It’s All About Food

Life since the New Year has been all about food! Ever growing kids means finding interesting things to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

This was dinner tonight. Made in about 15 minutes, eaten in under 5 and enjoyed by all.

On the menu:

Pasta with Pork/Spinach/Pesto/Sour Cream delight
Avocado
Boiled Broccoli (plain, no butter or salt)

3/4 cup pulled pork (I have done it with tofu and seasoned chicken)
approximately 3 cups fresh spinach
8 greek olives (optional)
2 tsp sour cream
1 1/2 tsp pesto
sprinkling of finely grated pecorino romano cheese (or any kind of grated cheese)

Fry up the protein with a little olive oil (medium to low heat), stir in spinach and cover pot to let the spinach cook. Add pesto, sour cream and olives (optional, my girls like olives). Turn down to low heat and cook until spinach is completely cooked. If anything sticks to the pot by this stage it should be pretty moist and the pot should come clean. If it looks too dry add a tiny bit of water. After about 5 minutes turn the heat off and let stand until ready. Meanwhile cook the pasta and broccoli.  These amounts serve three small kids and one adult!

Five minutes later…

Enjoy!  Oh… if your kids don’t like it then it’s a quick meal for you.  Yum!

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are an all time favorite with the whole family.  There are two ways of baking them, two slightly different taste according to what spice you use and they are always delicious.

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (softened)
1 1/2 cup of cane sugar*
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups of wholewheat flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon of allspice)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips or raisins*
3 cups oats

Preheat the oven to 350F

In a large bowl, mix together the softened butter and sugar.  Add in the eggs and vanilla, beat well.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, spices (cinnamon or allspice), salt and chocolate chips or raisins.

Mix flour and butter mixture (in the large bowl).  Once all this is together add in the oats. Mix well.

At this stage you have two options for baking

1)  Chill overnight, then drop one rounded teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

The reason I chill it overnight is the cookie dough can be quite soft and the cookies will completely flatten/melt once in the oven.

2) On a large cookie sheet place about 1/2 the cookie dough mixture and flatten it out using a fork and your fingers till it’s about 1/4″ thick.

 

Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and immediately cut the cookie sheet into squares.  Do this before the cookie sheet is cooled or it’s really hard to cut!

Let the cookies cool completely before putting them in an sealed container.

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I use silicon sheets for all my baking.  If you use one make sure your cutting instrument is dull or you’ll end up cutting through the silicon sheet.  I use either my pie server as a cutter or the backside of a dinner knife.

Flour* – I always use Whole Wheat flour for all my baking.  It’s great for cookies, brownies, cakes etc.  Unless you are looking for a super fluffy consistency whole wheat is a great option.

Sugar* –  In Honolulu we can find the 10lbs bags of Organic Pure Cane Sugar at Costco and I use this for all my baking.  I hardly ever use refined sugar.  When my kids were younger I would cut the sugar by 1/4-1/2 on most recipes.

Spices* – Cinnamon or All Spice.  There was one time I was out of Cinnamon and experimented with All Spice.  They have a very different, more Christmasy, flavor.  Still yummy!

Nuts* – Many recipes call for crushed walnuts, almonds, peanuts etc.  Once your kids go to school find out the nut policy at their school.  My girls go to a “Nut Free School” so anything with nuts is not allowed.

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Little Helpers!  My three girls love helping me make these.  I can see in a few years they’ll be able to make them on their own with me in the background making sure not too much Baking Soda or Salt gets added.  If your kids are helping, the chilled dough route is often more fun as they can help make the mounds.  It can be a messy affair but for little hands very satisfying to squish around.  Make sure they don’t eat the dough as it does have raw eggs.

 

PS I totally forgot the vanilla in this batch I made last night and “overcooked” them by about 5 minutes so they are more like a crunchy granola bar. Bake them less and you’ll have a softer cookie. It all tastes good.

2011 Ends & 2012 Begins

The end of 2011was a mix of many things to do, places to be, kids and family time. I told myself that my kids and family couldn’t be put on hold and it was okay to pause the blog until the new year.

We had a great Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. My family was together for Christmas for the first time in over 20 years and it was superb.

Santa Claus was awesome. He clearly enjoyed the croissant my girls left him on Christmas Eve and he even left a note for them on the drawing they made. My brother said he heard them discussing the note and how excited they were by it. One of them said, “He even wrote the note in RED!!!”

Picture for Santa and his note to the girls

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and may 2012 be a year full of love, babies and families.

The January blog post will start the year off on a yummy note. Enjoy one of my favorite and super-easy cookie recipes. Great for kids and adults.

