Making baby food made easy

Making baby food

I find it funny when people ask me if I feed my baby “baby food.” What they really mean is if I buy the commercial stuff at the grocery store. So instead of a yes or no answer, I simply say that I make my own. I don’t dedicate a whole day making a freezer full of it either. I spend about 10 to 15 minutes active time on it every 3 to 7 days (depending on variety). For the price of about two jars (2.5 oz each) of commercial baby food, I can have three  4 oz jars of organic carrot purees.

I’ve been making baby food since my 2yo started solids. Now that my youngest is eating solids, I’m back on the baby food making wagon. You don’t need to invest in any of the fancy baby food making gadgets that will only get usage for about 6 months. You can make baby food easily with equipment that you already have. Or if you do need to buy a gadget, invest in something that will get usage beyond the purees.

Cooking Vessels:

  • Rice cooker – do you have a rice cooker? If not, it’s an awesome tool to cook baby food. We have a very cheap 3 cup rice cooker. We’re Asian so we eat a lot of rice. And even with using it almost daily, it’s still running strong after 5 years. If you don’t have one, I recommend getting one and you’ll still have a useful gadget afterwards. Even if you don’t eat rice regularly, it can be used to steam veggies or even make quinoa. Here is a similar inexpensive rice cooker. 
  • Slowcooker- who doesn’t have a slow cooker these days? It’s so versatile and you can make so many things in it.
  • Pot – yep, just a regular ol’ pot.

Puree tool: 

  • Blender – most people probably have a regular blender already. Did you know that a mason jar will fit into the blades of a blender? Who needs a Baby Bullet? I have something similar to this.
  • Stick Blender – This stick blender was something that I invested in getting when I first started making baby food. I like it because I don’t need to transfer the food to another container to puree. I can do it right in the cooking vessel.

Containers:

  • 4 oz jelly jars – These are perfect for storing baby food. And you know what else? These fit perfectly in a bottle warmer so you can heat up the food right in there. According to the box, these are also freezer safe.

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Method for Rice cooker: Making baby food in the rice cooker is so easy. Cut up the vegetables or fruits and put it in the rice cooker. Put in a little water and cover only about 1/4 of the veggies. Put on cover and push the button. When it boils, check the tenderness of the veggies. Normally, they would be tender enough after it boils. You can let it cool and then puree using the stick blender.

Use similar method for pot or crockpot though cooking time may vary. Just check  occasionally the tenderness of the vegetables.

It is recommended that you keep feeding the same food for awhile before starting on another one to make sure that your baby don’t have an allergy to it. So when you start on 1st foods, make sure it’s not constipating foods.

Constipating foods:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • carrots
  • rice

Non-constipating foods:

  • pears
  • spinach
  • peas
  • prunes

Too much of either type of food is not ideal. I like to mix carrots and spinach. For my oldest, I made him a rice porridge a lot when he was small. However, I won’t be doing that for my younger one since she gets backed up a lot due to the fact that she has to take iron supplements and that makes the problem even worse.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase items via clicking on the links, I may receive compensation. However, all opinions are mine. I own or own something similar to items linked. You will pay the same price either way. By doing so, you’ll be supporting my blogging activities.

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Homemade yogurt in the crockpot

Homemade Yogurt in crockpot

We’ve been going through a lot of yogurt lately. I started making homemade yogurt about 5 months ago when Caleb was devouring the stuff every day. I remembered reading from A Year of Slow Cooking that you can make yogurt in the crockpot. I didn’t add any thickeners to my first batch because I wanted to see how it would come out. It was slightly runny. According to Stephanie of A Year of Slow Cooking, it’s the consistency of low-fat yogurt. I don’t eat low-fat stuff (and a 2 yo needs fat for brain development), so I can’t attest to it. But I’ll take her word for it.

My second batch: I added some organic milk powder to it and it was more thick. I had a couple of flops in between because I wasn’t able to keep the temperature high enough (my house was cold overnight– I culture during the day now). I still came out even since I would have spent about the same amount of money buying the yogurt at the store. And I told my husband who used to play video games “…and I gained XP (experience).”

