boats that always appear.. Munchkin however, has a different view of zucchini noodles, mainly that they are gross GREEN things. *le sigh*

I was looking around seeing what else I could turn into noodles when my eye stumbled on a butternut squash I picked up a while ago. It has been sitting lonely on the corner of the counter, oozing autumn promises but I just couldn't bring myself to make squash n' bacon soup in the 90+ degree heat. Hmmm...noodles?

I washed and peeled the squash, broke out my trusty julienne slicer (someday I'll get a spiralizer like the cool kids) and went at it.



Soon I had a bowl full of orange 'noodles'. I added a splash of olive oil, a shake of sea salt and coarse-ground pepper, and mixed everything up with my hands. Raw they were tasty though very...squash-flavored. I wanted to bring out the sweetness in the squash so I roasted them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes, just enough to make them tender. Success! Sweet with just a hint of autumnness. I added parsley flakes (I didn't have any fresh) and  a bit of fresh Parmesan-Romano. Doesn't it look good?


Tadpole and Hubby devoured theirs, Munchkin took one bite and made a face. Oh well, she tried it. Next time I'll add sauce and see what happens.


Butternut Squash 'Noodles'

One whole butternut squash, washed and peeled 
Julienne slicer or spiralizer (or wicked knife skills)
Flavorings of your choice (A rich red sauce? Pesto? The skies the limit on what you put on it.)

Carefully slice/spiralize the squash. You can cut off the round, hollow end and only noodle the solid top portion but you'll get longer 'noodles' if you include the end part. Easier to do this in a large bowl as the squash will be slippery and want to move around.

You are done! Enjoy your noodles raw or...


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Toss noodles with 3-4 tablespoons of your favorite cooking fat (my fav is duck fat) and a shake or two of salt and pepper
Spread 'noodles' out on a cookie sheet aiming for a thin layer
Bake for 2-8 minutes, checking and occasionally stirring so nothing burns. Taste and pull when the 'noodles' reach your preferred texture
Serve warm with your choice of sauce/flavorings


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baby Led Weaning and the Paleo Lifestyle

Tadpole is a few days shy of 9 months old-how time has flown! We started solids around the 7 month mark when she started being interested in food and, like with Munchkin, its been an adventure; a messy, hilarious adventure.

Baby Led Weaning (BLW) is very basic-baby starts being interested in solid food, parents give them solid food. Simple! Usually around 6 months babies start copying what they see around them. They see everyone else eating so hey! gotta get in on that! Sometimes it takes longer, Munchkin was snagging food off plates around 5ish months, Tadpole wasn't really interested till closer to 7, and wasn't really eating anything till 8 months. Once they were able to hold their heads up we had them sitting at the table with us so they could be part of the meal (and quite frankly, so both of us could eat a hot meal). After that it was only time before they were wanting a taste.

At this age (younger than a year) kiddos are generally still getting all the nutrients they need from the boob/bottle, so food is all about having fun. Babies get to play with new textures, temperatures, tastes. They start developing better hand-eye coordination, pincher grips, and learning how to chew and move things around in the mouth. They get to be right there with everyone else, absorbing manners, culture, Dad's weird mustard fetish, and everything else that happens around the dinner table. Best of all-only one meal to prepare!

There will be mess.

I'm pretty sure nothing is more fun than chucking a full bowl across a room to a baby, so unless you really enjoy scrubbing walls (or you have a dog) don't even bother with bowls and plates, just spoon baby's portion out on their mat/tray and let them go at it. Eventually they'll figure it out.

If you haven't bought a highchair/kid chair yet I highly suggest something plastic that fits in the bathtub. With Munchkin we had a portable seat that attached to the table. It was a pain to remove and bits of food would get stuck under the straps. Eventually we splurged on a Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair and it made a world of difference in cleanliness and comfort. The best part is that it has grown with Munchkin, so even though she is still too short to comfortably sit in the regular chairs she still has one that fits her. Tadpole is currently using a traditional high chair that is all plastic and fits (mostly) in the bathtub-so simple to keep clean. Since its summer I mostly drag it outside once a day and powerwash it with a hose. Way easy!

Dropping things off the edge will guarantee a messy floor, and ohhhhh how babies love to drop things and see what happens. A cheap shower curtain from the dollar store spread under the eating area makes clean up a breeze, though I've been known to just let the dog in. Honestly, he does a better job than me and I mop the floor often anyway.

