What’s for dinner?

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Miri is must be the midst of a growth spurt, because she’s been insatiable at meals lately. This is her dinner plate: avocado, cheese, baked tofu, blueberries, strawberries, and pasta. She ate about 90% of it, the rest going to the dogs, which is par for the course. For lunch today she had most of a mango, spinach ravioli, kiwi, and cheese. For breakfast she had banana, oatmeal, berries, and yogurt…then later stole bits of egg and toast from my breakfast sandwich. In addition to all of this,  she continues to nurse four times a day and chug her water bottle like Rocky. So far, I haven’t found a food that she doesn’t like, she even loved the curried chickpea and spinach dish I made last week. Lentil soup and hummus on pita are also big hits. I’m sure as she becomes a toddler she’ll go through her picky phases, but for now, if she won’t choke on it, it goes on her plate.

In other news, she has perfected an ear-drum-shredding shriek…I’m also really hoping this is a phase too. We’re trying to ignore it and not react so she isn’t rewarded for doing it, although it’s kind of hard to not either laugh or wince when she does it.

I finally discovered a baby version of a dog park last week, and it was awesome. It’s just an enclosed baby/toddler play area at the mall, with a bunch of weird foamy structures. However, Miri could crawl and climb to her heart’s content without finding danger or getting hurt, so I could relax and let her go crazy. She didn’t even look back for me…

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Get in ma belleh: thoughts on feeding your human

I’m sure at one time, or in some little corners of the world, feeding your baby is very simple. It should be…it’s essentially this: have food, give to baby, done. But here in 21st century first-world Pacific Northwest, it is, as most baby-rearing  topics, fraught with controversy and complexity. I am not proud to admit that I spent hours researching when to start solids, what to feed, and how to feed solids. And as with all things babyish…the “method” you choose and the way you do it is totally personal and should just be whatever works for your family. I’m not going to judge, and anyone who does has entirely too much time on their hands. Okay, I might judge a little bit…but mostly because people do weird things and I like making fun of them. But I digress.

We decided to start trying out solids around 4.5 months. At that point it was just little tastes of things. Some of my reasoning behind starting then is because that’s about the age when an infant’s iron stores from birth start to be depleted, and iron isn’t supplied by breast milk alone. I thought I’d start introducing some solids slowly so by the time Miri was six months she’d be taking small amounts of fruits and veggies for additional nutrients. I also decided to start with purees. Apparently, that’s controversial too. The latest baby-feeding trend is called “Baby-led Weaning.” This is slightly misleading, since you’re not “weaning” your baby off breast milk or formula, just introducing solids. The more I read about BLW the more turned off I got, it struck me as rather cult-like, with an all-or-nothing attitude. You can’t really start BLW till baby is at least six months old, and for the first weeks to months baby may not actually ingest anything. Plus, it seems really messy. And that is unacceptable to me. Seriously…I’ve been grossed out by pictures of babies with food on their faces for decades. Stop it already people.

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This photo for demonstration purposes only. It will be the only public photo I will subject you to of my baby with food on her face. I am fully accepting of the fact that this is only cute to her parents, and it is not fair to subject anyone else to this.

So I read a fairly neutral book about picking and choosing bits of pureed feeding and BLW, it made a lot of sense to me, so that’s what I’m doing. Translated: I’m just going to feed my baby food.

I was gifted a Beaba Babycook so I wanted to take advantage of it. Turns out all you do is: dice food, steam food, puree food. Then, give to baby or freeze. Easy peasy. But since I’d spent so much time reading and researching and stressing over this, the least I can do is document the process for you.

Step One: Get some food. Miri’s first food was a sweet potato, but here I’m documenting the pear.

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Step Two: Peel and dice the pear into little chunks, put into steamer basked. Put water into steamer opening on top of Babycook, turn knob to “steam.”

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Step Three: The little orange light shuts off automatically when it’s done steaming. Now you have soft delicious pear chunks! Empty the steamer basket into the pitcher. I added some of the water from steaming but you don’t have to, it depends on how soupy you want your puree. Then turn knob to “blend.”

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Step Four: Pour puree into an ice-cube tray or a tray specially made for this. This is an Oxo Tot Baby Freezer Tray. I like that it has a cover so the food doesn’t absorb any weird smells from your freezer. Like if you have venison dog food in your freezer. 2014-01-15 19.44.36

I let it freeze overnight, then pop the little cubes into freezer bags and label them. The portions end up being about one tablespoon which is convenient, right now that’s about a serving for Miri.

