Tag Archives: food

Sparrow, my little foodie baby

The longer I parent, I find myself adapting and reworking various parenting practices depending on the situation or kid and what it/they requires.

When I was pregnant with Bean, I was so dogmatic about attachment parenting and co-sleeping. I thought every practice was the holy grail of right parenting. And then several things did not work for our family at all.

And then Sprout came along and I found a whole different kid requiring a whole different way of parenting in some ways.

So slowly over the last 3 1/2 years the dogma has been chipped away at.

Bean is a very sensitive kid in many ways. On everything from her food allergies early on to disciplining her (with her, a certain tone or pitch can put her in tears) to having everything just right to certain textures of foods and spices.

Sprout is very independent and physical and mischievous. Disciplining him requires physical intervention. We have to go to him, make him stop, put him in time out, etc. and a simple “no” or “stop” never seems to have much of an effect.

Their differences also have come out in their eating. Bean has always been very picky and particular about her food. We did the traditional method of baby feeding with her. Around five months when she started watching our every bite at meal times and reaching for our food, I started her on rice cereal and went on to the various puréed foods, then puffs and yogurt melts, etc. Then there was a month where the only food I could get her to eat were yogurt melts, puffs, freeze dried fruit and the chicken and star pasta toddler soup from Earth’s Best. And she’s been just as picky ever since. Getting her to eat and try new foods is still almost always a challenge.

With Sprout I had read a little about baby led weaning where you just feed the baby what you are having once they show an interest in your food without puréed foods or rice cereal. It seemed like the best fit for Mr. Independent. Even though he had teeth, he had a very strong gag reflex and, I now believe, some pretty serious reflux problems. I even tried puréed foods a few times and he would have trouble with those. So it was probably not until around about 10 months old that he actually started eating solid foods.

And Sparrow is just as different from his siblings. Physically, he doesn’t seem as coordinated as I remember his siblings being at this age, especially compared to Sprout. He doesn’t quite sit up very well, he still has very jerky, flailing arm movements like a newborn, he just barely started rolling over, etc. He has started to seem more observant and interested in us and what is going on around him the last few weeks. I honestly didn’t really think he was at all interested in food and wouldn’t be for quite awhile based on these observations, and then he chomped down on one of my sweet potato fries and started sucking food off my fingers.

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So with Sparrow I’m doing a bit of traditional meets baby led weaning. He clearly wants and likes our food, but his lack of coordination is not conducive to just throwing chunks of avocado or banana on a tray and letting him pick them up to gnaw on. I mash a lot of soft stuff like that with my fingers and he will grab my hand, open his mouth and put it in.

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I am also doing some puréed foods. But not really in the traditional way of just one food at a time or rice cereal. He eats pretty much the same stuff as what we are eating. Of all our kids, Sparrow certainly seems to be the most enthusiastic about food and eating. He gets so excited and giggling during meals sometimes.

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One morning we had oatmeal and smoothies. So for Sparrow I took a little cooked oats, raisins and pears and blended that with a little spinach to hide some greens in easily. He loved it.

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I made lentil soup the other night with root vegetables and grilled sausage. So I just took a portion out for Sparrow and blended it up in the VitaMix. Another win for our little foodie.

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This weekend we went down to Disneyland again. So since I knew I would not have my blender or be able to transport my perishable baby food delicacies, we wound up picking up a few jars at the Whole Foods in Tustin. What other baby gets this excited and happy to eat mashed peas?

His attitude is so great. It makes me look forward to feeding him. Trying new things and eating is so fun for him!

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Rigatoni with butternut squash, bacon and caramelized onions

During a recent nap time, I went through all my cookbooks, found all my favorite recipes and those I had not yet tried that sounded good based on their ingredients or the picture. And what did I do with all these recipes? I made a giant, five page alphabetical Word document index. It’s organized like this:

Recipe title (main ingredients), Publication Title page number.

Yes, I am that crazy, anal retentive, type A, overly organized, and all the other adjectives I am sure you can have fun coming up with for me.

I am so happy I did this because I found lots of new recipes and having the main ingredient list next to each recipe allows me to find them based on what is in season.

So this recipe is based on one I found in a book I have had for years that went largely ignored.

Rigatoni with butternut squash, bacon and caramelized onions
Adapted from “Rigatoni with Squash and Caramelized Onions” in Food & Wine Best of the Best Vol. 9 which is a compilation of recipe books and this one is originally from Recipes by Susan Spungen, the founding food editor of Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients
-1/2 lb rigatoni
-1 butternut squash
-2 garlic cloves, pressed
-1 tbsp butter
-1 onion, halved and sliced
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
-dash or two pumpkin pie spice
-2 thick slices bacon, chopped
-1 cup stock (I used vegetable)
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
-salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Cook pasta in salted water two minutes less than recommended time on package (it will continue to cook in the oven).

While the pasta is cooking, peel, chop and remove the seeds from your butternut squash.

Brown the bacon. Remove from pan and drain. Set aside. Add the garlic, onions and butter to the pan and brown. Add 1/4 cup water and cook 5 more minutes.

Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.

Add the oil, squash, half the rosemary, salt, and pepper and sauté until tender when pierced with a knife. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer around 8-10 minutes. Add cream, bring to a boil and simmer one minute more. Remove from heat.

