Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homemade Baby Food

With Ava's six-month birthday quickly approaching, we are about to embark on the solid food journey. I can tell that she is totally ready for this transition, but I have been waiting as long as possible because bottles are just so darn easy! While I am sad that this means Ava is growing up, it will also be a fun (and messy) new step.

As someone who loves to cook, I decided to attempt making Ava's baby food. And after Josh asked if I was going to have time to make her food since I am not a stay-at-home-mom, it made me even more determined to do so (even though breastfeeding may not have gone exactly as planned, I can sure as shit make my daughter some yummy, organic food!).

I like knowing exactly what is in her food, and as an added bonus, it is cheaper than buying it all. Once it is no longer 100 degrees outside, I am going to get even more granola by purchasing locally-sourced fruits and veggies at the Dallas Farmer's Market.

Before taking on this task, I polled my friends on Facebook regarding what tools they use for making baby food, and got lots of great advice. Ultimately, I decided to go with using a steamer basket and food processor in lieu of purchasing an expensive all-in-one baby food maker. This is primarily because I wanted the ability to make bigger batches...and I have also been wanting to buy the Calphalon steamer basket/pasta insert that goes with our pots anyway.

The thought of switching Ava to solid food is a bit daunting...not only because I have no idea what/how much to feed a baby, but also because of all the foods you are supposed to avoid until they are at least a year old. So I have been scouring the Internet, and found a few good resources, including Wholesome Baby Food and Weelicious.

I also really love this post on the styleberry blog. I bought both cookbooks that she recommends, and I especially love her suggestion of freezing baby food in these Tovolo ice cube trays before transferring them to Ziploc bags for long-term storage.


Since I will have to pack Ava's food for daycare every day, I also bought a couple different storage containers to send the frozen cubes in.

These glass containers are made by Wean Green.


And these are plastic OXO Tot Baby Blocks freezer containers.


 I am also super excited to try these Freshfoods Fill & Freeze Pops!!

For my first go at making baby food last weekend, I made carrots, apples, pears, and sweet potatoes. Luckily, all the recipes for basic fruit and vegetable purees are pretty simple.

Basically, you wash...


 peel if necessary (it is better to steam fruits like apples and pears in their skins to retain more nutrients)...


chop (and core if necessary) and steam (or bake)...


and puree (or mash once the baby is older).



When the baby is young and needs a very smooth puree, you can also push the pureed food through a mesh strainer with a spatula to make sure all pieces of peel, etc. are removed.


Then, you fill the trays with the puree (the blog I mentioned above has a great video tutorial) and freeze overnight.


The next day, you just pop them out and store in a Ziploc. (Please ignore the fact that the rest of these pictures are of sweet potatoes instead of carrots.)


I discovered that a pie pan makes for a perfect baby food cube receptacle as it keeps them from going all over the counter when you pop them out.




The one thing that I wish I had known before making these batches was how much of each fruit/veggie I needed to buy/cook in order to fill one Tovolo tray. Below is what I discovered for the carrots, apples, pears, and sweet potatoes. As I make more, I will add to this list for future reference.

Approximately Fills One Tovolo Tray (15 One-Ounce Cubes):
  • 8 apples
  • 20oz bag (frozen) butternut squash
  • 14 carrots
  • 1.5 cauliflower heads
  • 3 chicken breasts, chopped in small pieces, with broth (I cooked the chicken breasts in the crockpot with one cup of water, one chopped carrot, and one chopped celery stalk on low for 8 hours, and then mixed the broth in with the chicken pieces.)
  • 16oz bag (frozen) green beans
  • 5 mangos
  • 8 peaches
  • 32oz bag (frozen) peas
  • 7 pears
  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 5 yellow squash


I had so much fun making it all...and seeing the plethora of homemade baby food in our freezer makes me so proud!

I also totally felt like Diane Keaton making all that applesauce in "Baby Boom" (please tell me I am not the only one who remembers this gem of an 80's movie). 


Let's hope Ava enjoys eating it all as much as I enjoyed making it.

Lots of messy-face baby pictures to come :).


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

With all the hype surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey, I had to see what the fuss was all about.