Aloha,
Cathy Louise

Christmas Morning 2011

Christmas morning 2011

ABC easy as 123

After feeding your baby a new food, it’s good to wait a day or so to see if there are any reactions (i.e. allergy or constipation). Once the food goes through and everything is okay then you can move to a new food. Make a list of food you have tried and as the weeks go by it becomes easy to make healthy meals.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry Food Glorious Food, the book “What to Expect The First Year” (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway) was helpful when starting to feed our first baby. The monthly breakdown gave me some good advice.

If your baby has any serious allergies to foods it’s important to call your pediatrician right away.

Love It/Hate It

The three things to remember when you start feeding your baby are:

1) It’s going to be messy.

2) Most of the food spooned in the mouth is immediately pushed out as babies have to learn to swallow solids.

3) Baby may not like a food until you’ve tried it several times. For example, you try avocado and your baby appears to not like it, try it again another week. Avoid adding salad dressing or salt because then your baby has to get used to two tastes.

The best advice is perseverance, patience and enthusiasm.

Avocado
Avocado has a lovely smooth consistency in the mouth. You don’t need to add any seasoning, just scoop and serve.

Bread
Stick with whole wheat and look at the ingredients – the less sugar and additives the better. Always serve bread last or babies won’t eat the main meal. Breadsticks, toast and crackers are all great for snacks when you are out and about, but not as a main. Treat it like a dessert!

Brown Rice
Brown rice is an easy staple to make in big batches. Boil rice till it’s overcooked, adding water if it starts to dry out. When your baby starts eating rice it needs to be blended until it is super mushy. As the months go by you can just overcook the rice and eventually babies turn to toddlers and they can eat rice at its regular consistency. I would stay away from white rice because this can make a baby constipated. Brown rice has more fiber.

1 1/2 cups of uncooked rice makes three to four ice cube trays per batch and it lasts about one month.

Barley
Barley, like brown rice, requires a lot of water when cooking and more in the warming up process. It has a more slimy consistency than rice.

1 1/2 cups of uncooked barley makes three to four ice cube trays per batch and this lasts about one month.

Cheese
Havarti is a good soft, creamy cheese to start with. As teeth come in you can try harder cheeses like Cheddar. Cheese can be high in fat and salt so don’t overdo it. Like bread it’s better as the last part of a meal.

Eggs
Eggs are a great source of protein. An omelet is a super easy meal or snack with no seasoning required. As babies get older it’s a good finger food. We introduced eggs at 11 months and our baby loved it. Some babies are allergic to eggs so watch carefully when introducing them.

Fruit
Make sure all fruit is ripe (i.e. papaya, pears, bananas, melon, blueberries). It’s important to remember to try a bit first and see how the baby does before giving them a lot. Papaya can make poo runny and too many bananas can make everything hard! Dried fruit can make babies gassy so it’s something to avoid until they are older.

Milk
Most pediatricians recommend introducing milk around one year. We first added a teaspoon of whole milk to the breakfast oatmeal and after no reaction we introduced drinking milk just before our baby’s first birthday.

Nuts
Some kids can have serious allergies to nuts (peanut or tree nuts). Nut butters on bread or crackers are a nice treat but when you first try them make sure you test with only a small amount and see how your baby reacts. Once you see that it’s ok then make sure you spread the nut butter thinly as it can be too sticky to swallow.

Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a fantastic breakfast food. Buy the quick cook organic oats. Make a small batch, let it cool and add water or milk to make it runny. Mashed bananas can be added for flavor.

Peas and Corn
Boil up, blend and freeze. Whole peas and corn go straight through and you’ll see them in the next day’s poo. The outside skin is too hard to digest so it’s a good idea to blend them well until your baby gets teeth and can do the mashing themselves.

Peas are great finger foods when your baby is learning to pick things up. There is a reward when they manage to get the pea in their mouth and you’ll be satisfied knowing baby is getting their veggie quota.

Poi (from Wikipedia)
You can buy large bags of poi at Costco. Cut a corner and squeeze it directly into ice cube trays. When you defrost poi you need to warm it, making sure you add extra water. Poi defrosts crumbly and this is why you need to heat it up. In the beginning babies are happy “drinking” poi and it can be a whole meal in itself.

Protein (beef, chicken, turkey)
Beef, chicken and turkey are easiest cooked in mince form. Defrost the meat and boil it in a pot with a small amount of water. If you use too much water you may have to strain it because it’s harder to freeze and you’ll end up throwing away all the good stock. There is no need to add any kind of seasoning. Once it’s well cooked let it cool and scoop about a tablespoon into each section of an ice cube tray and freeze.

Green Vegetables (zucchini, spinach, broccoli)
Zucchini is an easy vegetable to cook and serve once baby is able to feed themselves. It’s important to make sure zucchini is fully cooled down because the insides seem to retain heat even though the outside might feel cool.

Green veggies can be quite strong for a baby’s system so sometimes it’s easier if you add greens to a rice mixture. Spinach can make poo very runny (and green!) and can irritate babies. Broccoli can give babies gas, like cabbage.

