Tricks of the trade

Simon hits ten months next week.  TEN MONTHS!!!  Which means he has officially been eating solids for six months! In those six months my baby food making skills have definitely come a loooong way! Some of my techniques have stayed the same, and some have changed.  I thought that today I would share with you a few of the more important things I have learned.

The Magic Bullet

First and foremost, I have to tell you that the Magic Bullet (henceforth referred to as the MB) should really be called “THE GREATEST KITCHEN APPLIANCE EVER INVENTED” . Seriously, can someone who knows someone who knows someone who works for the MB company please tell them to give me a call so that I can come on their infomercials and sell this thing for them because I would KILL at that job! I use my MB for EVERYTHING.  On any given day I use it at least three times.  The blade is always drying in the sink, because I immediately wash it after each use (none of this sitting in the dishwasher waiting for me to turn it on).  I’m glad it comes with like, 8 different cup attachments because I’m always using every single one.

What do I use this wonderful appliance for? Well….

  • I grind my coffee each morning for my French press coffee maker.
  • I make Simon fresh fruit smoothies, like this peach, yogurt and flax seed smoothie:
  • I grind the flax seed for his smoothies every few days (it goes bad if you leave it out too long). It also goes in our morning smoothies..
  • So…I make my morning smoothie in it.
  • And it serves as a general demolisher of any lumps, because we still have a bit of a “lump rejection problem” that randomly manifests itself.  Oatmeal too lumpy? Toss it in the MB!

Fortified Cereal

Since Simon isn’t such a champ at eating meat yet (we’re working on it) I make sure he gets a nice big portion of fortified cereal at least every two days.  His iron levels at his 9 month checkup were very healthy, so I guess I’m doing the right thing.

His favorites are Cream of Wheat (wheat)  and Malt-o-Meal (wheat and barley), but there are a lot of others out there.  I make these in individual servings in the microwave.  Measurements be damned, I pour a few tablespoons in a bowl and cover it with some water and cook it til it’s ready, stirring occasionally and watching carefully or else I will have boiled over cereal in the microwave to clean up.  My best trick for serving this to a hungry baby is to pull a few frozen fruit cubes out of the freezer and use them to cool the hot cereal. Below is this morning’s breakfast, Cream of Wheat with pear and raspberry cubes.

Another trick is to stew dried fruit while cooking the cereal.  I throw some prunes, apricots, raisins, dried peaches, or whatever I have on hand right in the bowl with the cereal and water.  Add a tad more water than usual and cook away.  Then I cool it down with a few frozen fruit cubes and maybe some yogurt and puree it all in the MB.  It’s essential to cool the cereal first or else steam pressure builds up in the MB and I’ll have a bit of an explosion when you twist it open….this is pretty critical, I have a lovely white t-shirt with prune/blueberry stains all over it.

Cooked fruit is for babies, not for big boys!

I stopped cooking most fruit for Simon a while ago.  He’s tested all of the fruits, so now that his little tummy is capable of handling the fiber I stopped cooking it down.  These days I usually keep a bowl of fruit on the counter with whatever looked good at the store.  Peaches, pears, plums, bananas, mangos etc, will just stay on the counter until I’m ready to peel them and toss them in the MB for a smoothie.  Fruits that go bad quickly such as blueberries, raspberries and Bartlett pears go straight into the blender (larger quantities go into the actual blender, not the MB) and then into freezer trays.

On the other hand, apples are just too hard for him to eat unless made into a sauce. I have found that the best way to make apple sauce is not by steaming, it’s by baking.  I take the apples and just slice the meat off the cores, put them in a baking pan with some butter and leave them in the oven at 400F for an hour or so.  When I take them out and let them cool the apple meat slips right off of the skin and can be pureed.  Super easy! I freeze it in cubes and toss it in his oatmeal with some cinnamon.

Last but not least…sweet potatoes:

This is a small detail, but keeping sweet potatoes around is the easiest.  I just run out and buy a few, wash them up, stick some holes in them with a fork, and shove them in the top rack of a 400F oven for an hour or so until those black bubbles start coming out of the holes.  That’s how I know it’s well cooked.  Also, I make sure I put a silicone mat on the bottom rack so that those black bubbles don’t hit the bottom of the oven and smoke up the house.  I pull the potatoes out and set them on the counter and forget about them for a few hours.  Once they’re cool I just store them whole in a baggie in the fridge.  The skin will have almost completely separated from the meat and I just have to scoop it out with a spoon and have my way with it.  My favorite thing to make is my “sweet potato pie smoothie”, but I think I’ll save that recipe for Thanksgiving!

So there you have it.  Not so exciting, but stuff I do pretty much ALL THE TIME.



My drab thumb attempts container gardening

I have decided that my thumb color lies somewhere in those funny ugly colors between green and brown.  My mother always referred to that color as “baby s**t green” (which I can TOTALLY relate to now), but I’m going to refer to that particular lovely hue as “drab“.  So I am officially saying I have a “drab thumb”  (although “baby s**t thumb” happens a lot around here too, but that’s a whole other can of worms, we won’t go there).

My gardening has always been based on a “survival of the fittest” philosophy.  I buy a plant, I plant the plant, I water the plant whenever I remember.   If said plant survives, I buy another one next year to replace those other weaker varieties that just didn’t make the cut, i.e. shriveled up into brown withered husks of their former selves.  But looking at some of the plants in my backyard you’d swear I had a green thumb….




Fortunately for me, we already trimmed back all of the old, dead plants and replaced them. So you don’t get photographic evidence of the brown side of my thumb!  Let’s just pretend those plants never happened.

OK, so they did happen, but whatever.

Moving on.

This year I’m making the great effort to improve my gardening skills (i.e. remember to water).  I’m thinking I might succeed since Simon loves sitting in the backyard.  So I actually GO in my backyard every day, which is the first step to increasing my watering frequency.  One problem though…we might be moving to another city this summer, so why should I waste all this valuable watering time on plants I can’t take with me? Hence the title of this blog. I’m attempting to grow herbs and some squash and some peppers in pots this summer.  OK, so “grow” might be ambitious, how about we just say “keep alive”. I have actually seen some growth in the last week, surprisingly, so I am currently quite optimistic.

Here is what we have:

summer squash, oregano, sage, tarragon, parsley, two types of peppers, chives, zucchini and mint.  All appear to be ALIVE!  YAY!

I had all the pots (with the exception of the lovely Home Depot Homer Bucket’s) from previous gardening failures, so I just needed the plants and some extra potting soil.

So what’s with the ugly orange bucket thingy?  Good question!  The bucket I can explain, but the color…? Well, that’s all Home Depot had.  I think it adds a little somethingsomething to my lovely garden, don’t you think? Anyways, back to the question. My favorite mommyblogger, Amalah, recently posted about her self-watering container garden she and her kids keep up with.  I was intrigued.  Could there really be a way that I don’t HAVE to water as frequently?  So I did a little Googling and found this site with instructions on how to make the planter.  Piece of cake.  You should have seen me out there with the baby in his bouncer and me with my husband’s power tools…hell yea. I am doing a side by side test of two squash plants, one in a regular planter and one in the self watering planter.  If the awesome orange bucket contraption proves to actually grow a healthier plant that yields more squash, then next summer I’m going to go crazy on these suckers and try all sorts of veggies…in possibly more tastefully colored containers.   For now though, we’ll stay small and orange.

So grow, my little garden, grow.  In two months we introduce you into Simon’s diet.

I will let ya’ll know how it goes in a few months.