30 August 2012

Baby Bites: Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Navy Beans

I couldn't help but take a few bites myself.

Ahhhhhhh, the sweet potato. I'm a fan of anything potato, but eating sweet potatoes is like getting dessert in the middle of your meal. Baby Nerd has loved every jar of sweet potatoes she's tried, so I figured I would give it a go. In fact, the inspiration for this recipe comes from the pouches of organic baby food created by Tyler Florence. We gave them a try when they went on sale one week at Publix. One of the pouches contained sweet potatoes and white beans, which I knew couldn't be that hard to make. Below is the recipe I came up with for Baby Nerd.

  • one large sweet potato
  • two small cloves of garlic, tops cut off
  • roughly 1/3 cup of dried navy beans, soaked in water overnight
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth cut with water (broth is optional; can make this with just water)
  • extra cup of water
  • pinch of ground ginger
  • roughly 1 tsp cinnamon
  • freshly ground nutmeg (I eyeballed this amount since I grated it over the potato once cooked)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub the sweet potato. (Do not remove skin because you will be roasting it.) Poke holes in the potato with a fork and microwave it for 4-5 minutes, or enough to start softening it. Meanwhile, boil the watered-down broth on the stove and add the navy beans once it reaches a boil. Reduce heat and allow the beans to cook while you complete the next step.

Take the sweet potato out of the microwave and wrap it in aluminum foil. Do the same with the garlic cloves, but drizzle them with olive oil before wrapping them up. Place both in your oven and allow to roast for 20-30 minutes. (While they roast, check on the progress of your navy beans.) The potato will come out very soft, and the garlic will have turned a golden brown. Allow your garlic cloves to cool enough to squeeze them out of their skins. Mash the cloves with a fork to make a "paste". Cut a long slit down the side of the sweet potato and scrape out the flesh. When the navy beans have reached the soft-enough-for-baby-to-eat stage, add the sweet potato and garlic paste to the pot WITHOUT draining the broth and mash it all together. Add in the spices and stir until everything is mixed evenly. If the potatoes are looking dry, add the water you put to the side to moisten them. These can be stored in the fridge up to one week and in the freezer up to 3 months. These should definitely be served warm, but be careful during reheating: the beans will hold the heat longer than the sweet potatoes. Make sure to test how hot the beans are before serving them to your baby.
Baby Nerd enjoyed this for dinner earlier this evening, although we butted heads when she refused to take them from the spoon and preferred using her fingers. Oh, the amount of orange that girl had on her face! But hey, it's one of very few battles we have, and the meal only cost what we paid for the sweet potato and bag of dried beans--we already had everything else.

One more note: I used dried beans (soaked overnight, remember!) because canned beans are more expensive per ounce and they are much more likely to have added sodium. You could leave them out altogether (along with most of the spices and the garlic) if you want to introduce just the sweet potato as a first food. I like the combination of beans with potato because it gives your baby a more "complete" meal by providing a carbohydrate and a protein. Plus, the combo introduces a new food texture.

Happy eating!

27 August 2012

Baby Bites: Apple and Peach Oatmeal

Fresh fruits are a great addition when flavoring oatmeal for your baby.

Time to share another winning baby food recipe with my fellow mommas. This one is an adjustment of a recipe I made before, apple oatmeal. For that version, I used whole oats. They made the meal thick and sticky, although not unsatisfactory in flavor. I just don't think Baby Nerd was a fan of the texture. So when I wanted to give oatmeal another go, I decided to substitute the whole oats with steel-cut oats, as well as throw in another one of my favorite fruits: the peach. As always, I don't always measure the ingredients I use, so the amounts given below are approximations. If you try this recipe for your baby, taste often and make adjustments as you go!