You can freeze boiled veggies but they are generally so easy to cook I don’t recommend spending the time making batches of them.

Root Vegetables (carrots, sweet potato, yam, kabocha pumpkin)
Carrots need to be well cooked. Cut into baby bite size pieces and they won’t get mushy. Carrots are a great food for on the go.

Sweet potato and yam should be cooked in chunks or it gets too mushy. You can make a batch, blend and freeze in ice cube trays. As baby gets bigger you can keep it more whole and easily mash with a fork. Freeze the cooked chunks on a baking tray, separated so they don’t get stuck together then transfer to a freezer bag. Take out one or two pieces and mash them up for a meal. Great food for when you are on the go.

Kabocha pumpkin gets very mushy so it’s good to boil in larger chunks, cool and then freeze on a baking tray, separating them slightly so they don’t stick together.

Salt and Seasoning
Remember your baby’s pallet is new and they don’t need extra salt or seasoning. You can always add it later on.

Yogurt
Stick with plain instead of flavored because once you introduce flavored, babies will generally reject the plain. You can add things like bananas, blueberries, or a dash of wheat germ.

Water
At six months (or earlier if you wish) it’s good to introduce a sippy cup with water. In the beginning it’s really just a toy to bang or drop on the floor. With lots of encouragement a baby will soon realize that there is something good inside and they learn how to drink. It’s good to have water on hand during mealtimes to make sure they are getting some extra liquid with the solid foods.

Water is important as it keeps babies hydrated and helps move solids through their system.

A typical day is:
Breakfast: cooked oats plus a few extras (yogurt, fruit, bread).
Lunch: chicken, rice and veg combined plus extras (poi, yogurt, fruit, cheese)
Dinner: beef, rice and veg combined plus extras (poi, yogurt, fruit, cheese).

Some days we only did one protein meal and the other meal more vegetables and fruit.

A typical meal is:
Rice, veg and meat (small rice-bowl size combining 3-6 frozen cubes).
Heat everything up with about 1/4″ water adding more if necessary. Takes 5-10 minutes to warm up. Let everything cool down before feeding.
2-3 Tblsp poi
2-3 Tblsp cottage cheese
½ cup yogurt
½ banana
¼ papaya or ½ pear
1-2 Tblsp cheese (cut into small cubes)
End with the easy foods like cheese and bread. By this time your baby will probably be pretty full. The easy food really becomes extra to make sure baby is satisfied. As baby gets older a sure sign that your baby is full is when the food starts being tossed on the floor.

We started right from the beginning to feed our baby three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and have stuck with it. We don’t have big snacks between meals because they tend to interfere with the main mealtimes.

Starting to feed your baby can be frustrating but if you make it fun for you it’ll be fun for them. Sing songs, play games, or give them some of the food to play with while you feed them.

Be prepared to take time for mealtimes, especially once baby starts participating. It’s also important for babies to watch us eat meals. Everything we do they want to do and they’ll begin to mirror you. If you eat veggies, they will. If you drink water, they will. What we do they will do!

Lila & Maile at 7 months, can you guess what they ate?

Lila at 7 months
Maile at 7 months

Food, Glorious Food

Solid food for babies usually begins around six months. I noticed that our first daughter at five months old was making more chomping and smacking noises when nursing. She also started to take a lot of notice when we were eating meals. After consulting the only baby book I had, “What to Expect The First Year” (Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway), we took the plunge into giving “solid” food. There are many great tips and advice in “What To Expect….” We pretty much followed its guidelines, along with suggestions from friends and family.

All the food I made was boiled and then pureed into a smooth paste (adding water as needed). When it was feeding time, the book recommended adding breast milk to the food to make it mushy. As the food combinations got more complex (rice, chicken, peas), I added water to make it the right consistency.

At first all the foods were like runny soup. By 12 months there was more texture, like mashed potatoes, and by 15 months food was chunky.

Below is the food diary I kept. Sunday was the beginning of a week and I only wrote down the days that we added a food. For any days in between, we were feeding things that had worked previously. For example, by week six my daughter was having oats for breakfast, and lunch and dinner was a combination of two or more of rice, sweet potato, yam, peas, avocado and poi.

Week 1 (six months old)
Monday: Rice cereal (store bought), 1 tsp mixed with breast milk.
Wednesday: Rice cereal. Accidentally made too much (1 Tbsp with breast milk and water) and baby ate the whole lot!

Week 2
Monday: Oatmeal, cooked. Added water to make it runny.
Wednesday: Brown rice (I cooked my own), pureed to a very smooth consistency. Added water at feeding time to make it runny.
Saturday: Sweet potato, boiled and pureed adding lots of liquid.

Week 3
Monday: Brown rice with sweet potato, pureed together adding liquid.
Saturday: Yam, boiled and pureed adding lots of liquid.

