Saturday, November 27, 2010

Feeding Babies and Toddlers

When talking with some friends last night, we were discussing our children's eating habits. They are first time moms who just want the best for their little one, and by baby number 3, I had learned a few tricks. So we agreed I would write out a meal plan for them, with ideas and cooking tips to get their munchkins to be as big of a pig as my daughter is. She has no fear, and would dive into a bowl of taco salad if you loosened your grip. But she also has two older brothers to keep up with. For an only child, they may not care as much about what or how they're eating, as long as they have mommy's attention while doing so. So this is my meager attempt to help these moms keep their sanity while battling meal time.

First, consider who you're feeding. Your baby neither needs nor wants fancy sushi. Simple, healthy meals can be easy and fun. The goal is to get baby all the nutrients he/she needs, while encouraging him/her to try new things. Feedings are a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the trip along the way.

The easiest way to plan meals for my kids is to make a list. I divide foods into categories, then pick one food from each column. How you combine them is only limited by your imagination. NO COOKING SKILLS REQUIRED. I use three basic things to cook: A skillet, a pot, or a microwave-safe bowl. You don't need a fancy baby food maker or food processor. So resist the late night infomercials and save some money! My list is as follows:

Dairy
Milk
Cheese
Cream Cheese
Yogurt
Eggs

Grains
Pasta
Whole Wheat Tortillas
Toast
Oatmeal
Bagels
Pita Bread

Meats
Lean Turkey
Chicken
Beef
Ham
Shrimp
Fish

Fruits
Apples
Bananas
Grapes
Melons
Berries
Peaches

Veggies
Corn
Peas
Carrots
Beans
Potatoes

Sauces and Toppings
Cheeses
Alfredo Sauce
Marinara
Ranch
Ketchup
Garlic Butter
Peanut Butter
Raisins
Soy Sauce

I generally start with the grains list. Am I in the mood for pasta? Craving tacos? Need a meal fast? Let's say I have a hankering for stir-fry. I would pick my pasta. Then onto the meats. I prefer chicken stir-fry. Then I pick out fruits and veggies. I like peppers, carrots, peas, beans, and tomatoes. Then I choose my sauce or topping. Add in a little soy sauce. Maybe sprinkle some garlic powder. Top sprinkled almonds (not for baby, for mommy). And voila! You have an easy dish. Throw it all in the skillet and let it cook while you play peek-a-boo.

Some people can't build a meal on their own, and need clear-cut meal plans. That's fine. Here are some favorite baby/toddler meals at my house:

Tomato and Cheese Pasta
2 ounces of pasta (alphabet soup is fun)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large chopped tomato
1/4 cup cheese (like Parmesan or Cheddar)

Directions: Boil pasta, drain, set aside. Heat olive oil on low in sauce pan or skillet. Add tomatoes and cook until soft, about two minutes. Remove from heat, add in cheese and stir until well blended. Pour sauce over pasta and let cool. Add a side of peas or green beans and a glass of milk and your meal is done!

Eggy Bread
1-2 Eggs, beaten (use only yolks if baby can't have egg whites yet)
1 slice whole wheat bread
1/2 tsp canola oil

To make: Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Dip the bread in, coating all sides and absorbing all the egg. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Place bread in pan and fry both sides,takes about 4-5 minutes. Cut the bread into strips, add a cup of yogurt and some sliced apples. Tip: Plan your meals for the whole day, or at least a general idea. You can cut up one apple in the morning, and serve the slices for breakfast, lunch and snack. Nothing is wasted!

Finger Platter
1/2 sliced apple
celery sticks
carrot sticks (if child has teeth)
shredded chicken or chicken strips
strips of toast or tortilla

Cut food into slices, about 4-5 inches long (so baby's chubby little fingers can get a good grip) Serve a few of each on a plate with 4-5 bowls of sauces. Yogurt, peanut butter, cream cheese, ranch, marinara, hummus- the possibilities are endless! Then just sit back and let them enjoy. Kids have fun dipping and trying new things, mommy has fun watching! Tip: Do this right before a bath, such as dinner or late snack. Kids will get messy!

Other finger food ideas are graham crackers, string cheese (Chloe loves this!), sliced peaches or avocados, bananas and soft fish (like salmon). Let kids enjoy making their own meals.



As for the shopping and having everything ready to go- that's easy! Here's your shopping list:
10 bags of frozen veggies/fruits. Any kind you like- just peas, peas-and-carrots, mixed veggies, broccoli, it's up to you.
10 lbs of meat. Either frozen chicken breast, ground turkey/beef, or a combination of both. Whatever your family likes best.
10 boxes of noodles or pasta. Rotini, ravioli, linguine, spaghetti, pin wheels, alphabet soup, egg white noodles, ramen...there's 100s of possibilities!
10 jars of sauce. Pesto, Alfredo, Marinara, cheese sauce, soy sauce, terryaki sauce- get a variety.
And most importantly- a box of Ziploc bags.