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Defrost a cube in the fridge overnight, et voila, gourmet baby meal!

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Miri is a big fan of my “cooking!”

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Pre-cooking

The meatballs are baking in the oven and the steel-cut oats are soaking on the stove top. The Moroccan chicken is simmering in the slow cooker and I just tucked the tuna noodle casserole into their aluminum-foil beds and put them in the freezer for a long sleep. No, I’m not recreating Old Country Buffet in the kitchen, this is my variant on the Once a Month Cooking that I’ve been trying out for a couple of months. September’s OAMC was kind of a bust…I don’t think I made enough recipes, and a couple of the recipes just didn’t freeze or reheat well (freezing Asian cole slaw? I should have known better). Since I was sick last week and we’re going to Hawaii for a week at the end of October, I wasn’t really feeling up to the commitment of a $300 grocery shop and a 10-hr day in the kitchen. So, I threw the Moroccan chicken in the slow cooker, mixed up a couple of tuna casseroles (baked one for dinner tonight, froze the other), baked some buffalo meatballs in the oven (to be served with tomato sauce and spaghetti squash later this week), and now there’s a pot of steel-cut oats soaking overnight. About 4 hours in the kitchen total, but we’ve got dinner for the week. Matt’s grumbling about the pile of dishes in the sink but I reminded him that he’ll be grateful later this week since there’ll be minimal clean-up after each of these pre-cooked meals. We’re such early dinner-eaters that by the time I get home around 5:30, I don’t have the time to cook a meal from scratch. Last week was a dismal failure of planning, as evidenced by a stop at the grocery store on the way home 3 out of 5 evenings. Hopefully I did a better job planning and prepping this week!

OAMC results

So last weekend I cooked, all weekend long, as part of my first experiment in OAMC (Once a Month Cooking. The interwebs have an acronym for everything). I followed the meal plan from Once a Month Mom, the Whole Foods menu. I eliminated a couple of dishes from the menu for time and cost. I liked that the menu, recipes, and shopping list are provided on Excel spreadsheets. You can just plug in the number of people you are cooking for and it does the math for you. I tried to download the files and open them in Excel, but the formatting was wonky. Turns out (at least on a Mac) you need to keep the files in Google docs and just save a copy to your files. I did my grocery shopping the night before, spending just under $300. A bit of sticker shock, but I tried reminding myself that I usually spend about $150/week on groceries and in the long run this plan is supposed to reduce overall grocery costs. Friday night I chopped all the veggies, then Saturday I cooked. And cooked. And cooked. I started around 10am and finished up around 5pm. I filled the freezer with 5 main dishes, two sides, and a dozen muffins. I also made about a dozen crepes but didn’t freeze those as it was obvious they wouldn’t last long in the fridge at the rate we were eating them. I like the idea of making breakfast foods in a batch but next time would probably stick with pancakes or waffles; the crepes were kind of a pain to flip. So far we’ve eaten the BBQ Buffalo chicken and the polenta gratin, both were delicious. As long as I can remember to take the dishes out of the freezer the night before, I think this is going to be pretty convenient and stress-reducing.

In the kitchen

Pardon the poor-quality iPhone photos!

I’m gearing up for my first OAMC. That’s Once a Month Cook, for those of you who still cook on daily basis. Don’t worry, I didn’t even know the interwebs had a term for this, but of course they do. This is something I’ve always sort of been intrigued by, and now that we have a chest freezer in the garage I figured I’d take the leap and give it a try. I’m using the recipes and tips from Once a Month Mom,(ignore the mom part of that, all you nosy-parker womb-watchers out there, there is no significance to it!) because the site has a pretty big selection of menu types (whole foods, traditional, gluten-free) and it gives you shopping lists and printable recipe cards. I picked the “whole foods” menu because I’m kinda crunchy like that. I’d like to be able to figure out my own recipes and plans, but for the first month I’ll stick to the recipes and lists provided while I get the hang of the organization of it all.

I eliminated a couple of the recipes and the corresponding ingredients from the shopping list. For example, I didn’t want to buy a five pound beef brisket just to make a couple of meals of Italian beef sandwiches. I did the grocery shopping Friday night, then started some of the prep work. The chicken is in the slow-cooker and I washed and chopped all the veggies. Except for the herbs…I wasn’t sure how they’d hold up in the fridge chopped overnight? I made the crepe batter so it can rest overnight in the refrigerator. So far, so good. I’ll update you with the real verdict after tomorrow’s marathon of cooking and freezing…

Slow cooker!