Combine with bacon, pasta and all remaining ingredients thoroughly, reserving 1/2 cup cheese. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake 30-35 min until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly.

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Serve with a salad of mixed greens, apple, pomegranate, green onions and sunflower seeds dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar. You may also want a bit of warm bread at the end to sop up the sauce.

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Fig and prosciutto three cheese pizza

If you are feeling a little adventurous, I highly recommend this pizza. It might seem a little bit of a strange combination, but it is totally delicious.

My inspiration actually came from a conversation I heard between two checkers at Whole Foods the other day. One said someone checked out in his line with a fig pizza and he thought it was weird. At first I did too.

Then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So I started trying to think of what a fig pizza would likely have on it and what tastes good with figs.

When I think of figs I think of fancy cheese platters and prosciutto. So I built on that for my pizza.

Ingredients:
-prosciutto
-grated asiago cheese
-grated Parmesan cheese
-marinated mozzarella, sliced
-figs, sliced
-favorite pizza dough
-favorite pizza base (I actually used some tomato soup because I just made it the night before and couldn’t find pizza sauce at the grocery store, an olive oil garlic herb rub would also be good I think)

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Shape dough, apply base. Place sliced mozzarella over surface of dough. Next, layer fig slices and shreds of prosciutto. Sprinkle grated cheeses over the top. Bake as you would a typical pizza or according to your dough’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

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I like Jamie

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“Ok, well I have my menu all planned out for the week, so we need to go upstairs and get ready for preschool.”

“I want to make my menu too.”

“What do you want on your menu?”

Pointing to Jamie Oliver: “A guy.”

“A guy?”

“Yeah, who is making this dinner, Mama?”

“His name is Jamie Oliver.”

“Yeah, I like Jamie.”

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Banana Nut Oatmeal

When I was growing up, as a quick breakfast for us girls, my parents often bought the instant oatmeal flavor variety pack. Cinnamon raisin and brown sugar were usually the first flavors gone followed by plain which we would doctor up with a ton of additions and then the banana nut/banana bread (depending on which company you bought it from), would sit and sit and sit. Nobody liked that flavor. I don’t know about my sisters, but for me it was the fake banana taste. I still hate that taste. I used to think I hated bananas because I hated banana flavor.

Anyway, the last few times I’ve had some overripe bananas I’ve made this much more natural (and way better tasting) version of those instant oatmeal flavor packs.

Ingredients:
-1 over-ripe banana
-1 cup rolled oats
-2 cups water
-1 or two handfuls chopped nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
-1 handful of raisins or dried fruit (optional, I like the golden raisin and berry blend from TJs)
-couple large spoonfuls of yogurt
-couple dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp brown sugar
-squirt of honey

Place oats, nuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed into oats.

Meanwhile mash your banana in a medium bowl. Add in the yogurt and dried fruit. When the oatmeal mixture is ready stir that in too.

Top with fresh fruit, if desired.

Enjoy.

If you really want to splurge and make it sinful, add in a spoonful of Nutella. Just do it when the kids aren’t looking.

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Orzo Mac N’ Cheese with Ham and Zucchini

This is somewhat adapted from a Gourmet magazine recipe that I did years ago as part of a giant family Thanksgiving that I hosted and cooked for. I worked from memory and didn’t look up the recipe. I believe the recipe may have even been called “Grown-Up Mac ‘N Cheese,” or made reference to it being such.

It made enough to fill up two casserole dishes that will feed 4-5 depending on appetites. Which is perfect because I am trying to stock my freezer right now to be ready for baby #3.

Orzo Mac ‘N Cheese with Ham and Zucchini

Ingredients
• 1 package orzo pasta
• 1 large zucchini
• 1 boneless ham steak
• handful of shredded Mozzarella
• handful of shredded Monterey Jack
• handful of shredded cheddar
• dollop of sour cream based ranch dip (I make my own using sour cream and the herbs and spices I actually recognize from the back of a ranch packet/bottle/etc. It’s the only way I can be sure we aren’t eating some weird corn derivative or another random chemical I don’t recognize. Even the “natural” brands of ranch at Whole Foods have this. Grrr!)
• 1 tablespoon of butter
• 4-5 green onions

Preheat oven to 350.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook orzo according to package directions. You want al dente because it is going to cook more in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, dice your zucchini, ham, and green onions.

Drain pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in all ingredients until well incorporated, reserving a little of the cheese.

Transfer to casserole dish(es) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake 30 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges.

Remove and serve.

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Notes:

* If you want to go veggie, the ham is certainly optional. You may need to add a little salt in place of the salty ham.
* You could probably also add in other diced veg. I am thinking a red bell pepper would have been nice (and a good way to use up one of the three giant ones I got in our CSA box today) or peas or corn. The original recipe only had ham and green onions and three different fancy cheeses. So I wasn’t being terribly creative by just adding in the zucchini.
* You could also just use one kind of cheese, I happened to have those three in my fridge so that’s what I used.
*This is great with a salad.
*I am sure with the sour cream based ranch, butter and cheese this is full of tons of calories. I don’t worry about those things. If you do, you might want to consider substitutes. Or not eat food like this every night of the week.

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Food journey and values update

A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.

Part 1: Childhood

Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood

Part 3: Up to the then present

I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.

Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.

So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.

The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.

There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.

In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.

So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.

And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.

Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.

Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.

We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).

We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.

If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.

And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).

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