Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Organic Prices...I fear you no more

I made my first trip to the organic store.  With the girls no less.  Can I just say I still love my Double Snap-n-Go stroller because it fits and works in small store places.  I kind of don't want to officially get rid of it until the twins grow out of their car seats.

Anyway I was scared to see organic prices.  I have seen very little organic produce at my local stores.  But once inside the organic store I was surprised that it wasn't far from my non-organic prices (at least from what I can recall).  Here is my receipt:

Organic Pears  $1.05 lb - 2.68 lbs for $2.81
Organic Apricots $1.89 lb - 1.81 lbs for $3.42
Organic Avocado $0.94 each
Organic Butternut Squash $1.45 lb - 3.18 lbs for $4.61
Organic Fuji Apples $0.79 lb - 1.73 lbs for $1.37
Organic Acorn Squash $1.38 lb - 2.16 lbs for $2.98

I think the selection on produce must be a little better at certain times of day because it looked a little thin. (note to self: new produce on Thursday typically) They had sweet potatoes that were gone (sad) and some other items I saw prices for that were vamoose.  I did also check on some other things (frozen peas...yikes $4.99 for a small bag) and some other prices were a little out of range for what I'm willing to do.  But heck if you are lucky enough to have kids hitting solids during summer and produce prices are reasonable then why not.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chicken Meets Blender...or is it really called a Chicken Puree?

I read somewhere that baby's can digest chicken from around 6 months of age.  Will they necessarily like it? Most likely not is my experience.  But since we were grilling chicken and had a spare small piece I told hubby to grill it up with no spices and I'd let the girls have a shot at it.

The chicken was cooked thoroughly and without season.  Then I cut it into little pieces (both to check that it was cooked and for easy blending) and threw it in the small electric blender.  It blended fairly decent and became what I would describe as "chicken sand" with tiny little grains.  I put this into three small containers (two in the freezer and one in the fridge).

The next day for lunch I added it to some sweet potatoes (something they love and I figured would ease the transition for them) and heated them up.  The verdict:  They didn't mind it all so much but the dish was not polished off.  I think we will put off further introduction until they are closer to 7 months.
Sweet potatoes with my "grain-size" chicken mixed in.

*Note:  If I were to puree chicken again I think I would mix it with some water or juice to get a smoother consistency.  Although now at 7 months the girls don't seem to mind the texture.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Papaya Puree

Another simple puree.  This is a non-cook puree.  You simply buy a ripe papaya, cut it in half and remove the seeds.  Then scoop out the meat of the fruit and mash it up or blend it if you like.  I think mine (a Carribean Red papaya) was a little less then ripe so the blender and a little heat worked better.  How to buy a ripe papaya?  I have actually never tried papaya before...I think it tastes somewhat like cantelope or a melon...I didn't really care for it (not very sweet...once again maybe because it wasn't ripe enough) but Seren seemed to really dig it.
Clean out the seeds and then scoop out the meat of the fruit
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Servings:  8 frozen and 3 set aside for eating (11 oz)
Cost: $3.98
Cost comparison:  $0.36 per oz (not available in jar that I know of; also not super cost effective.  I may have gotten more out of it had it been more ripe)

Tools:  small power blender and ice cubes trays

Kendall - 2 stars
Seren - 3 stars

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When to Spice Things Up?

One more thing I love about making my own baby food is the ability to add variety.  Trust me, they don't offer parsnips, turnips, papaya, pumpkin and many other foods in a jar on the shelf (at least not that I've seen).  My girls have loved meals that a jar fed baby (or even adult; I know I'm a case in point there) may have never tried.

Yet another way to add variety to your baby food is spice and herbs.  **You should still wait 4 days in between a new food or new spice**.  But what a wonderful thing to let them try.  It is recommended not to add salt, pepper or sugar to your baby's food until they are a year old (pepper bumps back to 18 months).  Most pediatricians recommend waiting until 8 months of age to introduce spices but if your child is doing well with foods then some will tell you to jump right in.  Use caution and parental instinct I think.

So, I had read about spices and had always wanted to add a little dash of cinnamon to their cereal or apples. And yesterday I did just that...a very small dash of cinnamon to their apples.  The verdict...they LOVED it.  I could not get the previously "could care less" apples into their little mouths fast enough before they were wiggling and whining for more.  Now that I've read the 8 month recommendation I think I will put off on anything else for a couple months but so far so good on the cinnamon (no issues have been witnessed).