Now onto the yogurt!

You need whole milk, 1/2 cup of commercial plain yogurt as a starter, and milk powder to thicken if desired. I started saving 1/2 cup from the previous batch as a starter for the next batch. I’ve done 3 batches using yogurt from a previous culture and it is still coming out pretty good. The 2nd and 3rd batch came out a little thin because I wanted to go to bed while it had another hour to go. The most recent batch I made turned out nice and thick. I’ll keep going and report back with when I need to buy more commercial yogurt as a starter.

Stephanie says on her blog that you shouldn’t use ultra-pasturized milk. I have used regular pasteurized and the ultra (bc that’s all the store had), and both have turned out fine. I alternate between the two depending on where I shop that week.

Homemade yogurt in the slow cooker

Homemade yogurt in the crockpot

To keep the temperature, I double wrapped it with a towel and a flannel blanket and stuffed it in the oven with the oven light on.

Look at that whey in the above picture! I promised Caleb yogurt in the morning and didn’t take a picture before grabbing a bowlful for him and me. Looks nice and thick! I had about 10 cups of yogurt. That’s more than double the amount of a tub of commercial yogurt for about the same price. That’s a lot of probiotics. Here’s to eating organic at conventional prices! ;)

Homemade yogurt in the crockpot
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • ½ gallon of organic whole milk
  • ½ cup of commercial plain yogurt
  • ½ cup milk powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put milk in a slow cooker and cook on low for 2.5 hrs.
  2. Unplug the cord. Let it stand for 3 hours (or until it reaches a temperature of 115 F (45 C).
  3. Put the milk powder in a big bowl. Take 2 cups warm milk from the slow cooker and pour it over the powder. Whisk until well combined. Add in starter yogurt.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the slow cooker and put lid back on.
  5. Cover it with a towel and put someplace warm for 8 hours.
  6. After 8 hours, place it in the fridge. The yogurt will thicken up once cool.
  7. Save ½ cup as a starter for the next batch.

 

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How to string beads on wire

When I first started beading, I put little seed beads one by one on the wire. That’s the suckers way of stringing beads! Here’s a tool that’ll help you get the beads on the wire fast!

Beadspinner
This is called a beadspinner. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Load seed beads into the cup of the bead spinner.

2. If you are using wire, shape the end into a slight curve. Most spinners come with curved needles. So if you want to string beads onto thread, thread the needle with thread of choice.

3. Spin the middle. As the beads are spinning, insert the wire or needle into the bowl and the beads will jump onto the wire or needle. Continue spinning to get it into a good momentum and continue stringing as many beads as you need.

Beadspinner

Most beaders will have multiple of these with different color beads while designing. However, I’m a lucky chick and my husband built me an electronic bead spinner that gives me the ability to switch out round tupperware containers of beads while designing. I have tried one of the commercial electronic bead spinners (it was not even on the market when my husband made mine with old vcr parts) and it was pretty horrible. It is loud! If you’re going to get a bead spinner, get the wooden ones.

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A day in the life of a SAHM

I used to be ashamed to admit that I’m a stay-at-home mom. When I worked outside of the home, I had an “identity” when people asked about my profession. I was a senior assistant branch manager for a national finance company. It sounds better than what it actually was. What I do now is more important than the wheeling and dealing…so why am I ashamed that I stay home with my kids? Sure, I have my artisan flowers business but all I have time for it is maintaining some level of activity on my Facebook fan page. That is all for now. The kids are 2 1/2 years old, and 6 months old.

I’ve been asked, “What do you do all day?” This is mostly asked by people with no kids so I don’t really take offense to it. They have no context and no idea. I always just answer that I eat bon bons all day long.

Poop buddies. How do they time these things so perfectly for me?

Poop buddies. How do they time these things so perfectly for me?

 

But in case you’re wondering, here’s yesterday. I do still keep detailed notes on Claire’s activities so I know when she eats and poops (in case you’re wondering about the weird times like 1:57 ;) She needs to meet a quota of a certain number of feeds in order to sleep through the night.

