Baby food made easy

The garden has been a source of energy, nutrition, and joy for me and my husband. When we had a baby, it became so much more. It is a place to teach our child about the ecosystem of life, real food, colors, textures, and responsibility. And as our baby begins to eat solid foods, the garden has provided the majority of his nutrients. I can’t think of a better source of food than the fruit and vegetables grown in our own backyard. dsc_0117

You might be thinking, “are you serious?” First, you want me to find the time to make baby food and on top of that, you want me to grow the vegetables and fruits? Of course not! But maybe.. a little bit. How about I provide a few easy baby food recipes for 6+ month olds. Maybe you try these and then realize you can grow most of the vegetables in the recipes and decide to try gardening? Just throwing it out there!

In all reality, I didn’t quite know what foods/recipes to start with for my baby, so below are a few ideas that have worked for us. As to how this relates to gardening? Children are one more reason to try growing food, even a pot of tomatoes. Whether they are babies, toddlers, or teens they can learn from being a part of the gardening experience and hopefully build a love for real food straight from the dirt. dsc_0113

If you are certain that you don’t want an edible garden, sign up for a CSA or head to the Farmer’s Market to gather these vegetables and fruits. Include your child in the experience so that they can develop an appreciation for their food. 

My top 6 baby food recipes for 6+ months

When making baby food, my goal is to make a lot of it at one time. Prep all of the ingredients, and then combine them in different ways to create a variety of purées and finger foods, then store and/or freeze.

Your grocery shopping / garden harvesting list for the following recipes:

1 bunch kale – wash, tear into smaller pieces (remove from stem), steam

2 pears – peel and cut into chunks (no need to steam)

5 large carrots – if organic / from the garden I do not peel, wash, cut into small chunks, steam

1 can white/ great northern beans – wash and drain

1/2 cup lentils (uncooked) – cook in broth (vegetable or chicken or whateverdsc_0107 you have on hand)

1 apple – peel, cut into chunks, steam

2 handfuls of green beans – wash and steam

1 bunch of spinach – wash and steam

2 beets – peel, wash, cut into chunks, and steam

1 banana and/or 1 cup frozen/fresh blueberries – no prep needed

Once you have prepared these items, you can mix and match to create the recipes below. The allocated amount of each ingredient is a rough estimate. Feel free to add however much you want of each of the prepared ingredients above. The below assumes that you have already peeled, washed, steamed, etc.

Carrots, kale, pear purée
½ of the prepared kale 
1 pear
1/2 of the prepared carrots dsc_0100

Lentils, carrots, white bean purée
½ cup lentils
1 can white beans
1/2 of the prepared carrots 

Carrot purée or finger food
If you have leftover carrots, either keep as steamed chunks for baby finger food or purée and add a little cinnamon.

Spinach, apple purée
½ of the prepared spinach
1 apple

Green beans, pear, kale and/or spinach purée
Prepared green beans 
½ to 1 pear
Any remaining kale and/or spinach

Beets, blueberries, banana purée (Beets are recommended for 8+ months)
Prepared beets 
1 banana and/or 1 cup blueberries

Always feel free to add cinnamon, sage, mint and other spices to the purées for some added flavor.

This will make a lot of food, prepare to freeze and store it.

You can easily make these recipes by steaming the fruits and vegetables in a pot and blending them together in any blender. However, if you want to get fancy, I recommend this all-in-one BEABA Babycook – Sorbet baby cooker.

Freezing and storing baby food

When you are first starting solid foods, your child may eat closer to 2 ounces per meal. As you near 8-9 months your child may be eating closer to 4 ounces+ per meal. 

I recommend to have a variety of 2 and 4 ounce storage containers. These OXO Tot containers are great for storing and freezing OXO Tot 12-Piece Baby Blocks Set

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If you do make all of the food above, you will most likely need more containers to freeze the food. In this case, I love these Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays

Or of course, just a good ol’ ice cube tray works perfect Kitch Easy Release White Ice Cube Tray, 16 Cube Trays (Pack of 4)

If you use ice cube trays, when the food is frozen, remove it from the trays and put into ziplock bags. Label the bags with the recipe name and date you prepared the food.