Here are some spices to consider:
garlic - minced or powdered 
lemon zest 

curry powder (also use caution as it can cause diaper rash)
combination spices (clear individual ingredients first and skip the salt, sugar or pepper blends)

**also noted in some reading was the concern of purity in some spices. More info on that here.  The synopsis is that some manufacturers add colored corn starch and dyes to their spices;  look for the ISI or AGMARK certification and clearly mention the dates of manufacture and expiry on sealed packets. Avoid buying unbranded and non certified products sold loose**

*Certification Symbols or Trademarks;  Images are copyrighted by such*

Here are some combinations that recommends:

Apple(Sauce): use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, ginger
Pears: use ginger, cinnamon, a drip of vanilla or even mint
Bananas: use cinnamon, ginger, allspice, vanilla
Plain Yogurt : use with mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, allspice, cardamom
Sweet potato: use with nutmeg, cinnamon and/or cardamom
Pumpkin: use with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and dash of vanilla
Carrots: use with basil & garlic - baked cinnamon carrots are yummy too.
Green beans: use with garlic powder
Mashed potatoes(white) : use with dill weed or garlic
Winter Squash (acorn, hubbard, butternut etc.): use with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger
Pasta: use oregano, garlic, basil
Oatmeal or other cereals: use fruits, cinnamon & nutmeg, dash of vanilla
Rice (sweet) with cinnamon, nutmeg, dash of vanilla, cardamom, ginger
Quinoa (sweet): use cinnamon, nutmeg, dash of vanilla, cardamom, ginger for sweet
Quinoa (savory): use garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, basil, oregano and others
Chicken/Turkey with cinnamon and/or coriander
Chicken/Turkey with garlic powder and basil
Chicken/Turkey with lemon zest and pepper
Chicken/Turkey with basil & oregano
Chicken/Turkey with garlic and pepper
Chicken/Turkey with sage, rosemary and thyme
Beef with garlic and pepper
Beef with onion powder and pepper
Beef with Orange Zest

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dirty Dozen and Buying Organic...

I am not a health nut or a conspiracy theorist or anything like that.  But I do believe that food has become contaminated by the need to produce more and "better" products.  To this end and after reading an article on I have decided to try to be a little more organic.  Not an organic freak mind you but to be a little more cautious about the food I'm making and giving them.  Here is an overview of the article:

What to Buy Organic :

Peanut Butter
Baby Food (or what you make it out of)

The Dirty Dozen
These earn the distinction as the most contaminated by pesticides; buy organic when possible!

* Peaches
* Apples
* Sweet bell peppers
* Celery
* Nectarines
* Strawberries
* Cherries
* Lettuce
* Grapes (imported)
* Pears
* Spinach
* Potatoes 

**for more info on the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 check out EWG's  Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in 

**I have read that jarred baby food is FDA regulated not to have pesticides, antibiotics and chemicals in it.  So buying organic versus regular jarred baby food may not matter or be worth the extra money...depending on your reasoning.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Favorite Baby Food Gear (so far)...

I thought I would do a little review of baby feeding gear that I have loved (and some I've disliked) so far....

I have only purchased and used these spoons so I guess I don't have a lot to compare them to.  In reading the reviews I know some people are displeased with the handle-heavy design and say it tips out of bowls and makes messes easily.  I have only had this happen once.

I love the handle and design as it makes it easier for me to hold.  I also like that the spoon basin is deeper allowing more food or at minimum holding liquid food better.  I also discovered if you lay them facing down on the counter the basin end doesn't touch.  I usually only scoop a little on the tip so it's not overload but I think these will adapt nicely as my girls become better at eating.

BLENDER (small)
I LOVE THIS!  Mine is a Cooks 5 in 1 Blender through JCPenney ($30 sale or $60 retail) that my parents gave us for Christmas.  This works awesome!  If you only have one child I would recommend one of these.  Typically I can make close to a full ice cube tray with one glass.  It purees like a champ and I have heard that the pulsing action works awesome for once baby is ready for textures.

I also love that the clean up is beyond simple.  Twist the plastic cup off of the base with blade  to dispense baby food then rinse it out and toss in the dishwasher.  The base with blade is also dishwasher safe.  Just super easy clean up.

I have also tried the Nuk bowls and I have settled into these.  The Nuk bowls are good but shallow so I found it harder to mix cereal without spilling.  I also wasn't able to fit as much food in them.

