Baby food

So, folks, it’s been a while between drinks over here at the blog, the usual reasons (baby, winter, general slackness!), and also because I have been taking far more photos of my baby than my garden! 

Winter has not been kind to my garden or my enthusiasm for gardening – as I reported last time, I planted a couple of new crops, which never went anywhere, and then it got colder, and darker, and I preferred to nap when my baby napped rather than struggle with difficult crops! So, the garden is not up to much – the society garlic, kale, avocado plant and chives still continue cheerily, but everything else isn’t up to much – when spring arrives, so will my enthusiasm! Also, having a crawling baby who puts everything in her mouth is hard to garden with, especially on the cold hard cobblestones in our backyard – I don’t think having her start to walk will make it easier to garden during the day when she and I are home alone, but as the evenings lengthen, I can hopefully attend more to my garden while my husband attends to her 😊

   
   
However, despite my gardening hiatus, my cooking and freezing has continued unabated! My pressure cooker gets a regular workout, as it is definitely cosy warming stew-style dinner weather! I follow some recipes when I have the ingredients or the interest, but my go-to dinner is:

– sauté some onions and garlic, 

– brown the meat (some type of shank or stewing meat, usually red meat rather than chicken, as I haven’t tried to coordinate veggies and chicken yet), 

– then put whatever veggies are on hand with some stock, some herbs, some tinned tomatoes and the meat back in

– cook for about half an hour on high pressure. 

It makes enough for us to have for dinner a couple of nights in a row, and then a few meals for the baby too!

I find that even though I’m currently home on maternity leave, having a small human who depends on you for everything, ie food, entertainment, sleep and waste disposal, doesn’t leave much time for creating gourmet meals from scratch every night! I also prefer to nap when she naps or do other things rather than always making dinner then, so find double up meals such as in the pressure cooker invaluable, especially as they often taste even better the next day when the flavours have developed!

So, baby food – Abby is almost 10 months old now, and we started giving her solid foods around 5 1/2 months. We initially started with veggie purées, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin, then added some fruits, apple, pear and banana, and avocado. Once she got used to it, and went up to 3 meals a day, then we started on meats and finger food such as steamed veggies, fruit, cheese and bread.

It took me a while to get comfortable with her feeding herself, as I was worried about choking, and when they gag, it can be quite scary! But she’s a great little eater, and certainly enjoys feeding herself, so we do a mix of mashed foods and finger foods nowadays for most meals.

The freezer is your best friend when it comes to baby food, because you can make larger batches and then freeze, so there’s always something on hand! I freeze her food in these little silicone icecube trays, the ones I use are Heinz, the bottoms are easy to pop out, which makes it easy to then put the little cubes in plastic bags or containers in the freezer, and then use the trays again for more food! 

  
What does she eat? Well, I’ll do a few posts breaking these up, and try and take more photos so it’s more interesting!

We try and make a mix of carbs, protein and healthy fats for each meal, and portion sizes are still something that I find a bit confusing. For breakfast, it depends on who is feeding her (my husband and I, neither of us morning people, take it in turns to get up with her around 7am and look after her in the morning).

If it’s me, I make extra porridge from my own serving and she has that with some fruit and Greek yogurt. If it’s my husband, Weetbix (the kids ones with less salt, there are mixed messages about salt before the age of 1, so we try and reduce it or avoid it), still with fruit and Greek yogurt. To save time and effort, when I make my own stewed fruit for my breakfast at the start of the week, I mash a bit up for her and then freeze it in the trays so there are easily accessible little cubes for us both! As it’s currently winter, and I try to eat seasonally with fruit, it’s pears, rhubarb and apples, and some prunes in hers to keep her regular! Also, to save money and effort, I have started making her yogurt in the EasiYo maker – to try and delay a love affair with sugar (I still struggle with mine!), we give her Greek yogurt rather than sweetened, and so far so good, she’s happy to eat it mixed with things in breakfast, or mixed with fruit later in the day as a dessert! So I make a batch of plain, then also separate some out and mix with fruit to use for other meals!

Sometimes she’s super keen on breakfast, sometimes she’s not – as breastmilk is still supposed to be a major component of her nutrition til age 1,  I give her a breastfeed first thing if I’m up, so she’s not then as hungry for breakfast til a bit later, whereas we switch it up if my husband is up. She is also becoming very independent and keen on feeding herself, which I’ll talk more about with the other meals, so I’m trying to think of nutritious breakfast finger food – we did pancakes the other day, which weren’t the greatest success, because I foolishly decided to make a big batch at the same time as trying to feed her, which meant I was distracted and she was frustrated, especially as I put the fruit purée on them, making them hard to grasp for her! I have frozen them and given them to her plain as part of breakfast and had much more success, which is good – that’s a tip I have learnt about baby feeding, if at first you don’t succeed, try again at a different time before ditching all your hard-cooked food!

