Baby Food 101

Making baby food is one of the best things you can do for your baby’s health.  It is extremely simple to do and easy to stay on top of.  I started making baby food for Liesel the moment I got the green light from her pediatrician ( at age 6mths).  Even while working I was able to manage it and am happy to say I never wasted a single penny on any jarred baby food. A website that really helped me with the whole process was http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com.  This site is full of great recipes and ideas for different kinds of food to mix together.  It is also a great resource for foods into the toddler years and beyond.  Here are the steps to baby food making made simple.

First, buy whatever fruits and vegetables you desire your young one to eat.  One of the best parts to making baby food is the ability to buy as many fruits and vegetables from your local farmers market or grocery store and not having to worry that it will go bad!  I usually try to align my fruits and veggies with what we will be eating that week.  This helped me to not get in the habit of fixing separate meals for our kids ( something both Eric and I feel very strongly about). Second, you need to bake, boil or cook your food so that it is easy to mash.  Bananas, avocados and the like I just let ripen before mashing.  The majority of my food I boiled or baked.  Third, you need to locate a blender, food processor or food mill.  Do not waste your money on “baby food specific” appliances.  They are a complete joke! You already have an appliance on hand that can do the job adequately.  For my food I used our food processor and it worked perfectly.  Mash food until it is completely smooth.  For some foods I would add a little water but be careful not to make food too watery.  Here is a picture of my mashed sweet potatoes  Image Next, you need ice cube trays and plastic ziploc bags.  Pour food into ice trays and cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.  Once the cubes are completely frozen pop them into ziploc bags and label them with the date and food type.  The ice cubes are about 1oz each so it is perfect for measuring out for baby to eat.  Here are my ice cube trays with green beans, sweet potatoes and pearsImage

How easy is that? Don’t wasted your money on the jarred food. You have all your baby needs at home! Because I made my own food for Liesel she transitioned to chunks of food fairly early and very easily!  She had been used to her food being thicker and real tasting.  I also think she is the good eater she is today because of her baby food.  I had her eating avocados, asparagus, all kinds of squash,zucchini, you name it, within the first months that she was eating food. It is definitely worth the time you put into it.  Get creative and have fun with it!  Some of our favorite food mixes were banana-cado,  mango-summer squash, and apple-acorn squash with a touch of cinnamon.  Here is a picture of my Moira Jane enjoying one of her first ‘real’ meals.          Image

What a Year!

I cannot believe it has been a whole year since I began staying at home full-time. What an amazing, challenging, ever-changing, blissful year it has been! I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to stay home with my girls. The decision, however, came with a price. The new”er” car, owned home, and extra cash on hand will have to wait a little longer. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Being able to see my girls first thing in the morning, spending our days adventuring together, and having cuddle time each night are priceless.

Being a stay at home mom is not always the walk in the park people think it is. There are definitely different challenges we face. I think the transition from working outside of the house was a little easier for me because of my teaching background and most recent nanny experiences. When I first made the switch to full-time mom I remember thinking, ” I have to make amazing meals every night of the week, the house must be spotless…” well I quickly realized these expectations were unrealistic, for me at least. I had to decide what kind of mom I wanted to be and where I wanted to focus my time and energy. I really enjoy cooking and baking, but to make big meals from scratch every day was gettiing to be daunting and I found myself spending way too much on groceries each week! Through trial and error I was able to find a happy median. Each week I try to make at least two big meals, then we eat all the leftovers. I usually throw in an easy BLT/ soup night or something that takes almost no time to prepare in order to get a full weeks worth of meals. Cleaning, well, that is still a work in progress:) Especially now that I have a two year old who has her own ideas about where the toys should go ( or not go), ha! For the past few months I have been trying to follow a cleaning schedule that hits the daily basic tasks ( bed, counters, sweeping) and one bigger task each day. This has allowed me to hit all the key areas every week. There are certain tasks like, mopping and vacuuming, that I do more than once a week. I could almost do them multiple times daily! However, I have come to terms with the fact that I am not going to have a spotless house right now. If I tried I think my entire day would be spent running behind Liesel with a paper towel and cleaning spray in hand. And, well, that is not who I am nor desire to be! So, if you come over don’t be shocked if you find crumbs under the table or toys strewn across the floor. I like to think it gives our house more character 🙂

Aside from the challenges there have been so many precious, wonderful moments in the last year. Way too many to count! Watching and helping Liesel learn to count, sing her abc’s, identify all different shapes and colors, and countless other tasks have been amazing. Seeing the love my girls have for each other already is such a blessing. Also, by staying at home, the girls and I are able to spend a little more time with Eric during the day. Due to the nature of his job, there are many nights that he has appointments until well after the girls are asleep. Before I began staying home Liesel would often not see Eric at all on those long days. Now, he can quick pop home and have lunch with us if his schedule allows!