Week 4
Sunday: Avocado and poi. Huge success and a even bigger mess!
Poi is a Hawaiian word for the primary Polynesian staple food made from the corm of the taro plant” (from Wikipedia).

Week 5 (seven months old)
Sunday: Peas, cooked and pureed.

Week 6
Thursday: Pumpkin, cooked and pureed.

Baby gets super constipated and has hard, ouchy poos. Wakes up in the night with pained cries and we don’t know what’s wrong until the morning when we discover she has pooed little rabbit pellets and has fissures (small cracks on her anus). She is not happy! Call the pediatrician and they say, “She needs more liquid mixed with the food.” They recommend to only breastfeed until everything goes back to normal.

Friday: Breast feeding only.
Saturday: Poo back to normal. Pumpkin finally goes through!

Week 7
No new foods, just sticking with foods above.

Week 8
Sunday: Banana, mashed.
Thursday: Chicken, cooked, pureed and added to rice mush.

Week 9 (eight months old)
Sunday: Corn and cottage cheese. Baby loved cottage cheese.
Tuesday: Pear (very ripe), scrapped and mushed. Yum!

By eight months I stopped taking notes because I was confident that our baby was getting a wide variety of nutritious foods, no food allergies appeared, and generally she was happy with the daily routine.

Every couple of weeks I’d cook big batches of rice, peas, corn, sweet potato, etc and freeze everything in ice cube trays. It seemed like most of my day was about preparing food or thinking about the next meal. I can say that even now, as my girls are all much older, so much of life seems to be about food (the preparation, the feeding, the cleaning up!).

The blog entry, ABC easy as 123, gives more specifics on food preparation, type of foods and combining foods for a meal.

Note: our first daughter stopped breastfeeding on her own around 10 months. There were a few days when she literally would just turn her head when we’d go to breastfeed. It became clear after about a week that she was finished with me and more interested in food. Our twins also stopped breastfeeding on their own around 8 months.

Bon Appetite, Baby!

I often share my thoughts on “food for babies” with the women attending my pregnancy and mom & baby yoga classes. Many new moms tell me how helpful it’s been as a guide. I’m not sure what possessed me to document what we started feeding our first baby, but I’m glad I did because it was an easy guide to follow when it came time to feeding our twins.

We decided to make all our own baby food (organic if possible) after having a discussion with friends about nutrition. The thought was that as adults we had already spoiled or abused our system with not so healthy food choices, but with a baby their pallet and digestive system is clean and untainted.

In the beginning it was daunting to make all the food, but after a few months of experimenting I got a system down that became easy. I liked knowing exactly what my baby was eating and I was also able to monitor if there were any reactions to foods. Our efforts in the first two years created some good eating habits. My kids eat a wide range of foods now, are willing to try new things, and they are starting to make some cool choices about what they eat! One of our twins prefers salads to desserts. The other twin prefers light foods and lots of fruit. And our first daughter eats anything.

For the first two years, I really tried to limit the amount of sugar they had. I didn’t give them any fruit juice or sodas, only water and whole milk. For the most part, I baked all my own cakes and cookies. I did use sugar in baking but would cut the amount down by a quarter to half. I preferred to make something like banana bread with very ripe bananas.

Once our girls started preschool, I had to give up a lot of control because they were offered fruit juice, snacks and the usual holiday treats at Valentine’s, Halloween, Christmas, etc. Although the idea of candy, cake and sweets is very appealing – they are first in line for cake at a birthday party – I can pretty much guarantee that after half a piece of cake they’ll say, “Mom, it’s too sweet.” I still make a lot of my own cookies and have an amazing (sugar-packed) brownie recipe that I’ll share in the recipe section soon. When I buy food from the supermarket, I try to stay away from corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, MSG and any product with ingredients so long I feel like I’m reading a book.

We try to buy as much organic food as possible. It is more expensive, but we believe it’s worth it. It’s much easier now than when we started because many supermarkets, like Safeway, have their own organic range of foods. In Honolulu, Down to Earth has veggies and good bulk items (rice, oats etc), Kokua has lots of locally grown veggies and a wide range of free-range and organic meat products (chicken, turkey, beef), Whole Foods has great specialty items, and even Costco has an expanding range of organic products.

In next month’s blog post, I’ll present my guide to starting babies on food. I’ll share the beginning weeks and experiences of feeding food at six months old. I’ll also be posting some tasty, easy recipes that we still feed our kids today.

The most important thing for new parents is that you look at the time you have and the resources around you (ie. your food budget and available food stores). There are good readymade baby foods. Try supplementing some of these products with homemade food, or you can try making all of your own food. Again, in the beginning it’s scary and daunting but after a while you’ll get into a groove and it’ll become second nature. What we feed our kids feeds their growth and sets up patterns for the rest of their lives.