These bowls are deeper.  They are microwave safe.  I pop a few ice cubes of food in them, pop them in the microwave til the food is piping hot and the allow it to cool down while the girls have a bottle.  I haven't really transported food in them yet so I can't comment on the lids.  I have read they are problematic but in trying them out I didn't see an issue.

BLENDER (large)
This is another item that we had in the kitchen for our use that has turned into a baby food making tool.  I am definitely of the opinion that there is no need to spend extra cash when your basic blender will serve your needs perfectly for the first few months your child is on solids.  The more you spend just to make the food the more you are cutting down on your savings.  There are some things I considered (such as a combination steamer/blender specifically made for baby food) but I decided not to spend on something I would only use for 6 months.

I use my large blender for bulk projects.  I have used it for sweet potatoes and green beans.  Works great.  A little more clean-up but more effective for large batches.

I use a large Pampered Chef microwave steamer.  I'm not affiliated with Pampered Chef but I occasionally purchase items from my sister-in-law.

I really like this.  Not only can I steam baby food in it, I really like putting my own veggies in it to steam.  It is fast and effective.  I have used this for carrots, parsnips and frozen peas.  Perhaps there is a naturalist reason to avoid the microwave but I like my microwave steamer as it fits as much, if not more, than my steamer basket.

I personally like using a pastry bag to dispense the baby food purees into the ice cube trays but I have tried it with a regular tablespoon so I know a pastry bag isn't 100% necessary.  I just feel like it cuts down on the time to go back and forth from the bowl plus cutting down on the mess too.

I use a reusable bag with a medium/small round "dot" tip so I can put my finger over it while I fill up the bag.  Plus since the bag is reusable it is a stiffer material making this possible with liquid purees (it's obvious they were built for icing haha).  I then rinse out and wash the bag and throw the tip in with my nipple/bottle basket and into the dishwasher.

I LOVE THIS!!  It is super versatile (can be used from infant up to 4 years of age) and considering it's a space saver style it moves in plenty of ways.  I saw a video online for this when the girls were brand-new and knew I'd found my seat.  It has a 5-point harness (can reduce to 3-point when older), it tilts back for infant feeding (5 positions- also nice for subtle tilt when baby isn't quite ready for sitting up straight but is good with solids), it swivels so you don't have to move your chair (7 positions), it has a soft yet washable cover that is reversible, it includes a feeding tray with a removable "serving" tray,etc.  Can you tell I can't say enough good about this?  Only con I have found is that my table has a lip (for decorative drawers) underneath so the chair doesn't slide under.  But I plan to buy some cheap and shorter chairs to remedy this mild problem.

With twins I super-love this.  I can put them in the chair for a bottle and feed them at the same time (with the swivel feature I don't even have to move my chairs) and then when the bottle is done and it's time for some baby food I just tilt it upright again and BAM...ready to go!  Awesome!  I can tell this is going to be an asset as they get bigger.

OTHER:  Ice cube trays (I got mine 2/$1 at Shopko on a summer special bin - awesome for freezer/storage), Freezer Bags (I bought gallon size at my local bulk store - but I would recommend quart size  unless you are freezing bulk), Mix and Masher (effective for soft fruits- avacado, bananas,etc - but so is a fork), paring knives (I like that these are small and effective to trim fruit), vegetable peeler (I use this for vegetables and fruit - peeling fruit while cold helps).  I'll add more or review more as I go.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peachy Cereal

Obviously this was simple.  I used the peach juice and water remains from my puree to mix in with their cereal this morning.  I heated it up in the microwave separate from the cereal and then poured it in.  I had enough to use this twice but after this morning's try they were far from impressed so the rest of the juice went in my tummy instead.  I am introducing them officially to peaches for lunch so we'll see if we have any better luck.  I would definitely not recommend mixing in juices from a fruit your child hasn't eaten or enjoyed sense in wasting the cereal.

Prep time: 1 minute (previously stored)
Serving:  less than 1/4 cup was enough for two servings of cereal
Cost:  $.00 (add this into my peach cost comparison and it comes out about even)
Note:  Introduce child to the fruit/taste prior to mixing with cereal to prevent waste.

