Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hacks for parents who want to eat organic meals and feed their kids organic food, but who are kind of cheap and strapped for time

I was very committed to feeding homemade organic baby food because (1) I suspected it was cheaper than buying organic baby food in jars, (2) it meant less packaging waste, (3) it would taste the same as the ‘real’ food he’d eventually eat, and (4) I’d have to cook for him eventually anyway and might as well get used to that now. Also, I admit the following psychological reason: I couldn’t get pregnant, be blissfully pregnant, give birth normally, or develop a full supply of breastmilk, but GODDAMMIT, I CAN USE A CUISIN.ART. Leaving aside the fact that when I first tried to use the, it wouldn’t start because I’d put the top on backwards, I think I have subsequently proven my skill at using it.

So I thought I’d throw out a few tips for you guys in case you find yourselves in a similar situation – ie, having good intentions but also possessing some degree of cheapness and/or laziness. As a bonus, I am including some fast, delicious parent-food recipes as well.

(Note: someone gave us this book – Le Petit Appetit – as a baby gift, and it has been extremely useful. Normally, I’d link to Ama.zon, but I am mad at them right now for an Orwellian customer-service experience that they recently subjected me to. Anyway, that link is to the author’s site. The book gives you instructions for all the purées, as well as for recipes up to age 4. It’s divided up by stage – 4-6 months; 6-9 months; 9-12 months; etc. It gives both stovetop and microwave instructions for most everything.)

1. Making organic applesauce is a pain in the ass (lots of peeling) and expensive (heavy apples x high per-pound cost = all your money). But you can buy normal, adult organic applesauce that just has apples and water in it. Ede.n Organic has one that’s just apples and water and runs about $3.89/jar. The Sant.a Cruz Organic one has ascorbic acid in it, which I think is just vitamin C. The SCO also comes in other permutations (like apple/apricot, apple/blackberry, etc.), which is a nice way to introduce those additional fruits, especially when they’re out of season. If your baby is young and not chowing down the applesauce yet, you can freeze it in ice-cube trays like you would with the homemade purées. eats quite a lot of applesauce now, so we just take it from the jar in the fridge. This is way cheaper than buying the Earth’s baby applesauce or making your own. I do still make puréed pears because he loves them and the smell of poached pears is great, but this is pricy and more of a pain.

2. Some vegetables are more of a pain than others, and so you can go with frozen organic vegetables (which you still need to cook so they freeze OK). I’ve noticed that Cas.cadian Farms brand (and sometimes Wood.stock Farms brand) organic frozen vegetables go on sale frequently. So I stock up and use those – so far, peas, green beans, broccoli, and corn. Two bags’ worth of purées makes one full ice-cube tray (about 18 small servings). You can often get one bag on sale for about $2. The vegetables I still do fresh are sweet potatoes (roasted), regular potatoes (boiled), cauliflower (steamed in microwave), and spinach (steamed in microwave).

3. The Cas.cadian Farms brand organic fruits go on sale less often, but it does happen. Regardless, I use these for many fruit purées since everything is out of season right now. So far, I’ve done peaches and mangoes, and I puréed some uncooked frozen blueberries to mix into yogurt.

4. Puréeing chicken is not as bad as I would have thought. I just roast a bunch of boneless/skinless breasts at one time in the oven, then purée them with some water. It does look a bit like a huge bowl of fleshy clay, but whatever.

Some easy recipes for parents:

1. I just discovered the wonders of the slow-cooker. This recipe – Moroccan chicken – was fragrant, tender, and delicious. I used boneless/skinless chicken breasts instead of chicken pieces, and I served it with Middle Eastern couscous. If you have a slow-cooker recipe that calls for rice, use Arborio rice to make it risotto-like (may take a bit longer). I did this one – spinach, bean, and rice soup – last week. I used an extra can of beans in there as well. It was delicious and worked very well as leftovers.

2. I really shouldn’t reveal this salmon recipe, since people always rave over it and it’s preposterously easy. We eat it often on weeknights at home, but it also works extremely well for entertaining. It's also my go-to thing to take new parents. When I was in California recently, my friend and I made it at a dinner for 14 people. You can sear the salmon in batches and then keep it warm in the oven if needed.

This recipe is for four people. Take four salmon filets (not steaks) and remove the skin. In a bowl, mix together 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp garlic powder, and 1 tbsp pepper. Pat salmon on both sides with mixture. Heat olive oil in stainless or copper pan on high until oil is hot. Sear salmon on both sides to desired doneness. (The sugar caramelizes somewhat and makes a slight crust.) Serve. It’s really good. (For sides, may I recommend quinoa (2:1 water: quinoa ratio, bring to a boil in salted water, lower heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes) and spinach sautéed in olive oil with minced garlic from a jar?)


Michelle said...

If you are ever going to peel and core apples for applesauce, pies, etc, you need to have one of these:

You will be amazed at how easy it makes the task of peeling, coring, and slicing apples.

I've read that there are concerns about re-freezing frozen vegetables, but obviously, your kid is still alive. Is this an okay thing to do? (Sigh) So much conflicting information out there to 'guide' us parents ...

Jamie said...

I love this post. Thanks for all of the great information and the link to the book. I will definitely refer back to this! We still have a little while before Bo will progress to solids but I'm excited to try making his food!

statia said...

I've made the Mini's food since he was about 6 months old. Even if it was more expensive, I still made it, and I liked that I can make different varieties of apples and pears, because let's face it, they get boring after awhile. I have a couple of books, Anabel and another one, Baby Bistro I think. There were a couple of good recipes in baby bistro, but a lot of it was for toddlers, and once I read through the books a couple of times, I started to just throw stuff together (we eat pretty organic and healthy (save for butter, but babies don't need diets!!) on my own, and I really think it made him a great eater. He will eat anything. And now that he's eating solids, he pretty much eats what we eat.