I know staying at home is not for everyone. I just know that I am currently in the job that God made me to do! Never have I felt more contentment, passion, or desire to do anything else. I love my family and I look forward to many more years of staying at home bliss!

It WORKED?!?!

I am still kind of in shock that my yogurt recipe worked!! I had always heard of people making their own yogurt and never really believed it was doable ( well in an ” I am actually going to eat this” way).   The whole process seemed scary, and I was filled with doubt that it would work and be edible. I first tried a recipe a few weeks ago and the result was…ok:/ The yogurt was still a little too runny for my taste.  The recipe did not, however, go to waste. I used it in some smoothie recipes and also in a few batches of waffles. After some additional research and tweaking, I can finally say I mastered my yogurt making!!! YAHOO, no more wasted money on expensive, mediocre, yogurt:)
Ingredients:

1/2 Gallon Milk ( any kind)

2TBL Vanilla ( if desired)

1/2 cup of maple syrup/ sugar. (If you would like to use honey, I usually just add it to the top of a serving)

4oz yogurt starter or any yogurt that contains live cultures

**Before I start with the directions, can you believe that is all you need?? For the yogurt and milk I think I spent less than $5 and it makes 2 quarts!!**

Directions:

Heat milk, vanilla and sweetener in a large stock pot over med-med high heat. I insert a candy thermometer and make sure the liquid does not go over 180 degree ( just until small bubbles begin to form). Image                   Once it reaches 180 degrees turn off heat and let it cool down to 120degrees ( until you can let your finger sit in it with out burning). I use an ice bath in the sink to speed up the process.

While the pot is cooling make sure you have two 1 quart mason jars, which have been sterilized. Once milk has been successfully cooled, it is time for the starter.  In a small bowl combine 1cup of the cooled milk and your yogurt starter.  DO NOT STIR, just gently swirl it around until it becomes incorporated.  Then add mixture to the stock pot. Again, DO NOT STIR, just swirl.

Once starter has been introduced pour mixture into the two jars. You will see some foamy bubbles at the top of your jar, like this,                            Image

Just skim those off with a spoon.  Then put tops on jars and place them in a small cooler.  I put my cooler in my tub.  Add hot tap water to the cooler and fill up to the bottom of the lids.  Then shut top of cooler and leave them, untouched, for 10-15 hours. Yes, that is right, 10-15 hours! I know it sounds so so scary, but it works. I left mine over night in the tub for 12 hours. I was sure I was going to wake up to some horrible, rancid, spoiled milk!

Once your containers have been stored overnight, move them to the refrigerator to cool. After they have been cooled, eat away! You will be enjoying the creamiest, thickest, yogurt around! I even got Eric to try it. He did not think this process would work. But, to his surprise, he loved it and actually went back for more:) This is a must-have-recipe.  And for $5 how can you lose?! Image

Granola Bars from the Store? No More!!

I cannot believe I used to spend about $25 a month on granola bars!  That’s 1/16th of my entire grocery budget for the month, ridiculous. During the spring I became determined to find a great granola bar recipe.  I tried a bunch and either they were too dry, too sticky, or tasted bland.  I finally came across this recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.  I am glad I did, it was an instant hit in our house.  And I am happy to report I have been supermarket granola bar free for 3 months now:)  Here is the recipe, trust me you are going to want to save this one!

Ingredients

4.5c oats

1.5c ww flour

1tsp baking soda

1tsp vanilla

1c softened butter ( I use coconut oil because it adds a delicious flavor to the bars)

1c honey

Mix Ins ( 1 c of each)

Really you can use whatever your family likes best in their granola bars. Some of our favorite mix ins are:

raisins, unsweetened coconut shavings, sunflower seeds, mini chocolate chips, walnuts,  peanut butter ( if you use PB than I eliminate butter/oil)

Directions:

Mix butter/oil and honey together until thoroughly mixed. Add in all ingredients except for the mix ins. Once mixture is completely mixed through you can add your favorite mix ins.

My favorite helper! And as you can see from crumbs around her mouth, she is also the official taste tester:)Image

Once you have added all the mix ins you want, scoop mixture into greased 9×13 pan. Be sure to pat the granola firmly into the bottom ( clean hands work best).Image

Now bake at 325 degrees for 18-25 minutes. Just until lightly browned on the edges.  Allow bars to cool completely before you cut them. I usually cut them into 24 bars and store them in airtight container. Image

This recipe usually lasts us 3 wks. Let me know if you try it and what you think. Enjoy!!