When you need the food, put the cubes into a bowl or into reusable food pouches. There are double zippers at the bottom of this pouch, Reusable Food Pouch (6 Pack – Medium) – Easy to Fill and Clean – Double Zipper Means No Leaking – Perfect for Homemade and Organic Baby Food – Suitable for Babies, Toddlers and Kids of All Ages, to insert the frozen food cubes or fill directly with fresh food and then freeze.

Lastly, if you are feeling inspired and want to get a little fancy with your baby food making, check out this cookbook Bébé Gourmet: 100 French-Inspired Baby Food Recipes For Raising an Adventurous Eater

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration to try making your own baby food and even more so, include your child in the food experience. Whether that be growing food, exploring a Farmer’s Market, or cooking together. There is so much to learn from food and it is more fun to enjoy it together!img_4858

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Winter squash + pumpkin recipes and planting

Confession: I totally missed the memo on planting winter squash. I was so focused on summer squash, that I wasn’t even thinking about growing my own fall decorations and more importantly, delicious fall and winter food. dsc_0087

So here we are, in the midst of fall and all of its glory. With Halloween right around the corner, pumpkins line patio steps and apartment balconies, and grocery bins are bursting with squash and pumpkins. And I suddenly realize that I want winter squash, of every kind, to line my steps, to spice up my fall decor, and of course, to eat!

Note to self: Plant winter squash and pumpkins (and gourds) next year (you should too). They are easy to grow and inexpensive (but do require some space).

What to plant:

  • Winter squash: acorn, delicata, butternut, and hubbard
  • Pumpkins: for carving and sugar pumpkins for eating
  • Gourds: if you have spacedsc_0086

When to plant: Direct seed in mid May. Winter squash need more time to mature than summer squash. You can also direct seed to grow your own transplants.

Reality check: We are well past May, so the opportunity to grow winter squash has passed, but it is added to the list for next year. The good news! Winter squash and pumpkins are readily available at the Farmer’s Market, Pumpkin Patches, and the grocery store.

NOW, getting to the actual motivation for this post – I encourage you to decorate for fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving with winter squash and sugar pumpkins. They are beautiful, provide bold color, and the best part, when you are done using them as your autumn flair, you can eat them! So your decorations don’t go to waste. 

I have compiled a list of my favorite recipes that use an array of winter squash varieties and pumpkins. Check these out for some inspiration. 

Recipes for winter squash and pumpkins:dsc_0091

Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter from Smitten Kitchen
Squash: you can use any variety
Are you kidding me? Pancakes for dinner?! Really they are for any time of day. Yummy!
Smitten Kitchen is an all time favorite of mine, check out her fabulous cookbook: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook.  

Slow Cooker Butternut Squash + Apple Soup from The Natural Nurturer
Squash: Butternut
Slow cooker? Say no more! Any recipe using my crockpot is worth trying – nothing better than the smell of dinner when you walk in the door after a long day! Not to mention healthy and delicious.
I have been following The Natural Nurturer for her easy, wholesome recipes that are intentionally crafted to be healthy, delicious, and family friendly. Check her out!

Chicken Sausage + Kale Stuffed Squash from Simply Real Health
Squash: Delicata
Not only is this recipe sweet and savory, but it is easy and healthy. Plus, 100% seasonal! I am still growing carrots and kale, and just finished harvesting my zucchini. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Farmer’s Market right now.
Sarah from Simply Real Health is the Queen of healthy, wholesome, tasty recipes that are designed for the seasons, so you can truly eat real food farm to table. Check out her cookbook: The Simply Real Health Cookbook: Easy Real Food Recipes For a Healthy Life, Made Simple.

Roast Pumpkin with Honey and Feta from Not Quite Nigella
Squash: any variety
I love this recipe – so simple and flavorful and you can apply it to any variety of squash or pumpkin.

Warm Winter Kale and Delicata Squash Salad with Maple Vinaigrette from Do You Even Paleo?
Squash: Delicata
Everyone needs a “go to” warm, delicious fall and winter inspired salad. Plus, if you still have kale in the garden, you can use that too!

