Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let 'em cut it

Let your older toddler (mine is almost 2 1/2) cut up their own soft fruits and veggies with a butter knife (while confined in a highchair or booster for safety). Give them one piece at a time and don't give them another to cut until they've eaten the first. This is not only a great way to get them to try new foods (or old favorites no longer in favor) it's also helps develop coordination (fine motor skills, Dawn?) and self sufficiency. They'll like it even better if they get to cut and feed you the first bite!

Good items to try this with are

avocados (a little salt makes them taste even better)
ripe pears
cooked/canned baby carrots
cooked/canned green beans
soft fish fillets

and anything else that is soft and easy to cut.

Fibrous fiber

Toddlers love crackers. Actually, toddlers love carbs of any variety, crackers being just one. I'm always thrilled when I can give Fintan a snack he likes that also has a nice health benefit for him and for me (I always eat some of what I give him--can't help myself). My favorite crackers, therefore, are "All-Bran" multi grain crackers. The first ingredient is "whole wheat flour". They have 5 grams of fiber per serving and no high fructose corn syrup. They taste really great, too.

I've yet to meet a toddler that didn't like them dipped in hummus, paired with cheese, or just straight up.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Top 5 reasons to make your own baby food

1. It's Less expensive. Really. Even if you buy organic fruit and vegetables it costs less than buying pre-made non-organic baby food.

2. It's EASY. If you can peel and chop vegetables, use a microwave, plug in and turn on a food processor, and fill ice cube trays with pureed flora, you're good.

3. You will waste less. With homemade babyfood you can prepare any amount of food to suit your baby's appetite. If your baby is a light eater you don't have to run the risk of wasting half of a container of store bought food when he or she gets full. (Note: You should never save leftover baby food from a container your baby has been served from. If you want to save store-bought leftovers you must serve a portion in a separate bowl and then save what's left in the jar to be used within 48 hours.) Frozen cubes of baby food can be warmed in under a minute (30 seconds or so for a single cube). If baby is still hungry after the initial small serving you can then quickly warm another cube---or warm a cube of something else entirely for a bit of variety!

4. More diverse meals--leading to LESS PICKY EATERS. This is my number one reason for making baby food. Not only can you serve foods that you'd never find in a Gerber jar (avocado, anyone? And, yes, I do freeze avocado and banana--neither of which need to be cooked beforehand), you can feed a variety of foods in a single meal: like sweet potatoes followed by peas and then apples. You can also combine cubes to create unique flavors or make less appealing foods more appealing (by combining something like peas with pears or apples, for example--then adding less of the favored food each time you serve the disliked food until baby accepts the taste of what they initially disliked). This also give you freedom to introduce a non-favored food numerous times without wasting entire jars each time your baby turns their head away. Sometimes it takes 15-20 exposures before a baby will accept a new food.

5. Satisfaction. It is really satisfying to make baby food! Well, it is for me. I love the vibrant colors of it (just compare homemade peas to store bought and smile/cringe at the color difference). Seeing the bags lined up (or piled up) in a riot of healthy colors makes me grin. I like that I'm providing my baby with healthy fruit and veggies I chose myself--with the opportunity of seeing the quality of the produce before it became baby food. Not to mention the pieces set aside for myself and my toddler to enjoy. Mmmm.

I wanted to spend more time on this, because this topic is so near and dear to me. I plan to revisit this in several more posts. If anyone who stumbles across this site is interested in making baby food and has questions, please post them in the comments and I'll answer them if I can!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow ice cream

With nearly a foot of fresh snow in our yard today we decided to use a bit to whip up a tasty treat for ourselves.


1 mixing-bowl full of snow
1 T vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
1-3 cups milk (higher fat content is better)

Take the bowl of fresh snow (may be scooped from a deep fresh mound, or a bowl or two could be left out during a snowfall to collect it for you), add a tablespoon of vanilla, 1/2 cup of sugar, pinch of salt and a half cup of milk. Stir, keep adding milk until the snow takes on a creamy consistency. Taste. Add more sugar or vanilla as needed. Eat. Yum.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A toddler game of catch

Fintan has a hard time catching balls from the air when playing catch. They usually slip through his fingers and bounce off his feet. But Pat discovered a great way to play catch with Fintan this weekend. We received a package in the mail that contained some little air-filled bags for padding. They were connected together in a strand of 3 or 4 and Pat left a couple of them attached to each other, jumbled them up and threw those to Fintan. They actually went fairly straight, from close range, and floated just enough that Fintan could catch them pretty easily out of the air. He was so proud of himself, too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Easy teriyaki-sesame chicken

This is an extremely easy meal to make your toddler for lunch or dinner. At one point I shared another easy chicken recipe on my other blog that detailed how I prepare and store chicken in toddler-serving sized packets.  

To make this meal, I PB200018pull out one of those packets of frozen chicken and zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds so I can easily remove the chicken from the plastic wrap (it does not have to be completely thawed however).  Then I drop the pieces into a frying pan, add around half a tablespoon of soy sauce, half a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon and a half or so of water and a dollop of honey (I'd say a generous teaspoon-full, but I wouldn't use the spoon to measure or half of your honey will be left stuck to it).


Turn the burner to medium-low and let the sauce simmer and cook down, turning the chicken every 30 seconds or so (it cooks fairly quickly, only taking around 5 minutes total). When it begins to thicken slightly and boil around the edges, add a sprinkling of sesame seeds and swirl the chicken pieces around to pick them up as the sauce becomes sticky.  (Sesame seeds can be found with the other spices in your grocery store and they are surprisingly good

PB200022for you so toss them in wherever you can.  They're a great source of protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and niacin and also contain riboflavin and thiamine.) When you've got a good coating of sauce and sesame seeds on the chicken, it's ready to serve.  You don't want the sauce to thicken to the point of drying up and burning.  Just cut the biggest piece to make sure there's no pink remaining and if there is  you can add a little more water and let it simmer a bit longer.