Kendall - 1 star (no crying but she hated it)
Seren - 2 star

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Peach Puree

Peach purees can be made from ripe peaches without cooking and also from not fully ripened peaches which are blanched (ie dropped in boiling hot water for 1 to 2 minutes and then immediately submersed in cold water to stop the cooking process) or they can also be cooked in a small amount of hot water.
First I peeled my peaches with a vegetable peeler and paring knife.  If the peaches are refrigerated beforehand it helps to ease the peeling.  Next cute the fruit away from the pit and discard the pit.  My peaches were mostly ripe but the middles were not quite as ripe as I would have liked so I cooked all of the peaches for a couple of minutes in hot water.  I then strained out the peaches with a slotted spoon, leaving the peachy water in the pot.  I didn't end up needing the water as the peach pureed well without additional liquid.  I did save the water as I thought it would make a delicious addition to their rice cereal.  Peaches were pureed in the small electric blender, dispensed with the pastry bag and then frozen and stored.
Peach juices and water
Prep time:  15 minutes
Serving:  16 ice cubes (16 oz)
Cost:  $.98 per pound.  I'm estimated 2.75 lbs as my husband and I each ate one. ($2.70 cost estimate)
Comparison: $.17 per ounce (vs $.13 per oz with Beech Nut and $.16 per oz with Gerber)
Note:  This is the first time that the cost benefit has not been beneficial to make the baby food.  I imagine if you find a better deal then $.98 per pound or possibly do this frozen that it would equal out.

Tools:  Small electric blender, large sauce pan, pastry bag and ice cube trays.  Container for storage of remaining juice/water; I would base off of my readings to not store this beyond 5 days.

Kendall - 1 star (2 star with cinnamon the second round)
Seren - 1 star (3 1/2 star with cinnamon the second round)

Pea Puree

This is the first "frozen" puree I have tried.  I have read that frozen fruits and veggies are just as good as fresh.  They are frozen at the peak of ripeness and therefore just as healthy as fresh.  From my research there is little difference between the nutrition of frozen vs fresh fruits and veggies.  You would not want to use canned fruits and vegetables however.
I added my frozen peas and approximately 1/3 cup of water to my microwave steamer.  Then microwaved them for about 5 minutes until all of the water and ice was melted and some steam was coming off of them.
Then I threw them in my small electric blender and pureed them.  I used the pastry bag to dispense into ice cube trays and set aside about 2 1/2 oz for the girls to try.  They loved them.
I typically only give them an ounce or so when it's a new food.  That way if they don't like it the first time I haven't wasted any and if they like it it's easy to prepare some additional.  I have noticed that at least with my girls it is usually the 2nd time (or hopefully 3rd...we haven't gotten there on most) that they really decide to like things.

Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cost: $0.98 ;
Servings:  14 cubes + 2 1/2 oz eaten (16 1/2 oz total)
Comparison: $.06 per oz (vs $.13 per oz with Beech Nut and $.16 per oz with Gerber)
Note:  I have read that peas sometimes do better being strained after pureeing due to the "skins".  I didn't run into this issue (not sure if that's because they were frozen or because I used a blender).  There was mild texture but nothing more than baby cereal.  Organic frozen peas are $4.99 (sad). 

Kendall - 4 star
Seren - 4 star

In honor of the pea puree (a fun video/song):

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food Allergies

Here are some ideas on what to look for if your child may have a food allergy.  If you suspect a food allergy contact your pediatrician for further advice.  Always introduce new foods at least 2 days apart and preferably 3 days, allowing yourself time to notice a change in behavior or physical changes.

Symptoms of a food allergy can be mild or severe and include:

-hives, swelling or trouble breathing (this typically happens within a few minutes and up to a couple hours after eating).
-severe vomiting or diarrhea; blood in stools

** if your child has swelling around the mouth or trouble breathing call 911 or emergency service in your area.  A child's airway can close up in minutes and you may not have time to reach a doctor or hospital.  Also contact a doctor immediately if your child develops severe vomiting or diarrhea.

-gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, vomiting and general discomfort)
-unusual fussiness or temperament change
-unusual diaper rash or diaper rash only occurring when fed a certain food

It is possible to be allergic to any food however 90 percent of food allergies are linked to : eggs, milk, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.  Take caution to not introduce foods to your child before the recommended age.  Always introduce foods in their singular form before introducing combined foods.