12:02 am – Finish middle of the night feeding with Claire, the almost 7 month old.

5:25 am- Claire wakes up again for a feed. Diaper change and feed. She is done by 5:56. I then lie next to her on her bed (she sleeps on a mattress on the floor. We don’t co-sleep…not that there’s anything wrong with that if you do). The hubby comes in and coos her a bit before going to work. I realize I didn’t put the load of cloth diapers in the dryer the night before and had to rewash them. I then went back to bed with her for a bit. She lies there quiet and then falls back asleep by 6:30.

7:00 am - I got out of her bed and got ready for the day. I put away some dishes and washed some.

7:30 am – Caleb (the 2 1/2 year old) had been up since 7:15 and I went to get him up. We’ve been potty training so every diaper change requires a song and dance to get him to sit on the toilet. He wanted baby cheese (Babybel cheese). I promised him cheese if he sat on the toilet. Then we brushed his teeth…which required another elaborate song and dance.

8:00 am – Breakfast for Caleb. We shared a baby cheese. Then I made us eggs and he also had some homemade cashew milk. After eating, he ran around the kitchen/living room causing a ruckus while I cleaned up and swept the floor. He wanted to feed Orange the fish. We fed Orange.

9:15  am – Claire wakes up. And of course, since Claire was getting a diaper change, Caleb wanted one too. Not because he wants one but because Claire was getting one. I took that as an opportunity and changed him first. He sat on the toilet for a bit. I don’t know how it takes 15 to 20 minutes for this all the time. Of course, he had to use “mama and papa’s bathroom.” Claire was on her tummy peeking in from the bedroom wondering what was going on. Then it was her turn. I let her sit on the toilet for a minute too. Because you know… if Claire does it, then Caleb will want to do it too. What a little punk.

9:55 am – Finally able to nurse Claire. She is done by 10:21. Claire was fed and changed so she was good for a little while. I let Caleb watch two videos of trains on YouTube and put Claire in her saucer while I cut up the 8 lb pork shoulder we got at the grocery store over the weekend.

11:00 am – Lunch. Claire was getting antsy and tired. Caleb was still eating. I told him that I’m going to put Claire down to sleep and to “sit on your bum” and not get up from his chair. I tried to rock her so she’d go to sleep quicker. She was all of a sudden not so sleepy. Took her to the living room and Caleb was not on his bum. *sigh*  He had made a poo. I put the fussy baby down on her bed and tried to talk him into getting a diaper change. Claire was fussing to sleep the whole 15 to 20 minutes of changing his diaper. Seriously, he had to do everything himself, lollygags, etc. It’s fine normally but when there’s a crying baby, I feel like losing my lid. Claire did fall asleep for a few minutes in between fussing.

12:20 pm- It’s obvious Claire is distraught and needed comfort so I nurse her. Caleb dumps his giant bag of MegaBloks to play while I was doing done. She finished nursing at 12:46. We then all went into Caleb’s room to give him his nap-time routine. This includes 2 books, talk about shapes/colors, and kiss/tickle/hug 4 times. We do a negotiation. Me: “Kiss, Tickle and Hug 3 times.” Caleb: “5 times.” Me: ”3 times.” Caleb: ”4 times.” Me: ”OK, 4 times.” He thinks he won ;). Claire and I came out at 1:00 pm. She doesn’t seem too tired yet. She gets recharged after a nursing session for a bit. She sat on my lap while I went on the computer for a few minutes and ate some chocolate chips.

1:26 pm- Claire was getting tired. I put her in her Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (don’t laugh…it works like a charm!) I don’t remember if I rocked her or if she fell asleep on her own. Either way, she fell asleep by 1:55.

2:00 pm- I put a load of laundry in the wash, did dishes, and prepped roasted cabbage, eggplant, and my Old Fashioned chop suey with the meat I cut up in the morning for dinner.

