Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Take on Baby's First Foods

My sweet baby is now 6 1/2 months old and recently started trying out real food! Since feeding her is on my mind a lot (she begs for it anytime we are in the kitchen!), I thought I'd share my approach on feeding babies.I also highly recommend Lindsay's post on the topic: Feeding Baby Naturally, because she follows a similar thought pattern as myself and is much, much more thorough in her explanations than I am going to be. It is very interesting, easy to read, and the best simple article that I've read on the subject. I'm simply going to share what I have done with my babies, but Lindsey shares the research and reasons behind it. So if you don't have much time, read her article instead of mine because you will be much better educated. :) Another great article is Including Baby at the Family Table from the WAPF website. And if you do have time, I also highly recommend reading Nina Plank's Real Food For Mother and Baby. It is available at most libraries.

I'm all about breastfeeding if you possibly can. I know it is difficult for some people and I don't fault them for it at all. But if it is at all possible, the benefits to both Mama and baby are worth it! So I exclusively breastfeed my babies for the 1st 6 months.

Around 6 months, I usually start introducing foods to my baby. I wait until my baby can sit up all by herself, because that shows me that she is probably developmentally ready. But I don't worry about how much she eats, because at 6 months, she is still getting everything she needs from my breastmilk. I start her out on table food simply to get her used to different tastes and textures, and also so that I can eat in peace! (If she doesn't have food of her own, she is fussing and grabbing at my plate during mealtime :)

With my first baby, I pureed tons of fruits and vegetables and froze them in little ice cubes. But the 2nd time around, I totally skipped all that and was glad that I did. Instead, I just fed her whatever veggies and meat I fixed for my family for dinner. I made sure they were soft enough and would smash them with a fork if they seemed too big. I also added in a lot of butter, olive oil, or coconut oil because babies need healthy fats more than anything. I let her pick everything up and play with it and eat what she could. I didn't feed her anything with a spoon other than home-made yogurt, cod-liver oil, and a soft-boiled egg because they are just so good for her. I wanted her to develop that pincer grasp and good hand-eye coordination as well. So she mainly just fed herself. It was definitely more messy, but much less work since I did not need to puree and freeze. Plus, she was quite entertained and I could eat my dinner in peace!
I'm pretty much taking the same laid back approach with Abbi. I started giving her fermented cod liver oil around 4 months instead of the Vitamin D supplement that most pediatricians recommend. When she started acting like she wanted to eat when we did around 6 months, I first just gave her a spoonful of coconut oil or butter to chew on. Then I let her have fun with some avocado and soft-boiled egg yolks. I've also let her have plain yogurt and fresh cheese from my farmer. I will not give her any cereal because babies can't even digest it well until around a year old. I try not to let my babies have any grains until at least a year, and I'll hold off longer if possible because they need the healthy fat and protein so much more. My goal is to give my babies only real food -- not processed at all. But I'm not ridiculous about it. With Karlie, we went to visit the grandparents and Nina had bought some baby food and really enjoyed feeding Karlie with a spoon and that was fine. I knew that 90% of the time Karlie was feeding herself real food that I prepared.

I've found that around 8 months, my babies start actually "needing" to eat table food more because my milk supply can't quite keep up with their growing bodies. But that's just me. I have friends who have successfully fed their babies only breast milk until one year old. But my body just can't seem to do it. Instead of supplementing with formula, however, I just make sure my babies get enough fat and protein from real food. I continue nursing my babies every 3-4 hours during the day and give them lots of healthy, real food. I've also found that my milk supply keeps up better if I continue to wake them for a late night feeding before I go to bed even once they start sleeping through it. I know many people wouldn't want to mess up the sleep cycle, but it is worth it to me to be able to keep up my milk supply.

Eggs are truly the best food that I can give my babies. They have plenty of protein and iron and fats. They actually contain every nutrient that your body needs other than vitamin C! So I tried to make sure Karlie ate at least one egg yolk every day once she was about 8 months. (And not all eggs are created equal -- please read THIS POSTto see why free range, pastured, not-from-a-store-eggs are soooo much better! Quick synopsis: to have healthy eggs you need a healthy chicken. A healthy chicken needs lots of sunlight and bugs to eat. You can't find healthy eggs at a grocery store -- you have to get them from the farm!

I also gave Karlie a lot of avocados -- a great first food for babies because of all the healthy fat. I usually mashed it up with good quality olive oil or coconut oil to give her even more healthy fats! Some times I would mix it with plain home-made yogurt because yogurt is good for her as well and I wanted her to get used to the sour taste of unsweetened yogurt. Avocados are the perfect healthy "fast food." I kept them on hand in case I sadly did not make a healthy enough meal for my family and wanted to be sure she ate real food. They were also my first choice to take for Karlie when we went out to eat because they are just so easy!