  
Obligatory cute baby photo –  this is her eating breakfast a couple of months ago.

 So, suggestions for finger food breakfasts? What should I put on toast at that time of day?

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Two very different nuts

I was just looking back through my photos to pull some together for this post, and realised how over winter I am – it’s been very cold and rainy here the past few weeks, and I had a horrible cold on top of that (coughing + baby in belly = uncomfortable!), so although I am normally someone who doesn’t mind the cold weather, I am definitely keen for some warmth, longer days, summery food and hopefully less rain so my garden actually gets a bit of a chance to grow!! Anyway, that’s my random end of winter rant over 🙂

I did some planting a few weeks ago, of tomatoes, peas, red cabbage, english spinach and broad beans – the rain has probably not helped their ability to thrive, but I can report that there appears to be shoots of all of them, which is positive, so there will be more to report on over the next few months!

In older garden news, let me tell you about peanuts!! More specifically, growing them!

Peanuts
As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I am very much an experimental and haphazard gardener, who likes to plant things to see how they work in a small space, sometimes with great success (cucumbers, tomatoes, I can sense another good summer for you guys!), sometimes with sad results (corn, broccoli, one day I will conquer you!). Peanuts fit somewhere in between these two camps – they were a success, but a limited success, because the yield wasn’t high, but then the effort put in wasn’t high either, so I think it’s ultimately a win!

Now, I helpfully didn’t record when I planted these peanuts, because it was back in the days when I was a bit sloppier about my recording dates. However, I would guesstimate that it was sometime between October and December, as these photos were taken in January and February respectively, and the plant is clearly already quite advanced!

January peanut plant

January peanut plant


February peanut plant

February peanut plant

I then harvested the little guys in June. So, it’s a long slow process to get peanuts. However, the thing I like about peanuts is you just let them grow, no real intervention required!! The plants grow, then form little yellow flowers, which then drop into the earth and burrow down to create the nuts – how cool is that!! The nuts themselves actually grow under the soil, on the roots, and you know when they’re ready, because the plant at the top dies!! Finally, a positive spin on plant death!

Peanuts still attached to roots in soil

The dead plant at the top, soil and peanuts at the bottom!

You then shake the whole thing out of the pot, and sift through to find, voila, peanuts!!

Soil, with peanuts!

Soil, with peanuts!


Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

When I initially bought a ready grown peanut plant a few years ago, the success of which inspired me to plant my own, the vendor helpfully advised that you shouldn’t eat the peanuts straight away once you harvest them, you should leave them to dry out for a couple of weeks, as there is some residual toxicity going on that you want to avoid! So, I dutifully put my small crop of peanuts in a container in a sunny spot in our kitchen for the past couple of months, and am now slowly nibbling my way through them, making them last as they are so few!

Peanuts in container - still soily!

Peanuts in container – still soily!


Peanuts in their shell - see, actual peanuts!

Peanuts in their shell – see, actual peanuts!


Peanut after a bite - not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Peanut after a bite – not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Summary – peanuts are a fun plant to grow, in that it looks pretty, is very low maintenance, and is fun to harvest, but unless you plant acres worth of them, you won’t be making homemade peanut butter anytime soon! In hindsight, there are probably some things you can do to ensure more flowers grow, leading to more peanuts, but I don’t think that would have dramatically increased my crop to the point of making my own peanut butter, which would really be the ultimate goal!

The other nut – coconut
No, I haven’t decided to grow coconuts, even I, with my spatial awareness issues, am aware that a palm tree won’t work in our suburban backyard!! However, I did receive a free 1L sample of Pure Harvest Coco Quench coconut milk, which I thought I’d review for you here. I don’t tend to go in for dairy alternatives, mainly because I don’t have to, I tolerate (and in fact adore) traditional cow’s milk dairy very well, and therefore don’t really need to adjust my taste buds to the other types. I have dabbled in almond milk with cooking, and liked it, but still sometimes find non-dairy milks a little intensely flavoured compared to what I’m used to when milk is the focus of the dish like coffee or cereal. However, in the event that the bun in my oven isn’t so accommodating of dairy, and I need to cut out dairy for a while while breastfeeding, it is good to consider how I will continue to enjoy my breakfasts without regular milk!!

So, when we ran out of milk the other day, I decided to give the coconut milk a whirl. I used it in my porridge for around 4 days, in my coffee and in one of my late night cereal snacks (bub gets hungry in the middle of the night!). I found that I could taste it in my coffee and cereal, and while not unpleasant, as it is quite a nice flavour, it would probably take a bit of getting used to if I was to use it full time. However, in my porridge, although the consistency looked a bit different (see below), it tasted almost the same, which is positive for me, as it means it functions well as a replacement for my warm breakfasts, and is likely to be able to be adapted to other breakfasts as well.

