I suppose it all depends on your definition of “best”. Are you looking for the best flavor? Best value? Best nutritional content? Best homemade milk?
It seems like every year there is a new “milk” out there (hello, hemp milk), but let’s stick to the four most available options: rice, soy, almond and coconut.
Here’s what I discovered, with a little research:
Rice Milk: most allergy friendly milk, but high in carbs, sugar, calories, and low in protein (this makes me want to try making a brown rice version at home!).
Soy Milk: high in protein and calcium, low in sugar, but beware the non-organic GMO varieties.
Almond Milk: low in protein and sugar, good source of vitamins like magnesium and vitamin E and D. Try making it at home if you don’t want it fortified with calcium etc.
Coconut Milk: low protein, low calcium, low calorie, nut-free (it’s actually a fruit), high in lauric acid, a heart-healthy saturated fat.
Do you drink non-dairy milk? What is your favorite kind?
Franci likes to use a spoon to feed herself and, as long as the food is thick or sticky enough, doesn’t drop too many spoonfuls down her front. She isn’t that great at getting the food on the spoon, however. The scoop is either too big or too small and as soon as she gets frustrated or distracted, she starts using her bowl as a drum and the spoon a drumstick. Or she pretends the spoon is a crayon and “draws” on the table.
I’m not really in the mood to sit at the table first thing in the morning and supervise breakfast, and four days a week I’m hurrying to get us both ready and I don’t want to take the time to help her eat or clean up any messes.
In the interest of feeding her a healthy home-cooked breakfast without having to sit there and “feed” her, I came up with a Faux Oatmeal Cookie recipe. You can do this with any oatmeal: store-bought, quick-cooking, old-fashioned, or buckwheat cereal. Pretty much any porridge works.
I usually make a big batch of oatmeal and freeze it in cubes. Then Franci can eat it with a spoon, or I’ll make it into cookies as need be.
Faux Oatmeal Cookies
Exactly how cooked you make them depends on your child’s taste. Do they prefer crunchy cookies? Do they like them better soft? The minumum amount of baking time is enough that you can transfer cookies off the sheet and they don’t fall apart. It’s hard to give an exact time, since everyone cooks their oatmeal to a different consistency. The runnier, the longer you need to cook it.
Since you are only baking them at 275F, you don’t have to check every two minutes. They aren’t going to burn if you get distracted and let them cook longer then intended. I usually forget that I’m making them, then smell cookies baking and remember to flip them over.
There really is no limit to what you can turn into “cookies”, or “patties” as I call the savory version. I have a ton of fish and vegetable puree leftover from when she was still into purees, and I mix in a little garbanzo bean flour to thicken it up before baking it into patties. I’ve also thickened it with buckwheat flour, ground flax seed, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast…you get the picture.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a Baby Puff recipe that was pretty filling. It also required a bit of chewing (with gums at least, teeth not required). In fact, they were really more snacks than they were your traditional puff.
Sometimes you want a snack that isn’t going to ruin your baby’s dinner. Or maybe you want a puff that melts in your mouth like the store-bought puffs. Here’s a recipe that will dissolve in your mouth and not fill you up:
Melty Puffs (adapted from Mommy-Opinion)
Mix all ingredients together to form a dough. One handful at a time, roll dough into long, pencil sized ropes and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Bake at 325F until they begin to brown. They will be soft, not dried out.
Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for longer.
*Try not to eat all of these yourself and save some for baby!
Frances started daycare this week and she will be there for lunchtime. The kids have to feed themselves, so I’ve been trying out different finger foods for the last month. It is not going well. Aside from fruit and cheese, everything else gets handed back to me: chicken, pork, tofu, vegetables. Basically, anything good for her that isn’t sweet.
I’d like to send her with something more substantial than just fruit, and more exciting than puffed grains (which she starts to throw like confetti when she’s bored of it). I’m not a big fan of store-bought baby-puffs, even the good kind. They are made using a process called extrusion that destroys most of the nutrients, and contain preservatives and fillers like white rice. Plus, they’re more of a snack than a meal and I wanted something that would fill her up, if necessary.
So I set about finding a recipe for homemade puffs that would be filling, nutritious and tasty. After a little adaptation, here’s what I came up with. They happen to be gluten-free and paleo, if you’re into that:
Coconut Bites (adapted from Coconut Mama)
Combine all ingredients and mix to form a dough. One handful of dough at a time, smush into a long rope about as thick as your pinky (or smaller). Cut into bite-sized pieces and scatter on a baking sheet. If you want tiny little puffs, use a clean Play Doh Confetti Maker like I did.
Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, tossing half way through to redistribute, until they begin to brown. Turn off oven and let puffs sit in oven 5-10 minutes until they have dried out.
Franci loves to put a couple of these in her mouth, get them all soggy and then swallow. If she sees a jar of them on the table, she won’t eat anything else, so beware!
I hate to waste food, but I’m not willing to eat it myself. (I can’t believe she even ate them to begin with). Rather than toss it in the trash, I’ve been exercising my creativity trying to come up with ways to sneak the food into Franci’s mouth.
I have tried a lot of different flavorings, like curry paste, marinara sauce, bbq sauce and even teriyaki sauce. None of these were a hit. I tried vinegar, salad dressing and coconut. Still no home runs.
It turns out there is no magic flavor that peaks her interest, but I’ve narrowed down a few that almost always work (although some days she refuses even these). If I dip the puree in salsa one bite at a time, she will eat a whole bowl of it. The spicier the salsa, the more she likes it. On days she won’t eat the salsa version, I dip the spoonfuls in greek yogurt. The trick is to dip the spoonfuls instead of mixing the flavor in.
