Baby Food Preparation

Baby Eco has been eating foods for about 6 weeks and she is devouring them like a seasoned pro. Making her baby food has been an exciting challenge. Overall, I feel great about doing it and the amount of work involved is moderate. I did go through a bit of a learning curve, which leads me to question why the Food Network has not come out with a Baby Food Preparation special. Since that’s not available I’ll offer my suggestions to new Moms and Dads that would like to cook for baby at home.

1. If you want to cook less frequently, you’ll need more containers. Luckily my Mom gave me the storage contents from her Baby Bullet set to double my stash. Some parents freeze the foods in ice cube trays and use Tupperware or Pyrex to store plenty of food. Remember- there’s no double dipping once you start with a container so small portions are key!

2. Store-bought baby rice may just be the best option. I tried again and again to get the recipe right, but I couldn’t grind to a fine enough consistency or prevent the pot from boiling over. On vacation, my Aunt got Hannah some Beechnut Rice Cereal and she loves it. The big difference is that it’s already cooked, so it’s super simple. I noticed that their recommended portion is pretty large, so I divide that into three containers and then it’s already prepped for the next few meals.

3. Even if you don’t make baby food all the time, it’s great to know how to do it in a pinch. I didn’t realize until dinner time that I had forgotten to bring baby food to our Thanksgiving celebration. It wasn’t a problem at all because the chef had bananas and avocados on hand. I mashed up an avocado, mixed in some water, and served it with a 1/4 teaspoon for an instant nutritious meal.

4. Don’t get tripped up on the “rule of 4.” In the early days, pediatricians recommend starting foods on a four day introduction schedule. Looking back, it would have been much simpler to use that guideline as a minimum and stretch out some of the foods longer. I could have easily served her yams or rice for a week and enjoyed the break between cooking something new. However, you have to pay attention to the storage dates and freeze/thaw times since refrigerated food shouldn’t be used after 3 days.

5. Although boiling is a great cooking method, heartier veggies really need the strength of the oven to cook thoroughly. Slice them in half and place them flat in a glass dish, add a quarter cup of water and bake at 375 for an hour. They come out so mushy that they are a cinch to peal and prepare. Bake some cookies or a pie for yourself while you’re at it to utilize the whole oven.

6. Go ahead and buy a jar of baby food so you can see the consistency. Try blending small portions to get the best smoothness. Be careful not to wear out your blender by overusing it or leaving it on too long.

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Flat Out Feast

Did you know that more waste is generated on Thanksgiving than any other holiday in the US? One of the best ways to avoid this is to use your leftovers! Last night, I used Flat Out! flatbreads to wrap up my Thanksgiving leftovers. This little “feast-to-go” was a flavor explosion!

I layered gravy, turkey, cranberry sauce, lettuce and carrot strips on the wrap and served it with a side of mashed potatoes. Keeping it in a wrap is a nice, filling way to control the portion.

A few weeks ago I signed up to review a book called Real Moms Love to Eat! The author sent me a goodie bag so that I could try some of the treats she mentions in her book. I have rounded out several terrific meals in a pinch with the contents. Most of the samples she sent (like these flatbreads) are gluten free produced by eco conscious companies. It’s been a pleasure to enjoy some new food options that I wouldn’t have necessarily selected, but am learning can be great, healthy substitutes for my other standards.

I can’t wait to finish the book and tell you all about it. So far the message is simple: Eat what you want and enjoy it! Balance what you love with healthy options and you will love that, too. The point of eating is to nourish your body, so if you don’t feel great after a meal maybe you should try something different. Keep an eye on what foods give you the most satisfaction and enjoy them as often as you like!

Thankful for Less

This year, I’m thankful for less. I’m thankful for the simplicity of using less and creating less waste. From cloth diapers, to glass containers, to cloth towels, disposing of their disposable counterparts has brought joy and a sense of permanence to my household. I’m thankful for spending less and feeling fulfilled by my purchases. Websites like http://www.forthemamas.com have helped me halve my grocery expenses while doubling our food stores.  I’m thankful for having less money and realistic expectations. Leaving the work force has been the best decision for us and I’m grateful to my husband for working hard to support our family. I’m also thankful for weighing less. Let’s face it- mothers can have a little vanity! Sticking with nursing, following Lindsay Brin’s workouts, and eating heartily Real Moms Love to Eat-style are helping me shed the pounds and increase my energy. Of course, I’m most thankful for one thing more, my beautiful daughter Hannah! (But that’s a given!)

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. Please come back after the Holiday for refreshing seasonal advice and tips!