Once you see how easy this is to make, it may become a staple at your house, just like it is at ours.  Because whether or not yourPB200026 toddler will eat it you may just grow to love it on your lunchtime salad. Or over rice.  I do.  But Fintan usually asks for my serving once he's finished with his.  Guess it's time to rethink those portion sizes...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tissue ornaments

This morning Zayden and Ivy came over to play and Fintan and Zayden made tissue ornaments (with a little help from their mommies). I got the idea after reading this book. One of the author's suggestions was to give your toddler a full box of tissues and the freedom to pull them out and scatter them around the room. The idea seemed right up Fintan's alley (I don't know how many times he's emptied the baby wipes containers before I started just leaving wipes in the refill-bags because they're not as fun to empty!) and I don't mind the mess, but I just didn't want to waste a whole bunch of tissues by picking them up and throwing them away after he grew tired of them. So I didn't think we'd ever do it.

Then I thought of what happens to a tissue when you leave it in your pocket and it goes through the wash (oh, you don't do that? Okay...well, a reciept then. You're too organized with your receipts to let that happen? Well, you'll just have to take my word for it then) and comes out all compacted into a little hard ball. I thought we'd recreate that process and use the tissues to make Christmas tree ornaments.

So, the idea was:

We'd have a blast playing with the tissues for a while. Pulling them out and making "snow" and indoor snow angels. Later we would gather them all up in a basket and fill two bowls with water and food coloring (one red, one green) Then we'd soak the tissues in the water, tear them into smaller chunks and press the colorful red and green bits into star-shaped cookie cutters,and around a dry noodle in one side to leave a hole so that we could tie a ribbon through it for hanging it on the Christmas tree.

The reality:

The boys did some good pulling out and scattering of tissues and had some fun throwing them into the air.

But soon they distracted each other from the fun activity and abandoned the tissue boxes several times to start pounding on each other (as toddlers will often do when you really want them to enjoy an activity you've put some planning into). But in between "time-out" musical chairs they had a good time playing and throwing Kleenex at each other. When it came time to make the ornaments Zayden must have been hungry because he took a bite of the uncooked pasta noodle (he didn't like it much and spit the pieces out fairly quickly, lol) and tasted the colored water that dripped from his fingertips, but we forged on and pressed that wet kleenex into the cookie cutters, switching colors at one point so that we could make lovely mingled red and green ornaments...except for the fact that red and green food coloring mixes together to make a hideous gray, which isn't exactly festive. So Fintan and I got the food coloring out and dripped red and green on our ornament. He really liked that part.

And here is the result:

They will take some time to dry but I'll post later with an update on how they turned out.

Notes for next time:

I'd probably divide this into two separate activities. Let the toddlers (or perhaps it would be more successful with one bored toddler) empty the tissues at leisure and play with the results for a while. Throw them in the air. Make snow angels. Let them sweep them around the floor with a broom maybe. Then before they get bored, gather them all up together and put them into a basket for later. Then, when making the ornaments I'd stick to one food color choice per ornament and drip dots of the same color on top for contrast to avoid icky gray results. Oh, and make sure your toddler isn't hungry. ;)

I also imagine doing this with other types of cookie cutters to make temporary toys (we have dino cookie cutters for example), so it can be an anytime activity not just one reserved for the holidays.

Stay tuned for an idea of what to do with the empty tissue box... ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bring Joy

I was in a car accident last Friday. It was at night, it was raining and it was my fault. Both boys were with me at the time and the collision happened on Coen's side of the car. The boys didn't even know it happened, the contact was so minimal, but I was horror stricken by what might have happened. I've relived it in my mind numerous times since, with a devastating twist at the end.

Of course, I told myself, and anyone who would listen, that I'd be driving like a timid old lady from then on. But then...I didn't. I mean, I've been careful, and several times even reminded myself to sit up straighter and pay attention, but I've found myself more than once sliding into that driving trance that is so easy to fall into. Does anyone else do that? Where I'm driving roads that I'm familiar with. I'm not hyper alert, I'm not on the edge of my seat. I'm not gripping the steering wheel with both hands...in short, I'm not where I said I'd be.

This is a definite character flaw with me. I forget things way too easily. Here's a (silly, but true) example: I'll be carrying my keys towards the house and repeating to myself "I'm going to hang these keys up right when I walk inside. I'm not going to lose them again." Then somehow while taking that last step from the stairs to the house I lose the thought and next thing I know I find my keys in the back of the refrigerator and I'm fifteen minutes late for something important.

I WANT to do better. I want to remember all of the things I want to remember (hug Fintan instead of losing your temper; sing to Coen don't sit in silence) without them rattling around and getting lost in the hubbub of my brain. So I've decided to try to replace all of the noise in my head, the checklist of how to be a better person and a better mommy, with one phrase: "Bring Joy". Only two words so even I shouldn't forget. Bring joy to my kids. Bring joy to my husband. Bring joy to my friends and to strangers. That encompasses the most important of my to-do list anyway---even the car rides because it will certainly bring me and my husband joy to keep our kids safe! Bring Joy.

And let go of the superstitions. Acting happy will not bring misfortune upon me and my family. Being happy won't call down Fate's wrath (plug your ears, Fate). Life is so fragile and it's so important to live it joyfully. I'm going to start now.

As for my keys? Well, I'll just have to hire a personal assistant.