And baby gets messy. Wearing your mashed potatoes is so in this year, don'tcha know? Tadpole mostly eats in just a diaper. It cuts back on laundry for me, saves staining her clothes, and just makes life easier. When it gets cooler I'll break out the mass of bibs we stockpiled during Munchkin's splattering days, though I'm hoping she'll have this eating thing figured out by then. I've found that Murphy's Law will always prevail-the meal which has that one guaranteed-to-stain item will be the meal they yank the bib off right before smearing said item all over. Or you spend most the meal fighting to keep the bib on while baby tries to take it off, eat the decorations on it, or just has a fit that its even there and no one is happy or eats much. So...bibs and I haven't been the best buddies in the past and so far I haven't used them for Tadpole.

As for baby utensils, go nuts. Or don't. I received a few plastic/soft forks and spoons as gifts and I pull them out if they are clean but mostly I just use our everyday dinnerware. Its not fancy or cute but it works and I don't notice any pain or issues when either kiddo uses the grown-up-ware, nor do they eat more or less compared to using kid-ware. Personally I'm not a big fan of some of the kid-ware out there. I want my kids to eat their food, not play with it, but to each their own.

And that's the most important part of Baby Led Weaning: your mileage may vary. I can't say it enough. Just look at my two kids! Munchkin developed a pincher grip right away and was feeding herself by 8 months. All I had to do was put food in front of her and it would disappear. Tadpole is still figuring out the whole holding/chewing thing and prefers to be fed rather than pick it up herself. Munchkin was a fairly clean kiddo that would eat everything while Tadpole is a mess and will drop whatever she doesn't like between her legs so she (and I) can't see it. Don't stress. Have fun!

Some tips and warning:

Do not feed a baby under a year old honey. There is a possibility of a form of bacteria in the honey that babies can't digest and that can make them very sick.

Hard foods (fresh apples, some fruits, nuts, etc) should wait till the baby is older and chewing well.

Don't force a certain food. Keep offering it but give baby a chance to taste it on their own. Never put food in baby's mouth, let baby eat off the spoon or take a bite-they are less likely to choke that way.

Gagging is a way for kiddo to move food around. Try not to panic. (You will, but try not to.)

Beware of salt and seasonings. Baby's taste buds are brand new and don't need as much flavoring as most adults do. When in doubt go with less.

The most common food allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soybeans, wheat, fish, and shellfish. If you think baby may be allergic (it runs in the family) hold off on giving that item till the baby is older. Signs of an allergic reaction include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, skin problems, upset stomach, and other issues. If your baby has difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue, lips, or develops severe diarrhea or vomiting call 911 immediately. Provide only one new food at a time so if an issue comes up you know what caused it.

Never leave baby unattended. Never.

Cut round foods (hot dogs for example) into quarters or into strips. Crinkle-cutting is a great way to give items a texture so they aren't as slippery to pick up. Peas and the like can be lightly mashed.

Highly acidic foods, such as citrus fruit and tomatoes, can sometimes cause tummy issues and painful diapers. My girls LOVE citrus but I have to keep them to one item a day or there are 'burned' bottoms. Same goes for tomatoes. Keep that in mind, especially when those addicting mandarins are ripe.


So, you've got a baby, someplace for baby to sit, and some way for baby to reach the food. What do you give?  Whatever you are eating!



~Proteins~

Any and all!  Chicken, beef, pork, eggs, fish, seafood-its all good!

Braised meats are wonderful as they are usually easy to pick up, soft for gums and new teeth, and easy to swallow.

Munchkin attacks a rib at 10 months old
Steak, roast chicken, pork chops, etc, can be sliced into strips-baby shouldn't be able to bite a piece off but will be able to gnaw/suck flavor and goodness out. As they grow you can move to cutting the meat into pea-sized or smaller pieces for baby to chew and swallow.

I've yet to meet a kid who doesn't love gnawing on bones.
Pull most of the meat off a chicken leg (don't forget the tiny bone!) leaving the gristly/meaty section on top and watch baby gnaw away. The same goes for ribs. 

Plain omelets or scrambled eggs are tasty, plus they are fast to make. Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Ground meats can sometimes be difficult for baby to chew and some babies won't like the texture. I've had good luck with a taco meat-style that is fairly wet, zero luck with burgers. Hot dogs and sausages are great (cut into strips) though some babies have issues if the casing is too tough and/or chewy-you may need to remove the casing.

Offal in the form of pates, liver n' onions, tongue, etc are great to offer. You never know what baby's tastebuds will like and they don't have any preconceived notions of guts=ewww to get past.




~Vegetables~

  All hail broccoli! The perfect first veggie. The flavor is mild, the stem makes a wonderful handle, the florets are fun to chew, and its easy to cook. I generally steam it but as long as its fork-tender its perfect for baby. Cauliflower is another good one for steaming (or rice/mash it for mock taters!) as is romanesco and asparagus.