Classic Baked Acorn Squash from Simple Recipes
Squash: Acorn
So simple and easy and NEVER disappoints. Pairs perfectly with just about anything. Plus, it is even a good leftover! Full of nutrients, regardless of the yummy brown sugar and butter.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Six Ways from Wholefully
Pumpkin
Whatever you do, don’t forget to roast your pumpkin seeds. I personally prefer the basic olive oil + salt. But may have to give one of these six other options a try this year!

What are your favorite recipes using winter squash and/or pumpkins? Please share!

And come May 2017, don’t forget to plant your winter squash!

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How to put your garden to bed

Just last weekend, I had the opportunity to take my very first Seattle Tilth veggie gardening class. It was awesome! It really hit me that I truly love gardening, actually love it so much that I get amped up talking about the soil ecosystem. I know I’m excited about something when I actually arrive early, and it did not disappoint.img_5862

I chose to take this class “Put Your Garden to Bed” because I always struggle with actually knowing when to call it quits and how to make the most of my garden during the winter. This class provided a plethora of knowledge, but to keep it simple, check out my key takeaways specific to a garden in the Pacific Northwest.

Soil is everything. I have said it before and I will say it again and again, the health of the soil ecosystem directly correlates to the health of the plants. Healthy soil is full of organisms that convert organic matter and compost into nutrients for plants. It is important to continue to build this ecosystem in the winter months. All of the takeaways listed below are recommended with the end goal of maintaining and building healthy soil through the winter months.

Remove warm season crops, keep cool season crops. This was my biggest question going into the class, which vegetables do I need to finish harvesting and remove and which ones can I continue to grow through the winter months?dsc_0025

  • Remove: warm season crops such as beans, tomatoes, squash, peas, basil, peppers, cucumbers, celery, and onions. These need to be harvested and removed as soon as possible in order to seed a cover crop, garlic, and/or shallots.
  • Keep: cool season crops such as kale, lettuce, leeks, beets, and carrots. These are much easier to keep if you protect with floating row cover or a hoop house + row cover. Also, it is important to continue to harvest these cool season crops and not let them sit in the dirt the entire winter as they could rot due to the increased wetness.

Remove any plants that have disease. If you have a plant with a disease, you need to completely move this plant off site. If you live in the PNW, this means to put it into yard waste and not a compost pile. Take it off the property.

Plant a cover crop. This is the money maker! Remember how “soil is everything”? Cover crops not only protect the soil from the impact of the rain, but they inject organic matter and nutrients into the soil, while also hosting a bacterial ecosystem during months when this can become dormant. The best part, cover crops are so easy to plant!

Like anything, there are a million different types of cover crops for different goals, check out this list. However, to keep it simple, just find a soil builder mix, basically a blend of cover crops, and sprinkle this on your soil. Cover with some dirt, water, and let it grow.

dsc_0035About 4 weeks before you plant your spring vegetable seeds, you need to chop back the cover crops and put them into the soil. Basically, use a shovel to chop them up and turn them into the soil. If possible, cover with a burlap sack so that the cover crops compost faster, injecting an abundance of organic matter and nutrients into the soil. Yay!

Plant garlic, shallots, and fava beans. You can grow a few vegetables in the winter months. You need to get these in the ground now. Check out this post about planting garlic.

Mulch. Your warm season and diseased crops have been removed, your cover crop and garlic, shallots, and/or fava beans are planted. Now, you can add mulch to help keep soil temperatures a little warmer. There are several types of mulch, learn more here. I plan to use straw to protect my cool season crop and garlic. you do not need to use mulch on the cover crops. dsc_0027

There you have it, your checklist for wrapping up the garden season and making the most of your garden during the winter months. It is best to do all of this now, in the month of October. So get to it!

My last takeaway – take a class at Seattle Tilth. From veggie gardening to composting 101 to making herbal salves, there is something for everyone. It is always a good time to learn and try something new.

Check out this Crimson Clover cover crop sprouting between tomato plants. dsc_0032