I knew the book would be racy, which I didn't mind, but I assumed it would at least be well-written and full of good characters. Well...you know what they say about making assumptions. 

While it was mildly entertaining and an easy read, I found the main characters and parts of the story to be extremely annoying. For example:

1) The inner dialogue of the leading lady, Anastasia Steele, is highly irritating and often focuses on the struggle between her subconscious and her "inner goddess." She is like an acquaintance that you can only handle in small doses. 

2) Ms. Steele also refers to her lady bits as "my sex." Blerg!

3) Christian Grey's signature saying is "laters baby." I don't care how extremely good looking and fantastic in bed you are, if you said "laters baby" to me on a regular basis, I would want to punch you in the throat. 

Despite my dislike of the first book, I am one that has to finish a movie, book series, etc. even if I don't love it....just to find out how it all ends. So, I purchased the second book in the series on my new Kindle, which prompted the following in an e-mail from Amazon. 

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You have got to love the juxtaposition of the recommended items.

I will let you know if the second book is any better...but I am not holding out hope. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Like Mother, Like Daughter

I'm so glad I managed to capture this photo of my sweet baby girl trying with all her might to get to my Mom's glass of wine. 


And I can't wait to bust it out when Ava is older and all three of us are enjoying a glass (or four) of some vino :). 

Favorite Things: Dr. Brown's Bottles

I first discovered Dr. Brown's bottles when Ava was having some serious issues with gas after she switched from breastfeeding to bottles. The poor thing was in so much pain that she would arch her back and scream...and I think it was almost as painful for us to watch. We tried gas drops, which helped a little but didn't completely solve the problem. 

Looking for a better solution, I bought a couple Dr. Brown's bottles, and they were fantastic! They are BPA free and the key is that they have two extra pieces which make up the "vent system." 


According to the company's website"the Dr. Brown's baby bottle features a patented internal vent system not found in any other bottle. Our bottle is fully-vented for vacuum-free feeding. We call this positive-pressure flow, similar to breastfeeding, which allows babies to feed at their own pace. As the baby feeds, air is channeled from the nipple collar (not the silicone nipple) through the vent system, to the back of the bottle. Air bypasses the breastmilk or formula which means no oxidation of nutrients."

I know that sounds complicated, but all you need to worry about is the fact that it works! After switching to these bottles, Ava's gas pains went away completely. I was a believer.

We started with the wide-neck bottles because they were similar to the Medela nipples she was used to (note that these are also good to use if you are still breastfeeding because they help prevent the dreaded "nipple confusion"). 


And eventually switched her to the standard bottles, which she preferred. 
The only drawback is the fact that there are two extra pieces to wash. But to me, it is completely worth it...both for Ava's comfort and my sanity :). 

On a side note, I am glad these bottles worked out, because I was not brave enough to try "The Windi" (despite how much I love the NoseFrida). If you have not heard of this lovely gadget before, please read the product description. Although it seems like something that would be featured on an SNL commercial, it is not a joke....although it is pretty darn hilarious.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Getting Crafty

A couple months ago, I was shopping around for some headbands for Ava and realized how ridiculously expensive they can be. So I decided to get crafty and make some homemade headbands/clips.

First, I found some really cute felt and fabric flowers as well as colored elastic at Michaels. And after seeing what they were charging for a pack of ribbon-covered clips, I decided to make those as well. You can get a HUGE pack of plain silver clips on Amazon.com for about $5 (I told Josh I was saving him money this way...I don't think he bought it), and cover them easily using ribbon and a hot glue gun.

I followed the instructions on this site; however, you don't have to use spare clips for drying purposes when using hot glue. 







After we watched a few episodes of "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding," my sister Charlotte referred to this clip as Ava's "traveler baby" headpiece :). 


You can use these clips by themselves (if your baby has enough hair) or clip them onto plain headbands. I also glued some of the flowers directly on headbands. I used this site to figure out how long to make the elastic, hot glued on the flowers, and then hot glued the ends together. 






The only thing I would do differently next time is to place the seam under the flowers so it is completely hidden (but I don't think it matters that much).

I was really happy with the finished products. I also think that Ava makes for a really cute model...but I am a little biased. 