Root veggies such as carrots, turnips, potatoes, yams, etc can be mashed, whipped, roasted, grilled-basically as long as its fork-tender its good to go. Both of my girls love roots mashed with lots of butter. Easy to eat and fun to play with. Lately I've been mixing veggies (carrots and parsnips, purple potatoes and sweet potatoes) to get new flavors.

Squashes (zucchini, crookneck, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, etc) are great mashed or grilled. Summer squashes can also be given raw, Munchkin loved crinkle-cut slices of zucchini. Squash noodles have been a hit so far (new recipe coming soon!).

Bell peppers and tomatoes, thinly sliced raw or cooked tender are great, as is cooked eggplant. 

Leafy green such as spinach, kale, salad greens, cabbage, and chards are difficult for baby to eat raw, cooked they are much softer and easier for baby-try sauteing sliced cabbage in the fat of your choice till its soft and tender, or adding spinach to lasagna (yes, there are paleo lasagna recipes out there).

Green beans, snow peas, and snap peas are easy to hold and eat, plus easy to cook (win for Mommy!) If you eat legumes, such as beans, make sure their are very tender. Round beans, such as green peas, may be lightly flattened to make them easier to pick up.



~Fruits~

Fruits are wonderful, nearly every type is perfect for baby, or just needs a touch of cooking to be made soft enough for the new eater.

Bananas are usually one of the first fruits offered as they aren't as messy, can be broken up into 'sticks' (just lightly squeeze a peeled banana and it will break apart into sections), isn't acidic, doesn't stain, and it available pretty much everywhere.

Stone fruit (apricots, peaches, nectarines, etc) can be served raw (if soft) or cooked. These tend to be juicy and slippery so may be frustrating for baby to try and pick up. I usually leave the fuzzy skin on to give little fingers some traction. Avocados!!

Apples are great for stewing and baking to make soft. Raw apples can be too much for new eaters as they are difficult to chew and easily choked on. Applesauce is a favorite all year round!

Honeydew, cantaloupes, and other melons are great if soft, but can be difficult if hard. Be sure to remove seeds before giving to baby!

Berries are wonderful, mushable, tasty treats. They do make a mess and will stain so be prepared. Lightly crush blueberries (and other small round items) to make them easier to pick up. Sliced strawberries are easy to pick up and tasty.

Exotic fruits like mangoes, kiwis, papayas, etc can be very acidic so you may want to limit how much you give.

Citrus fruits can be a choking hazard, I peel the membranes off  citrus sections and only give the soft meat to new eaters. More experiences babies may enjoy the sections cut up into triangles. Be sure and remove seeds! I mostly offer mandarins only-the membranes between sections aren't as thick and chewy and no seeds to worry about.



http://www.primalgardener.com/2013/10/fall-recipes-carrot-cupcakes.html
~Misc~

Rice and rice noodles.
Since rice doesn't bother anyone in the family I will occasionally make a pot of steamed white rice or a mess of rice noodles. Munchkin loved both, Tadpole hates both, especially white rice (I think its a texture thing).

Paleo goodies.
The Paleo Parents' freezer waffles. Elana's Peppermint Patties and Primal Chocolate Chip Cookies. No-bake cheesecake. Delighted Momma's Flourless Zucchini brownies. Those two ingredient pancakes. Homemade ice cream. The web is full of cookies, crackers, cakes, biscuits, and the like that but these are a few of my favorites.

Soups and stews.
It will take a bit for a new eater to figure out the whole eating/utensil thing (making soups especially difficult). You can try thicker soups (like butternut) and feed kiddo yourself, or offer a spoon already filled and see if kiddo manages to get the loaded spoon to their mouth without dropping most of it. You can also strain out the soft meat and veggies and offer the broth separate. Stews are wonderful for soft, flavorful meat and veggies all in one. 



~Liquids~

Water. Da boob/bottle. Maybe some types of no-sweetener tea, bone broth and coconut water. That's it. Babies (and toddlers, preschoolers, big kids, teens, etc) do not need fizzy drinks, sodas, fruit juices, milk (nut or animal) or anything else. I really hate seeing babies with fruit juices. Let them eat the whole fruit!


Still need ideas? Try some of these links! (Not all are paleo/whole food sites so recipes may contain grains, etc)

Baby Led Weaning Recipe Page
The Definite Guide to Feeding Primal Babies
Momtastic's Wholesome Baby Food
The Paleo Mom-Baby Foods


Happy eating!