May 14, 2011

Baby Food Photo Tutorial

Last month my littlest one was 6 months old. In our house that means time for baby food and big messes. Oh, how I am going to miss having a dog with #4 baby. My dog was great for cleaning up all kinds of baby messes, even jumping up to get into the nooks and crannies of the highchair. I miss that Khaki dog. Somehow, using the Swiffer is just not the same.
At one time of another each of the big kids have helped me make baby food for their siblings. The main reason I make baby food is cost. Those little jars are expensive. I do buy some jars to have on hand for travel, so we have a plenty of choices. Some of the easiest foods to make are sweet potatoes, apples, pears, winter squashes, and broccoli. The simplest foods to serve are bananas and avocado which just require a little mashing straight out of the peel. Those last two are great foods to start with tiny chunks since they are mushy when really ripe. I love this stage in life and really enjoy introducing new things to our babies. (This goes back to teaching kids to eat everything at a early age.) You should use common sense and introduce one thing at a time to watch for allergic reactions especially if they run in your family. Once you get going it is great fun to see their enjoyment of all kinds of foods. I recently gave the baby couscous, hummus, pumpkin straight out of the can and eggplant dip.

So how do you turn this...

into this?

It takes a little of this...
Making baby food is pretty easy, not as easy as buying it from the store, but it's definitely a WHOLE lot cheaper. It also becomes a lesson in serving others as my big kids each made baby food for their baby siblings. For the first two kids I did this all in the food processor, which is great, but you can only do small batches at a time. See there is this "max liquid level" mark on the side of the processor, which I figured was a suggestion, a guide, something along the lines of . Boy was I wrong! This is one of those warnings that actually means what it says. If you fill your food processor with anything liquid-y you are gonna have a mess! The goop will come down the middle whole and seep all over the processor base creating a lovely disaster to clean up. Incidentally this is why I went to an immersion blender to make soups.
When I was pregnant with kid #3 I decided to get a food mill. Perfect for making homemade applesauce, tomato sauce guessed it, baby food. This little beauty grinds everything down to a smooth or pulpy sauce, depending on what set of holes you use. With this thing you can put in the peels and all instead of sliding them off the hot fruit or veggies. And the chickens went CRAZY with the solids leftover (composting would also be great). They were chasing each other around for the choice pieces of mash!

First you start with cooking the food. After you have boiled or steamed in the microwave or on the stovetop, save some of the leftover water. You can use this "sterilized" water to add to your solids to make them more watery and easier for baby. You can always thicken baby food (this goes for jarred too) with baby cereals when they are ready for thicker.
After your vegetable or fruit is cooked, you put it the food mill and give it a whirl until you get the "mash" below in a bowl. OR you put it through the food processor, paying careful attention to that maximum liquid fill line.
If you need to add a little of the cooking water to the bowl, this is when you do it. Then carefully pour the mash into ice cube trays, which you can get at the dollar store. Pop this babies into the freezer until they are rock hard (overnight is easiest).

Then twist the cubes out into ziplock freezer bags or a Vac n Seal bag for longer term storage. The great thing about doing the cubes, is being able to take out and defrost just what you need. Be sure to write on the bag what food it is and when you made it since apples look like pears and peaches look like sweet potatoes.

Here are the steps reviewed in photos with sweet potatoes. Cook it...
Mash it.

Pour it.

Freeze it.

Store it. (Can you tell I just read "Snug House Bug House" tonight?)

Save yourself some money and make a few of the easiest foods. Before you know it your little darling will be eating pureed roasted beets with lentils beans too! See my previous post on baby food for a great book with a helpful chart on when to introduce which foods.

May 10, 2011

Crispy Kale Chips

Kale...yummy and good for you. Roasting kale is a sure fire way to get kids to get it. Kale chips are crispy, salty and melt in your mouth.

Just rip kale into large leaves, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Then lay them out on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes. They turn out crispy like potato chips.

May 5, 2011

Marching Band Birthday Party

Where do they get their ideas? I've often wondered where my kids come up with some of their crazy ideas. I asked my soon-to-be three year old what kind of birthday party he wanted. His initial request was a "motorcycle party", but I nixed that one pretty quickly. We seriously don't need anymore motorized vehicles in our house! I also don't want to encourage the same kid who's been known to walk off with the keys and even once attempted to put them in the ignition! He's a little unpredictable. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when he next requested a "marching band birthday party". Ummm, okay, where do I go with this one? Course the more I thought about it, the more I figured we could really pull this off. It would be loud, it would be obnoxious, but it would be a ton of fun. I know my Sausage Boy is OBSESSED with musical instruments, especially trumpets, so why not cater to that obsession (at least it wouldn't bring more trucks into the house like last year's Truck Stop party).

The first order of business was to get their uniforms made. We used masking tape to tape a diagonal stripe on each kids' shirt for their uniform as they arrived. We had a craft set up right away to keep their interest. Each got to decorate a flat piece of posterboard with markers and pom poms which we then turned into marching band hats by stapling them into a cone and taping on a brim (a small wedge shaped cut out of the posterboard). The kids loved these outrageously tall hats and immediately started marching around. We had all of our musical instruments around the house for their marching pleasure. We also had beans and random empty containers to make shakers which they loved. I had a stash of paper plates and jingle bells to make tambourines, but the boys quickly lost interest in the crafts part and were ready for snack.

Food fit for a marching band: snacks and freshly popped pop corn from the Whirley pop, dried fruit trail mix, baby carrots, strawberries with fresh whipped cream, and drum stick pretzels (pretzel rods dipped in chocolate).

A marching band party calls for a cool marching cake. I decided a drum would be the easiest cake to make. I layered three 8" circle pans to create an extra tall cake. Then I frosted it in bright colors of blue, green and white. I added fruity Twizzlers around the sides for the supports of the drum. It was a colorful take on the traditional drum, perfect for a kid's party.

It was LOUD, it was wild, but it was great fun. I'm actually a little sad birthday season is over around our house until fall.


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