3:00 pm- The kids both woke up at the same time. I was going to get Claire first because Caleb had just woken up. He likes to lounge on his bed for a bit. When I walked past his room, he was wailing. So I went to see what was the matter. He said he has an owie in his diaper area. I had been asking him if it hurt for days and he’s been saying “No!” I called the pediatrician’s office and got him an appointment for 4:00 pm. By 3:20, I was finally able to get Claire. I nursed her for 10 minutes only, changed her diaper and we were out the door. We got there just in time.

4:30 pm- We were done seeing the doctor. I nursed Claire for 10 minutes before we left. We got home by around 5pm. The hubby was not home yet. He was having one of those days at work too. I turned on the oven to roast the veggies and worked on cooking dinner. Claire was asleep in her carseat so that helped. Caleb was ranting about wanting food. I gave him some homemade yogurt and granola with a strawberry to tie him over. Dinner was almost done when Claire woke up crying. I held her with my left arm while I finished up the sauce with my right. And thank goodness, the hubby came home at that time. He still had his lunch in his hand. He didn’t even get a chance to eat it at work.

5:40 pm – I change Claire’s diaper and we finally sit down to dinner. And for hubby, lunch and dinner.

6:24 pm – I nurse Claire. She finishes at 7:06. I give her a bath while the hubby bathes Caleb. By 8:00 pm, we’re finally ready to get Caleb to bed. He only wants Mama for that. We do the same sleep routine of 2 books, talk about shapes and colors, then kiss/tickle/hug 4 times.

8:20 pm- I took the meat I had cut up in the morning and put it through the meat grinder for ground pork for a later meal. I have tacos and potstickers in mind.

8:45 pm- The hubby puts Claire down to sleep.  She woke up by 9:15. I nursed her again until 9:57. I showered. Claire had woken up while I was in the shower so hubby was rocking her.

10:31 pm-Claire nursed until 11:05. And I finally went to bed exhausted. The hubby was already asleep.

 

Yep, I eat bon bons all day long.

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Crockpot Granola

Crockpot Granola

I’m officially crunchy now. I made granola! With this on top, the husband happily eats my homemade yogurt now. The yogurt is just a vehicle so he can eat more of this. It’s packed with nutritional powerhouses: flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, oats, almonds. It’s sweetened with maple syrup, chocolate chips, and raisins for that nice chewy feel. I seriously can’t keep up with demand. I’m shoveling it in my mouth as I type this.

This is a recipe that I adapted from Sister Spoon. 

Crockpot Granola
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 5 cups old fashioned oats (not quick oats)
  • 2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2.5 cups add-ins (seeds,dried fruits, chocolate chips, etc)
Instructions
  1. Add oats, almonds, ½ cup maple syrup, and coconut oil in the crockpot.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on low for 3 hours. Prop a wooden spoon so that the lid is slightly open. Stir the granola about every ½ hour.
  4. Unplug. Put in ½ cup of maple syrup, seeds and dried fruits. Mix. If you like the chocolate chips to be melted into the granola, add it in now (I like it all melty). If not, wait until it cools and then add in chocolate chips.

 

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Green meatballs

Meatballs with spinach

Green meatballs…yes, do it! Not only will it stretch out your meat, but you’ll sneak in extra nutrition and hardly notice the difference. I used almond meal instead of bread crumbs that I had left over from making almond milk. It turned out quite delicious! I was going to freeze half of it but it never did make it to the freezer. Yep, we managed to eat it all!

Green meatballs

Green meatballs
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground meat
  • 1 10 to 12 oz bag of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Squeeze out the excess water from the bag of frozen spinach.
  2. Put everything in a bowl and mix well using your hands. Use food grade gloves if desired.
  3. Form into balls and put on a greased pan.
  4. Bake for 30 mins at 400 F.

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What I’ve been working on…

I’ve been pretty quiet here lately. I’ve been busy working with my beads for a very special project, working on the pattern for it, and also taking care of the two kiddos. Baby Claire turned 6 months old and boy, is she an amazing!

Back to the beads. I was contacted by someone to restore some vintage Victorian beaded flowers.
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Plus, I found these beaded hair bands that I did for a custom order last year. While they are not vintage like the above flowers, I love the vintage feel of these two! Enjoy the eye candy :). You can find similar ones on my website. Or contact me there for a custom order of your own.