So there's my quick overview of how I approach feeding babies. I know it might not work for some children if they have a gagging problem or other eating issues, but it has worked well for my girls so I thought I would share. Feel free to ask any questions!

**And as a disclaimer -- I am not a doctor in any way and my advice should not be taken as professional. I am simply fascinated (my husband would say obsessed :) with nutrition and have read a lot about it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hospitality at our House

In a previous post, I explained how my family began a weekly routine of having others to dinner each week. Today I thought I would share a couple tips for preparing dinner for a crowd (with 3 littles running around) and some of our guests' favorite recipes.

-- Without a doubt, my biggest piece of advice is to do as much as possible ahead of time! If I have to spend an hour fixing dinner right before our company comes, my sweet little ones will inevitably choose that hour to make a big mess, get in an argument, and/or have a random accident and require Mommy's attention. It never fails. So I almost always choose meals that I can prepare ahead of time. And most of the time, I have prepped the meat a couple of weeks ago and can just pull it from the freezer. I usually get around 6 pounds of ground beef at the Farmer's market at one time. The next day I brown it all at once and season it according to my monthly meal plan. I usually make around 2 pounds of taco meat, 2 pounds of sloppy joe meat, and 2 pounds of seasoned ground beef all ready to use in my recipes. Last week we had taco night for our company and all I had to do was warm up the meat and tortillas! So easy! Our guests had offered to bring the toppings and we ended up with a fun and delicious meal that was not the least bit stressful for me.

-- Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring something. It helps with the cost of having people over each week and usually our friends truly want to do something to help. I often end up with favorite new recipes as well! Last week my friend Mandie made this awesome black bean salsa that I can't wait incorporate into our regular meal plan. Even the single college guys that I cook for often pick up things at the store that we need like buns for sloppy joes or sour cream for tacos.

My favorite recipes for feeding a crowd:

Lime Chicken Tacos -- this is hands down my favorite recipe that never fails to please! I think it originally came from this blog, but I've changed it slightly. The recipe is very forgiving and I just add more beans, corn, salsa, etc to feed more people.

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs. chili powder
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup chunky salsa (we love mango salsa the best!)
1 can diced pineapples, drained
1 can black beans
12 flour tortillas, warmed
sour cream, lettuce, shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro and any other toppings you like

Place the chicken in a 3-qt. slow cooker. Combine lime juice and chili powder; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender.
Remove chicken; cool slightly. Shred and return to the slow cooker. Stir in corn, beans, pineapple tidbits, and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until heated through.
Serve in tortillas with toppings
The Best Sloppy Joes Ever -- This recipe comes from my friend Beth. Each time I make these I get rave reviews and people ask what is different about them... the cinnamon totally kicks it up a notch!
1 lb ground beef
2 T. chopped onion
2 T. green pepper
2 T. celery
¼ tsp. garlic salt
½ cup ketchup
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2-3 T. lemon juice
1 T. vinegar
2-3 T. Italian dressing
2-3 T. brown sugar
sprinkled cinnamon

Directions: In a medium skillet, combine beef, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic salt; Cook and stir until meat is brown and veggies are tender. Drain fat. Stir together rest of ingredients – Spread over meat and cook until heated through.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos -- the sauce on these taquitos is utterly delicious and the mixture can easily be made the day before! I often double the sauce because I love i t so much and pair them with this quinoa and black beans recipe.
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup green salsa
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (juice from half a lime)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Mexican flavored cheese
small flour or corn tortillas
kosher salt
cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, salsa, lime juice, ground cumin, chili powder, onion powder and garlic. Once combined, stir in the cilantro and green onions. Add the chicken and cheese; mix thoroughly.

(If you decided to prep this in advance, refrigerate the mixture at this point until ready to continue.)

Working with a few tortillas at a time, heat them in the microwave between two paper towels until they are soft enough to roll (about 20 – 30 seconds).

Spoon 2-3 Tablespoons of the chicken mixture onto the lower third of a tortilla. Roll the tortilla as tightly as you can.

Place the rolled tortilla seam side down on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until the mixture is gone. Make sure the taquitos are not touching each other. Spray the tops lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or guacamole.

**To freeze: Before baking, chill the taquitos on the baking sheet in the fridge. Once completely cooled, wrap each taquito individually with plastic wrap. Place in a labeled freezer bag and freeze. To bake a frozen taquito (no need to thaw first): Preheat oven to 425˚F and bake for 20 minutes.