California Lovin’

A few weeks ago Moira and I went out to California to visit the Harris family and FINALLY meet my nephew Leland! It was a trip I had been dying to take since March 24, 2012 when Leland Alexander entered the world. I cannot believe it took until he was 5 months old to make it out there, but boy was it worth the wait! As much as I would have loved to be there only weeks after his birth, having Moira and Leland 5 and 6 mths was a blast.  The smiles, the giggles, and of course the constant steam rolling over each other was such a joy to see! I also had the honor of becoming Leland’s Godmother and was able to be part of his baptismal day. Here are some pictures from our trip!

Getting ready to board the plane.Image

Moira was an absolute dream on the flights both to and from California.  She never cried, even after two flights both ways and two 2 hour layovers. Rock-star baby!! Mommy was is heaven getting to cuddle with this little one in the wrap for the majority of the trips:)                                    Image

The two babies meet at last, only 6 weeks apart.Image

Had so much fun spending time with Tristan! Can’t believe he is almost 5?! Here are a few pictures from our time at the beach                              ImageImageImage

Moira had special time with both Aunt Jen and Uncle GavinImageImage

Cousin Love

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I had such a fabulous time in California, but I was ready to get home to my Eric and Liesel girl! This was the longest I had been away from Liesel ( 5 whole nights!). I was excited for her special time with daddy. I don’t think she missed me one bit! The two of them went to the zoo, played at Mimi and Papa’s pool and even went out for pizza and ice cream!! She did miss her sister and we were happy to be home:)ImageImage

Our State Fair is a great State Fair…

“From dollars to donuts”  Well more like from funnel cakes to pork tenderloin sandwiches to fried pickles to…;) Needles to say it was a fantastically yummy day!

Eric and I had been looking forward to the fair all summer and it didn’t disappoint. We arrived at 9:30 am and ended up staying until 3pm!! There were lots of activities for Liesel to do and of course all the animals to look at.  We didn’t even get to everything!  For days afterward Liesel would ask ” fair today, mommy?” Cannot wait to go back next year when Moira Jane can enjoy it too:)  Here are a few pictures from our day.

 

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Farmer Liesel:)

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Driving a tractor is a lot of responsibility!

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sweet Moira Jane

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Liesel and the prize pumpkin

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The horse shows were a HUGE hit!

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All this walking tired the poor girl out:)

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Our Daily Bread

In the last few months I have been inspired to become a more ‘ homemade’ family.  Not only due to the financial savings,  but also to promote a healthier lifestyle.  One of the first areas I chose to tackle was that of bread.  We go through roughly one loaf of bread a week and I was sick and tired of spending money on supermarket ” who knows whats really in this” whole wheat bread!  However, I had a lot of doubt about bread making. Would I really have time to make my own bread (sans bread maker)? Would it really taste good? How much of a savings is it really, etc… The answer to these questions, is I absolutely don’t have time not to do it. It is delicious and ever so easy to make. I have been successfully making our own bread for over two months now and LOVE doing it. I am not going to lie, there is always an “I am super mom” moment when a golden delicious loaf of bread comes out of the oven. And have I mentioned the smell? Ahh, the whole house smells like a delicious bakery. It has also been very easy to incorporate into my monthly routine. The recipe I follow makes two loaves so I am able to freeze one and end up baking bread every other Sunday (this day works great because Eric is always home to make sure the girls are lovingly cared for). Although the recipe is fairly simple it still demands attention:)
Here is the recipe and pictures for those interested.

31/2c all-purpose flour

1pkg active dry yeast

1 3/4c water

1/3c honey ( can also use brown sugar)

3 TBL Coconut Oil ( butter is also ok)

1 1/4tsp salt

2c whole wheat flour

Directions:

Mix 2c all -purpose flour and yeast in mixing bowl. In med saucepan heat oil, honey, salt and water just until oil is melted ( no warmer than 130*). Add mixture to flour beat on medium for a few minutes. Then add all of the WW flour and change to dough hook on mixer. Knead on medium low speed adding as much of the remaining flour to mixture. You want the dough to be smooth and elastic ( moderately stiff) when finished. Place dough in a greased bowl, covered with a towel, for 1.5-2 hours. Until it has doubled in size

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Punch dough down, then separate dough in half and roll into two loafs. Place in greased loaf pans cover and let rise for an additional hour.Image

Bake at 375* for 30- 40 min ( until hollow sounding).

And Voila!! Two deliciously golden brown loaves of bread. Great for sandwiches or toast. It makes some mean toast!Image