Guest Blogger Bio: Wendy Berube is a San Clemente, CA resident, and mother to 13 month old twin boys. She is a teacher by profession and has taught students from pre-K through high school seniors. She maintains a column in the San Clemente Patch called Moms Talk. Her mission is to build a community of support for Moms and their families in San Clemente. Check out her articles and join the discussions at http://sanclemente.patch.com/search?_utf8=%E2%98%83&keywords=Moms+Talk&x=0&y=0
I was never really a health food freak. I ate my share of greasy pizza, fast food and boxed macaroni & cheese. Since I grew up in Laguna Beach, I was definitely aware of watching fat and calorie intake (you can’t pig out too much when you spend your entire summer in a bikini), but I didn’t really eat very healthy. I was more into the “fat free” anything and diet soda. Then I found out what is in those foods.
My big epiphany came from reading Skinny Bitch, a book advocating veganism. This book is full of scary and disgusting facts about the food industry, the slaughterhouses, and the government agencies that were designed to protect us. I did not become a vegan after reading this, basically because it is too difficult and I don’t like tofu. I did, however, become a vegetarian. This lasted through my pregnancy, but when my twins were born last April, I was so anemic that my doctor was contemplating a blood transfusion.
Since I was going to try to breastfeed my boys, I wanted to keep my body as clean as possible. I wanted to stay away from the hormones, antibiotics, and bad juju from eating animals, but with the increasing demands on my body from breastfeeding twins, I had to go back to eating meat. Then I read Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which introduced me to grass fed beef and free range chicken.
When it came time to transition the babies to eating food, I was not about to feed them baby food made in a factory somewhere, with preservatives and God only knows what else in them. The FDA and USDA claim to protect our food supply, but really they will allow appalling things to be added to our food without even requiring it to be labeled. The only way for me to know what was going into the pure, clean perfect bodies of my babies was to make the food myself.
At the beginning, it was easy and amazingly cheap. I could buy a 10lb. bag of organic carrots at Costco for $4.29. That bag, if I were to use it all to make baby food, would yield approximately 175 ounces of baby food. Now, an average 4 oz. jar of baby food costs about $.99, $1.29 if you are talking organic. That’s roughly 25 cents per ounce. My homemade carrots cost less than 3 cents per ounce. Frozen peas, green beans, squash, and sweet potatoes were also easy and inexpensive.
All I would do is steam the veggies and then puree them in a blender with some of the water from the steamer. After a while, I branched out and began mixing them. I would combine potatoes, broccoli, spinach, carrots and parsnips and steam them. Then I would add some cheese and maybe even some small pasta like orzo. Not everything I made was a success. I learned that cauliflower was not a favorite, even disguised with other flavors. But I had fun trying different things.
I had two different cookbooks that I got ideas from; Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes, and Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel. From there, I made up my own combinations as I found out what my boys liked and as they were able to eat a wider variety foods. When my pediatrician told me to include meats, I began making stews and soups (with free range and grass fed meats, of course). Since they were getting teeth at this point, I would put the stews through a food mill instead of blending them so that they could learn to chew the bigger pieces.
I also use the crock pot to make shredded chicken at the beginning of the week, and then I can add it to various dishes throughout the week. I put 2-3 chicken breasts in, and pour a can of beer over it. The alcohol cooks off, but the barley and hops give the chicken a richer flavor than water, and the carbonation makes the chicken tender and easy to shred. One of my new favorites that I came up with is based on a recipe that I would make for my husband and myself. My boys love it! I will share it with you.
1 butternut squash
1 package cream cheese
¼ cup orzo or other small pasta
Shredded chicken (optional)
Salt and pepper (optional)
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and put facedown in an ovenproof dish with about ½ inch of water in the bottom. Cook squash for 1-1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the squash. It should yield to the touch of your finger on the outside when done. In the meantime, cook orzo or pasta according to package directions. Let squash cool for about 10 minutes, then scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Add the cream cheese and orzo, and season to taste. Mix well and let cool before serving it to your little darlings.
Have fun experimenting with fun and healthy foods to feed your children. They will become better eaters, and you can rest easy knowing that you are giving your loved ones the best, healthiest, tastiest food possible. Happy Cooking!