Easy Cheddar Potato Chowder -- my favorite delicious but frugal meal for the fall!

2 cups diced potatoes
½ to 1 cup diced carrots
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
1 ½ tsp. salt 
¼ tsp. pepper
¼ cup margarine
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese
½ lb. Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Directions: Boil two cups of water; add to potatoes, celery, carrots, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Do not drain.Make a white sauce using margarine, flour, and milk. Cook until thickened. Add grated cheddar. Stir until smooth. Add bacon and the undrained vegetables. Simmer (do not boil) until heated through.

Breakfast for dinner! The college guys I cook for always get so excited when I make this egg sausage casserole and french toast casserole.
What do you like to make for company? I'd love to have your favorite recipes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

1st year of Pre-school!

Our first year of pre-school is starting up on Monday and I am so excited! I have a lot of fun things planned for my girls this year, but I suddenly realized that I needed to make a schedule or we were just not going to have time for it all. (Is there anyone else out there who stays incredibly busy all day long but somehow only has some laundry and dinner to show for it? :) Here is the schedule I plan to *loosely* follow with my girls. We are only going to do school about 3 days a week but will follow the afternoon schedule on most days because it makes life easier. Karlie usually wants to do everything her sister does, so she will always start out with us and if she gets bored, she will just play with her doll-house or puzzles while we finish the longer read-alouds or table work.

7:30 -- wake up, eat breakfast
8:00 -- Bible Time, weather chart, calendar
8:30 -- get dressed and do chores
9:00 -- History cards memory work, Teaching Reading, manner review, letter of the week, number-line practice
9:45 -- Preschool workbook
10:00 -- snack and outside
10:30 -- daily read-aloud, short book, Brain Quest activity
11:00 -- blanket-time while I do housework
11:30 -- free play while I do housework and fix lunch
12:00 -- lunch
12:30 -- library books
1:00 -- naps
3:00 -- wake up, library books, snack
3:30 -- Activity with Mama (click HERE to see my list of optional activities we will rotate through)
4:00 -- free play or housework with Mama
4:30 -- Make dinner/ free art work (they usually want to help make dinner but if not they can use markers, stamps, stencils, etc at the table in the kitchen)
5:00 -- Clean up/outside time/ watch for Daddy :)
5:30 -- Dinner with Daddy
6:00 -- Playtime with Daddy
6:30 -- Pajamas, singing, Scripture memory, Bible reading, prayer
7:00 -- In bed!

To make my life easier and reduce the weekly planning load, I decided to make a list of all the read-alouds, blanket-time, and learning activities/games I want to use with the girls this fall. (If you want to see my master list, click HERE.) I found this great pocket chart at Amazon and I am using it to show the girls our schedule each day. The best part is that the chart folds up completely flat and I slide it behind my couch (along with our calendar and weather chart) when when are not using it! It also has a pocket in the middle that I use to store my weather pieces, pictures, and extra letter cards.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Little Ones LOVE to Memorize!

Ever since Leah F. wrote THIS POST, I have really been wanting to start memorizing larger portions of scripture with my family. We really enjoyed doing our scripture verses last year, and had even more fun with our "questions," but I really wanted my 4-year old to start getting some context for all the random verses that she was learning. And then once I started reading all about Classical Education and how much children actually enjoy memorizing at a young age and how easy it is for them, I decided it was time to start.
We started with Psalm 1 and are now working on Psalm 23. 1Cor. 13 is up after that. I'm hoping to choose longer and longer passages each time and eventually be able to memorize a whole book without forgetting the ones we initially learned.
We have started adding one more line of scripture each night during our bedtime routine of singing, Bible stories, and prayer. I am blogging about this on our family blog to kind of keep me accountable in doing this with my family... hopefully we will be able to post a new video every other week or so of a new chapter of Scripture learned.
I have been amazed at how quickly little ones memorize scripture... they actually do better than Mark and I and are constantly correcting us when we make a mistake! This is a video of them saying Psalm 1 -- you will notice that they are much more familiar with the 1st part because we have said it so often, and they still need some cues for the last part. But that is ok, because each night that we say it, they remember more and more! Oh and the best part is that they really enjoy it! And at random times during the day, I will hear Karlie tell her My-na baby, "how blessed is the man..." Today Karis was reciting it as she was using the potty. Oh, how I love to hear God's word on the lips of my girls! It both blesses me and rebukes me because I wish it were on my mind more often!
I'd love to hear about your family's Scripture memory – what tips do you have for memorizing longer passages with your children and what chapters have been most beneficial to your family to learn?