IMG_3875 Beaded headband by Bead Flora and Jewels

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Congee – Chinese porridge cheaters version

Congee chinese porridge cheaters version

I’ve posted a recipe for congee before. Here’s a fast cheater’s version. Congee is a rice porridge that is boiled until the rice is broken up. In this version, I use already-cooked rice to get this in your mouth in about 1/2 an hour.

This is made using whatever else left overs you have on hand too. I had some shredded pork in the freezer, and mushrooms in the fridge. You sure as heck can use whatever veggies you have. I love using frozen corn and peas too.

Congee – Chinese porridge cheaters version
Author: 
Cuisine: Chinese
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 3 cups water or broth
  • ½ cup cooked meat
  • ½ cup veggies of choice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • green onions for garnish
Instructions
  1. Put cooked rice and broth or water in a pan.
  2. Bring to a boil. Turn down to low and cover to cook until rice is broken down. Approx. ½ hour.
  3. Add in cooked meat and veggies.
  4. Add in salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Garnish with green onions.

 

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Experiment: Regrowing Onions

Regrowing green onions

I’ve been regrowing my green onions for years. But I never really paid attention to how long they lasted. In the past few years, the internet’s been all about regrowing things like onions, lettuce, celery…etc. I’ve tried lettuce and celery but they didn’t really work out after about a month. There goes that extra salad I had set my mind on ;).

So I decided to do an experiment to see how long green onions would last and if putting them in water or soil and cutting them differently will make a difference.

Regrowing OnionsI placed 4 green onions in water. Two I intended to cut half way and 2 I would cut all the greens off.

Regrow OnionsAfter the first week, you can see above how much grew in. The ones in soil grew slower than the ones in water. With the onions on the left, I cut half off. One of the onions in the soil didn’t really grow much so I snipped it all. And the other one I cut half. The ones in water on the right, I cut off all the greens.

Regrowing OnionsWhen Week 2 rolled around, the onions grew in again. You can see that they are more pale and not as sturdy in comparison to the first week.

Regrow OnionsWeek 3…well, not much came in. There was not much after Week 4.

Conclusion: It’s definitely worth regrowing the green onions from the store. You can only get about 3 good cuttings from each green onion. After that point, they will not grow much. I still have the ones in soil but they are not making any more good progress. They are just stagnant at this point.

Some Tips:

  • Change the water every two days, if not daily.
  • Put in enough water just to cover the root so that it does not get slimy. I use even less water than what is in the photos now.
  • If the tops get crusty, trim them. If you look at the green onion in the soil from Week 1, it didn’t grow until I trimmed off the crusty party.
  • Let the green onions grow as much as possible before cutting them so get the most out of it.

Have you regrew green onions? And if you’ve tried lettuce and celery, any tips on getting an extra meal from those? :)

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Easy tortilla pizza

Easy Tortilla Pizza If you have tortillas, tomato sauce, and cheese on hand, you will never go hungry again. For those nights where you wait until the very last minute and still have no idea what to make for dinner, this is an easy go-to meal: Tortilla Pizzas. I remember stumbling upon it on Pinterest and found this recipe from Cookie and Kate. She used an cast iron skillet, but I’ve had success with just using a regular pan. Don’t just make one…make 4 because if you have a hungry hubby and toddler like me, it’ll be gone in a snap.

The little man wanted pizza for lunch and I whipped it up in a snap for him. I used mushrooms, green peppers, olives, and cut up hot dogs (bc that’s what I had) topped with cheese. Use whatever floats your boat or whatever you have on hand.

Do not use parchment paper on the bottom. It will make your pizza soggy (ask me how I know…lol).

Is is 5pm already and you’ve no idea what to make dinner? Make this.

tortillapizza

Easy tortilla pizza
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • Tortilla shell
  • 2 tablespoon tomato sauce
  • Toppings
  • Cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 480 F.
  2. Put tortilla on baking sheet. Place sauce on tortilla shell.
  3. Add toppings.
  4. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.

 

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