Coconut milk porridge cooking - the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

Coconut milk porridge cooking – the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

So, on the whole, a thumbs up from me – it is easy to use, store in the fridge like normal milk in a carton, shake before use and away you go!

Yo yo yogurt!!

In my continuing quest to be more organised, be more organic and save money, I spent Sunday afternoon creating food for the week – something very cathartic about having snacks and meals ready to go!

I baked bread (using our lovely bread maker and a soy and linseed packet mix), made meatloaf for dinner for Sun and Mon nights (see photos below – super yummy!):

Meatloaf

Meatloaf!!


A hearty winter dinner!

A hearty winter dinner!


made some chia seed puddings, made some awesome peanut butter and choc chip cookies (will post on those soon!), and then also made yogurt!! I was very proud of my industrious self!

Everything else seems pretty standard in terms of food prep, but making yogurt? How does one do that, I hear you ask?

Making yogurt
Well, I am a believer in synchronicity and signs – one of my friends Carolyn had posted recently on FB about making her own yogurt using the EasiYo system, and I was intrigued. Then, when I was perusing a webpage about money-saving tips (always enjoy thrifty tips!), someone else commented about EasiYo and how cost effective (and easy!) it was!!

I looked it up online, and although you could order the system online for extra shipping costs, you could also purchase them at various supermarkets like Big W or Woolworths, which made more economic sense (even though I love online shopping so much so that the Australia Post guy knows me now!) So, Sunday arvo, after some awesome bargain baby clothes shopping (it’s all so very cute!! And even better when on sale, thankyou Gaia Organic and Baby Bonds!), my lovely husband and I forewent our usual IGA shop and instead visited the larger Woolworths which is further from our house.

We used to shop there weekly when we first moved here, but realised that we usually don’t need such a big shop, involving a bus trip back, as we get most of our fruit & veg from our organic box and smaller shops – also, Woolies on a Sunday late afternoon is a horrible place full of people similarly unhappy about shopping and the impending Monday!! However, we were there early enough on Sunday arvo for it not to be too bad.

This long ramble ends happily, as while I had planned on going to Woolies for the EasiYo purchase, I completely forgot about it once we were there(baby brain!), and thankfully my husband has an amazing memory for random things that I tell him, as he saw it, said ‘didn’t you want one of those?’, and voila, we got it! It’s also super cheap – the whole contraption is less than $20, and sachets of the yogurt stuff is only around $3.50 a pop!

It was very easy to use – you just put some water in the canister, add the sachet of yogurt mix (I chose vanilla to start with), shake around, fill with more water, then put boiling water in the bigger container, put the canister in and put the lid on, and leave overnight! Out of the fridge, to allow the starter to create yogurt, you refrigerate it once yogurt has occurred.

I was sceptical, I must admit – I thought it either wouldn’t work, or would be very weird looking and tasting.

Monday morning, I opened it up, and there was yogurt!!

A bit mottled on the top (whey settling, methinks), but once you got down into it, it was lovely and creamy-looking.

The first spoonful of the goodness!

The first spoonful of the goodness!


A little bit further into the yogurty goodness!

A little bit further into the yogurty goodness!


And the taste? Awesome!! Just like the ones I usually eat, sweet, not too sweet, and quite a light texture!! The wheyey bit on the top also tasted great, nothing wrong there!
Stirred around

Stirred around


On my porridge, just like from the store - get in my belly!!

On my porridge, just like from the store – get in my belly!!

I had checked the pack to make sure I wasn’t getting too much extra sugar, and it ends up being the same as the other yogurt I get in terms of sugar and calories, and a bit better on calcium and fat! And for less than half the price – my 700g of organic goodness normally costs around $7, whereas I made 1kg for $3.50!!

Full canister of yum!

Full canister of yum!


Funky container to make yogurt!

Funky container to make yogurt!

It lasts 2 weeks in the fridge – EasiYo for the win!! And the real test – husband verdict (he was also quite sceptical) was “this is great, we should buy a second container to make plenty for us both to eat during the week!”

It comes in lots of other flavours, as well as natural, greek, and low fat – I have a sweet tooth, so enjoy the vanilla one, but will also experiment with the greek and natural. I also prefer to add my own fruit flavourings to things, and as I currently use this on my porridge, which already has plenty of fruit and flavour, this is a winner!! It is super easy in terms of mixing and leaving

So, there you go, not quite from scratch as I use their sachets (although I read that you can use milk powder and a bit of the leftover yogurt as a starter for a similar effect, will try that in the future too!), but definitely something homemade and cost effective that I would not have expected!!