Concentrate on This!

To get the most out of your concentrated cleaning supplies, it’s a good idea to dilute them first. More and more manufacturers are offering concentrated cleaning supplies, so pay close attention to what you are getting and use it wisely!

The next time you have a bottle that’s a handy size, save it. Chances are you may end up with a concentrated bottle in the near future and you can pour some extra water in to prevent yourself from overusing the supply. In the laundry room, you’ll want to follow the cap guidelines and consider using less. In many cases, using an amount of soap that barely causes bubbles to break is correct. Super suds are a sign that you’re overdoing it and it can lead to earlier wear on your clothes.

Do you have any tips for conserving supplies?

Cloth in the Kitchen

I realized yesterday that we were down to our last roll of paper towels in the house and I decided that it would be the official last roll in the house. Instead of clipping a coupon and searching for the best deal, I took the $15 I would have spent on a jumbo pack at Target and purchased new towels and washcloths instead. Now we have a variety of towels to service every cleaning and drying need in the house. There are microfiber towels for cleaning up messes, cotton towels for drying hands, washcloths for cleaning dishes and bamboo towels to dry them. My husband is eager to use all the new fluff since he loves decorative home accessories. It felt great to spend the money on something that is pretty and will be used over and over again instead of buying paper that will only end up in the trash.

You’re probably thinking that all of this will go out the window as soon as my baby grows into the toddler phase. Maybe you’re right, but I think we’ve got a fighting chance since this house is bustling at the seams with useful cloth. A corner of my laundry room shelf is reserved for towels, tees, and socks that are on their last legs. These items are perfect for a serious mess.

I always used to think of my washing machine as a way to delicately rinse my clothes. After a few months relying heavily on it to lift deep stains and taking the time to learn how the cycles work, I have no doubt that it can tackle the extra load of towels. I’m planning to sew a bag for the laundry room to store dirty towels until I have a full load. The bag will be cotton, so it can go right in the wash with everything else.

We’re looking forward to putting this new green plan into practice and I encourage you to try it, too!

Fitness at Home

Which is heavier… a seven pound newborn or a fifteen pound infant? It’s a trick question, and it depends on the Mama. For many mothers, carrying a new baby 24/7 can be a huge strain. To help prepare for baby, it’s a good idea to do pregnancy-safe exercises with weights in the second and third trimesters. Lindsay Brin has a great series of fitness videos for mothers in every stage. If your physician clears you for exercise, I highly recommend walking as much as possible and following the Moms Into Fitness prenatal DVD series at least three times per week.

Lindsay is an enthusiastic fitness expert with three kids of her own. She’ll coax you through the workouts with inspiration about your baby. There is a cardio and toning segment or a yoga routine for each trimester. You will need two sets of weights in the 2-8 pound range depending on your pre-pregnancy fitness level. Post-pregnancy, Lindsay kicks up the challenge with the Moms Into Fitness Bootcamp. This DVD is awesome because it allows you to customize different mini-clips so your workout can always change. You’ll tone in different ways each week so you won’t get bored with your workout.

Working out at home has many benefits. It’s much cheaper and more convenient than the gym, plus you don’t need to worry about child care. When you’re pregnant, your baby needs you to exercise, particularly in the second and third trimesters. After you’ve recovered from the birth, you need strong muscles to carry around the baby and all her gear! By the time she’s a toddler, you’ll want to run around with her. There are a million reasons why working out will improve your life, but the most important reason to work out is for your children. Set a positive example and be the energetic and strong Mom kids will choose to look up to!

You can buy these DVDs and your weights on Amazon or at some Target stores.

Changing Diapers

Kelly Wels wrote a fantastic reference book about modern cloth diapering called Changing Diapers. I wish I had it a few months ago when I was getting started! Everything I researched was easy to understand and learn in this quick read. She provides expert knowledge and handy tips and tricks. When my friends start having babies they will definitely be getting a copy of this book along with the cutest diaper I can find for their baby showers!

I love that Wels relates to the readers through an understanding that there is resistance to using cloth diapers. She talks about how husbands may not want to try them, but later grow to love them. One Dad even had custom diapers hand sewn in Italy for his baby! There is a chapter on how to use cloth with a daycare provider, too. Her suggestions for cloth laundry are perfect. You can skip the expense of a laundry service because it is sanitary and easy to wash them right at home.

With a handy guide like this, there is no reason not to try cloth diapering. But, just in case you’re not sold yet, remember that it can save $2500 per child versus disposables! You can buy her book and everything else you need to swaddle your baby in fluffy diapers at Kelly’s Closet.