More in depth information can be found here and here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sweet Potato Puree

Okay first off...I finally found a sweet potato!! Yeah!  These were harder to find than I thought they would be.  I bought a yam initially and must have picked a rotten one because a couple days later when I went to cook it it was mush and mold.  So on my second trip for baby food produce since starting this adventure I found an actual sweet potato.
 In case I'm not the only one who doesn't know just what a sweet potato looks like
 Scrub it clean, poke holes in it with a fork, run it under water and wrap in tin foil.  Cook at 400* until soft (I think mine went 1 1/2 to 2 hours but they were large)
Remove the skin and then puree in a blender
Dispense into ice cube trays.  Freeze and store.

Prep/Dispense time: 10 minutes
Cook time:  1 1/2 hours (give or take; potato should be tender throughout)
Servings:  64 cubes approx (or 64 oz)
Cost: $.69 per pound ($3.77 for 5.46 lb ; two large sweet potatoes)
Comparison:  $.06 per oz (vs $.13 per oz for Beech Nut and $.16 per oz for Gerber)

Kendall - 3 stars 
Seren - 4 stars

Parsnip Puree

I had a cook off (okay half of one) where I just made a few different foods in one evening.  Parsnips, green beans and sweet potato were on the menu.  I steamed the green beans on the stove and microwave steamed the parsnips.  I read that a lot of babies love parsnips.  I had never eaten parsnip until this year (my MIL put them in a stew).  Basically it's a white looking carrot and the best way I can describe the taste is somewhat like a carrot but sweeter.  They were delicious in the stew and even better in the baby food.
Peel the parsnip with vegetable peeler and then cut into chunks and steam

 Puree in blender (I used my small power blender) and then dispense in ice cube tray.  Freeze and store. 

Prep time: 10-15 minutes.
Serving:  15 cubes ~ 1 oz each (15 oz)  two parsnips
Cost:  $1.34 for two medium parsnips (0.75 lb)
Comparison: $.09 per oz  (vs $.13 per oz for Beech Nut and $.16 per oz Gerber) 

Kendall- 4 star
Seren - 4 star

Please note:  I am not associated with or endorsing pampered chef product.  I have a sister-in-law who sells it so I get suckered in sometimes and it happens to be my tool in the kitchen.  

Banana Mash

This almost isn't worth posting about because it is so simple.  Bananas are basically like avacado when it comes to preparing them as baby food:  wait until ripe, don't cook, mash up = baby food.  Can it get any easier?
 I used about 3/4 of a banana (less than 1/2 per child)
Seren didn't seem to like them
Kendall wasn't 100% sure either but did okay

Prep time: 5 minutes or less
Serving: approx 2 oz per child (1/2 banana would feed one I'm assuming)
Cost: $0.49 /lb (so maybe .25c or less) 
Freezing:  I didn't freeze these.  I made banana bread with my other two bananas.  I have heard that cutting them in half and freezing them is perfect though.  Unfreeze in the fridge overnight and then zap in the microwave if it's still too cool.  (Always check temperature of food before feeding your child).

Tools:  bowl and fork (what a concept)

Kendall - 3 stars
Seren - 2 stars

Friday, June 3, 2011

Organic Switch...

I am not normally a paranoid mom.  But when I read this article about What to Buy Organic it makes me want to use more precaution about what I'm feeding my girls.  The article lists baby food as one of big things that we should buy (or make) organic.  It states that children grow the most (physical and neurological development being huge) from birth to age 3.  They also eat more pound for pound than adults do so the impact of pesticides and antibiotics found in food has a higher impact on them.  Like the article states, if you are going to pick one time in your life to be organic now is a great time to do so.  This includes women who are pregnant or expecting also.

I may not be able to cut out all the non-organic stuff but it makes suggestions of the top ones to cut (potatoes, ketchup, apples, etc) and then also has a list of "The Dirty Dozen" which are foods found most concentrated with chemicals.  Definitely something to keep in mind.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Big Guns and Balance Sheet...

I broke out the big guns (full sizer blender) tonight and made some more green beans.  I also made some parsnips with my small blender (more on that later).  Parsnips were tasty though...I can see why babies would like them.

Also I am doing a price comparison on this round of groceries to see how much (and if) I am saving over the cost of bottled baby food.  I was very off in my estimate of each ice cube being 2 oz...sadly it's more like 1 oz per cube.  So this definitely changes my estimate of savings.  Either way I think it is worth it to know exactly what is going into their food and being able to add more variety but I'm still curious to see what the balance sheet is coming to.  I will post the information when it's figured out.