Another success resulted from desperation. I had tried diluting the puree with butternut squash, a finger food that she will sometimes eat. She was having none of it. The salsa trick wasn’t working, and we were out of yogurt. Since the puree was already thawed and I didn’t want it to go to waste, I spread it out in a thin layer on a lined baking sheet and put it in the toaster oven on 300F. “Who knows?”, I thought, “Maybe she will eat it if it’s crispy.” Yes, yes she will. So instead of snacking on puffs and granola, sometimes she snacks on nutrient packed “veggie crisps”.
I know that our food journey is long from over, and I would love to have a few more tricks up my sleeve.
What creative food successes (or failures) have you tried?
I have quite a few baby food books that I never open because Franci is still content to eat my super-purees. Most of the finger food I put in front of her gets handed back to me, or she just holds it in her hand while opening her mouth for another bite off the fork.
Last weekend I decided to pick out a couple recipes to try and with a few modifications, this one I liked. Frances was ambivalent and preferred to feed her bites to me rather than to herself, but I think she’ll like them in the future.
These fritters are good on their own sprinkled with a little salt, dipped in yogurt, smothered in salsa or marinara, or with a few splashes of hot sauce.
Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters Adapted from Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious
Heat a quarter inch of oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat.
Put sweet potato and zucchini through the grating attachment on a food processor (or use a box grater). Large handfuls at a time, put in a paper towel and squeeze out the excess moisture. Transfer to a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix into grated vegetables.
In another small bowl, whisk egg and milk together. Add to vegetables and mix to combine.
Using a quarter cup of batter at a time, pat into a flat patty. Make sure they are well compacted and that there aren’t a lot of vegetable strands poking out. Place in hot oil and cook about three minutes a side, flipping after it’s well browned. If the fritter is floppy and hard to flip, it hasn’t cooked long enough on that side.
I had to add more oil to the pan after cooking half. The original recipe calls for very little oil, like cooking pancakes, but I didn’t find that to be sufficient. Use refined coconut oil if you are concerned about how much oil you are using.
These fritters are a little sweet, thanks to the sweet potatoes. Next time I think I’ll add a little curry and turmeric to the dry ingredients for a middle eastern twist.
Most of you have probably heard of Amazon Prime, but have you heard of Amazon Mom? It gives you all the perks of a Prime membership (free 2-day shipping, access to the Kindle lending library, and free instant video streaming) plus 20% off Subscribe & Save orders of five or more.
(For those of you not familiar with Subscribe & Save, here’s how it works: Whatever items you’ve subscribed to are delivered by the first of the month at a 5% discount. You can cancel at any time, skip deliveries or have items delivered every two months, or six months, or whatever you decide. If you don’t cancel the subscription for an item, it is automatically delivered on the schedule you’ve set but you get a warning email with plenty of time to postpone or cancel subscription items.)
The thing about a Prime membership is that you kind of have to work for it. If you order a couple things a month, it’s probably not worth it. But if you’re like us and live in a smaller city where we can’t buy a lot of our preferred items, it’s possible to make it a good deal. We’ve been Amazon Prime members for years now because we order so many household items online that our UPS driver knows us by name.
You don’t have to be a mom to sign up for Amazon Mom, but you do have to have enough space to store whatever you buy. You often have to buy cases, or at least packs of two. The trick is to be creative and thorough about figuring out what you can order through Subscribe & Save and making sure you have at least five orders each time you choose to have a delivery. Sure you can order dishwasher detergent, but keep in mind you might end up storing a few bottles.
This also means you have to be good about keeping your subscriptions up-to-date so you don’t receive too much organic baby food or too many OxiClean Max Force Gel Sticks too often. (Then again, if you have a baby you can never have too many of these.) When the end of the month approaches, I log in to see what items are scheduled for delivery and arrange things so that I hit the magic number “five”. I may have an extra case of Chlorine Free Diapers or a bottle of Multi-Vitamins to store, but it’s worth it. If I’m close to five subscriptions but not there, I can always round it out with coffee or tea or toothpaste. You get the idea.
While Amazon Mom may not be for everyone, it’s worth it for moms who love a good deal but are too busy – or too tired – for the store.
I’ve been worrying, as only a mother can, about the variety in her diet. Since she’ll eat just about anything, I’ve been pureeing every vegetable I can think of into a thick paste with some sort of meat. I keep a fish version, a lamb version and a chicken version in the freezer and alternate which one she eats each day.
Although she is not picky in general, she is particular about what she eats at which time of day. For example, her afternoon meal has to be fruit, and she won’t eat savory food at dinner. So I can’t feed her a vegetable-meat puree at any other meal but lunch. She has a strong preference for oatmeal at dinner, to which I add pumpkin or squash, yogurt and a little fruit all pureed together.
She’s been eating probably two dozen bananas a month, and after a couple months of this I’m thinking it’s time to switch things up. The problem is, it is so cheap and easy! I buy a bunch, and by the time we run out, it’s time to go grocery shopping again any way. It takes less effort to mush a banana than anything else I’ve found (with avocados close behind, which is the one food she will not eat).
How do you mix things up? It’s hard to get out of the habit of making a big batch of oatmeal, since I know she likes it. Maybe it’s time to switch to another grain? Maybe buckwheat or quinoa or farro? Maybe all three at once? Do I add in lentils or legumes? It seems like making my own baby food is a slippery slope since there is an endless combination of ingredients to use. It can drive a mom crazy!
How do you keep your sanity while providing a variety of fruits and vegetables? How do you decide what “super-foods” to include versus “convenience foods”?