My next project is to make the fabric/felt flowers instead of buying them at Michaels. There are lots of great how-to sites out there, including the one listed above as well as this one and this one

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stewed Green Beans with Tomatoes

I am not a huge fan of veggies most of the time, so the fact that I really like these green beans says a lot. They are also really easy to make and, despite being adapted from a Paula Deen recipe, they are healthy as well. 

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (2 pound) package frozen cut green beans
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

First, mince the garlic.  Chop the onion as well (unless you are using pre-chopped, frozen onion like I did.)


Add the oil, onions, and garlic to a large pot. You could fry up some bacon, use the bacon grease instead of the olive oil, and then add the bacon crumbles in at the end...but in that case, I retract the statement made above about the healthiness of this recipe :).




Then add the bag of frozen green beans, chicken broth, can of tomatoes (including the juice), salt, and pepper.

(I apologize for the quality of the next few pictures. My camera battery ran out, so I had to resort to the iPhone camera.)




Stir it all together and bring to a boil.



Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30-50 minutes depending on how soft or crisp you like your green beans. I like mine on the really soft side (think Luby's green beans). 


Enjoy!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Baby Boogers

Before having a child, I never thought I would devote an entire blog post to baby snot. But I also never thought I would happily use my shirt as a giant kleenex for said snot. So, there you go. 

With Ava in daycare, we have had more than our fair share of colds in the Shepherd household over the past few months. And while Josh and I (now that I am not breastfeeding/pumping) can take a plethora of cold remedies, Ava doesn't have that luxury. 

We have used the traditional method of saline drops followed by the bulb syringe, which definitely does the trick (once you realize that you have to be a bit more aggressive with the bulb syringe than you first thought). However, both are pretty intrusive, and Ava hates them! 

I have found two products recently that are a little less intrusive, and thus a little more tolerated by our little Boogs McGee. First, are these fabulous Boogie Wipes...
They contain saline to help with stuffiness (and those lovely crusted-on boogers) as well as chamomile, vitamin E, and aloe to moisturize delicate (and adorable) little noses. They come in a few scented varieties, but I stick with the unscented ones. Ava still doesn't love them, but she likes them a lot better than the saline drops. As a result, I heart them!

The second product is the NoseFrieda "Snot Sucker"....yes, I said snot sucker. But it is totally not as gross as it seems. I promise. 
This is how the website describes the product: "It's smart; it's Swedish; it's maybe a little strange; it's doctor invented and recommended; it's 100% hygienic due to the included filters; it's fabulously reviewed; and it's a nasal aspirator that ACTUALLY WORKS!" I think that basically sums it up. I like it because it is not as intrusive as the bulb syringe (because it barely goes in their nose) and it really does work. 

The combination of these two products has made for a much happier baby as well as less "bats in the cave" :). 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Barter System

The barter system is alive and well...at least in the Shepherd household. Josh was recently paid for his services on a small legal matter with a case of wine. 


It contained a good mix of white and red wine, including several bottles of my favorite...pinot noir. 

Now that is my kind of deal :). 

About Me

My name is Catherine, but most of my friends call me Cat. I was born and raised in Austin, went to TCU, and ended up in Dallas for law school (where Josh and I met). I decided that being an attorney was not my cup of tea and pursued a career in legal marketing instead. I am now a mother of two attempting to balance family with a full-time job, which is always an adventure. I love: my sweet babies, handsome husband, very large family, and fabulous friends; trying new restaurants; wine; TCU football; holidays; cooking; pajamas; La Croix; reading; coffee; podcasts; Central Market; carbs; the beach; mani/pedis; Anthropologie; binge-worthy TV shows; trivia; French 75s; Pinterest; cheese boards; The Ticket; dancing; Sprinkles cupcakes; The Texas Rangers; fresh flowers; thunderstorms; naps; Tex-Mex; the Texas Hill Country; porch-sitting; ranch dressing; throwing parties; and my job. I hate: working-mom guilt; snakes; heights; waking up early; ignorant people; stomach bugs; paper cuts; green fruit; bad hair days; snoring; the sound of people eating (Misophonia); Miracle Whip; scary movies; bad drivers; pulpy OJ; trimming baby fingernails; and working out. I think that sums it up.

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