When I get home from the store, I give the kids a snack to keep them occupied while I get to work. I divide everything up. 1lb of meat per bag, 1-2 cups fruits/veggies per bag, 1/2 box of pasta per bag, and just leave the sauces in jars. Pasta can go back in the pantry, everything else in the freezer. Our deep freezer stays stocked so meals are just minutes away. For the fridge, a few packs of plain yogurt, some fresh fruits like apples and bananas, milk, eggs, and cheese. Now you always have a healthy snack on hand! Just pick 1-2 things your child likes to eat, and combine them in new ways.

Anything can be a pizza, taco, casserole, or soup. Pick up a box of Bisquick and you're never more than 20 minutes from a delicious casserole. There are more recipes on the box! We do easy chicken pot pie- mix the dough according to directions, add in chicken and bag of frozen veggies- bake. Easy as...pie! Same with soups. We keep cans of chicken stock or chicken broth, and soups are quick and easy. Running low on ingredients? Throw in everything you have left! You can't go wrong. Chicken, beef, veggies, whatever you like. Let simmer while you set the table, round up the baby and strap him in, and you're good to go!

Meal time shouldn't be stressful, it should be a time for family and conversation. Follow these tips for easy meals and watch for more recipes this week!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Going to the dentist

Since I've been married, I haven't actually made it to the dentist. With no insurance and no money, dental care just wasn't a priority. But I recently started cutting a wisdom tooth, and realized I should probably go. The questions were flying around my head like lightning bugs in a jar. How will I find one? How much would it cost? Can I transfer my dental records from my previous dentist? What if I need surgery? Or a specialist? Can this fit in my work schedule? As the questions mounted and answers remained unknown, I was off to search the internet.
First step was to find a dentist who would take me without insurance. Not an easy task.I Googled every combination I could think of, and still had no answers. But then I came across this website all about dental care at low cost. It seemed like a no brainer. It helps you locate a dentist, offers many dental services such as whitening and specialists, and had affordable payment plans for people like me. They answered all of my questions, and helped me conquer my fears of going to the dentist. Fears of not only the actual visit, but of the bills that would surely follow.
I was starting to get excited about going to the dentist! I could squeeze it in my work schedule, make payments on it, and see a knowledgeable specialist to deal with my combination of false, real and incoming teeth. It was perfect! Now if I could only convince my husband that he should go to the dentist too! With this site, we can start going to the dentist for regular check-ups, and stop avoiding good dental care simply because of cost.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going To Bed?

Upon arriving home shortly after midnight, I *thought* I'd grab a quick snack, maybe a shower, and go to bed. I was quickly reminded I married an idiot and bed time was far away. Sigh... I really don't know WTF he does all day! I called (twice!) to remind him to switch the clothes over, we're having pictures tomorrow morning and I need them dry! Nope. Still in the wash, and the dipes still in dryer. So I switched them over, started another load and folded the diapers. Oh where did my package go? Ah, I see it....spread all over the house. I had it all neatly packed before leaving (I was going to mail it to me, but DH decided to go play and leave me car-less) so it was awaiting a trip to the PO tomorrow. Now I had to repack it all, track down items, and try not to kill him in his sleep. On to dinner....oh, wait. No. He didn't wash any dishes. And the fridge door was open. Had to take care of all that. Then realizing the lack of dirty clothes/diapers, and the abundance of crumbs, I'm betting the kids didn't get a bath. So I go ahead and set my alarm an hour earlier to make time. Where did all the bottles and cups go? Sneaking into the nursery to retrieve them. Then wash, dry, fill and put them in the fridge. Let's pack the diaper bag. Where are the wipes? and the solution? and the wetbags? Of course they're buried in a pile of CLEAN clothes on the floor. Where are you supposed to keep them? Can't pack the clothes, they're still wet. Packed diapers. We're out of formula? You would think that would warrant a call to pick up some. Alarm gets set back another 15 minutes. Maybe a quick shower...wait...WHY is the tub full of clothes (which I'm pretty sure I washed yesterday) and DIRTY diapers? Clean clothes go back in the dirty basket, dipes get rinsed and put in the pail...6 inches away. But where did my shampoo go? Spilled on the floor? Why not?! Adding to the grocery list with formula. I can make due..no...washer is filling up. No hot water. Let's try dinner again. Clean plates? Check. Clean fork? Check. Quick meal? Uncheck. He fed my midnight tv dinners to the kids. Adding muffins to the grocery list, and setting the alarm back another 10 minutes. Let's make sure Austin's school stuff is together. Where's the folder? Backpack? Homework? Scattered about of course! Gather, check, pack and set by the door. Full of crumbs. Pick them up individually so the vacuum doesn't wake the babies. Is that coughing I'm hearing? Listen quietly in the hallway to determine which child. Silently feel thru the closet in the dark to not wake babies. Find, pour and give correct medicine to correct child. Check clothes in dryer...still wet. Maybe if my dryer balls weren't in the toy box they would be done. Reset dryer. Lay out clothes for the morning for all family members (but me, yet to pick out pic outfits). Set Lee's alarm. Double check list of needed items tomorrow. Sit down to breathe. Realize that if I fall asleep right this second, I can get 3 hours of sleep. So much for straight to bed after work. Let's hope my make-up can cover dark circles!