Ingredients needed:
  • 2 whole apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 whole peach, peeled and chopped, stone removed
  • 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground ginger
  • water
  • roughly 1/4 cup uncooked steel-cut oats

Place the chopped fruit in the bottom of a 2-quart pot and add water to immerse the fruit almost halfway. Cook on medium heat (covered) until the fruit becomes soft enough to mash. Throw the heat down to low. Add seasonings and mash everything together. If your child is older than 9 months, less mashing and more stirring. If your child is younger than 9 months, pureeing or milling might be a better option. There will most likely be water (now mixed with juice from the apples and peach) still left in your pot, so go ahead and add your oats and allow to cook until soft. You can always add more water as the oats soak up the moisture. Stir so that the oats are evenly dispersed throughout the cooked fruit. Serve warm. Store up to one week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. Thaw carefully before serving.

After tasting this meal for Baby Nerd, I seriously wanted to eat every last ounce. The subtlety of the ginger. The sweet blend of brown sugar with cinnamon. The essence of peach amid the apples. There isn't a packet of instant oatmeal anywhere that could match the taste in this recipe. Hope your baby enjoys it!

18 August 2012

Nerd in the World: Month 10


She loves my car keys.

Uga is a buddy during college football season.

My little lovely.

Age: 10 months (again, I'm late…shameful…)
Weight: 19 lbs.
Length: 28.5 in
What can she do now?
  • crawling!
  • sitting up from lying down position
  • can give a high-five
  • has teeth on top and bottom gums
  • tries to climb the stairs (making her mother sprout grey hairs each time)
  • constant babbling and using new sounds
  • adding foods to her list of likes
  • bathing in the big girl tub with non-slip fish-shaped treads (which she pulls up every time she bathes)
  • and since I'm so far behind, I'm sure I left something off the list…

    Celebrations from the past month:
    • No new school year for this teacher. Sure, the no-paycheck part is a tough pill to swallow. But with all the changes that were made in the school system I left, the salary wouldn't be worth the stress. The class sizes went up significantly after cutting teaching positions. The school day was lengthened because the school year was shortened by 14 days. The cost of benefits are no longer supplemented by the system. The entire state curriculum was changed all at one time when it is normally rolled out one subject per year (and with no new textbooks, technology, or significant training). Don't get me wrong--I really miss teaching. I've had at least 3 or 4 cry-fest breakdowns this summer due to the fact that me not teaching is the equivalent of having an identity crisis. But I have missed the actual teaching part a little more every year.
    • I have been building a business! Well, the pro-rated paycheck was going to run out eventually, so I started building a portfolio so I can work as a part-time photographer while I'm staying at home. I am scared. Like, out of my yoga pants scared. Every damn day, I learn something else I need to refine in my skill set. Books and the internet have been on my side, as are a couple of local mentors and several really good friends (and yes, even family) who are encouraging me. For all the years I've had an interest in photography--since, oh, let's say, the 2nd grade--I was the one who always took good pictures, but usually, out of dumb luck. Now I have to be good at it…on purpose…for money… THAT, my friends, is what's scary! But now that it's out there, be on the lookout come October(ish) for my Facebook business page or contact me for session inquiries.

    A Mother's Thoughts:
    I thought I was going to have trouble staying at home. I've always been a career-driven girl, especially since my career has been one that I truly love. Teaching was my calling! How could I give it up? And then there were the multiple weepy-eyed sessions I mentioned earlier. I'd break down driving my husband to work or while watching a movie about teachers and their students. He could see I was struggling with my decision. I wasn't leaving just any old job. I was leaving my students, their upcoming siblings, their parents. I was leaving old memories and the chance to make new ones. I keep photos of former students on my fridge because they are my babies. One was in my wedding. To say they are a part of my life would be an understatement.

    But I have spent the last 8 years putting everyone else first and my life at home second. Do you know how many times the hubs got a phone call from me, letting him know I would be staying late in the classroom or that a meeting with a parent ran over? Do you know how many times he got frustrated at the sight of my overstuffed teacher's bag? Do you know how many times I have apologized to friends because I graded papers while watching football or on a weekend away with them? Do you know how many parties, showers, and life events I have skipped because I was attending a student's Saturday morning football game or filling out report cards? Even poor Mojo has caught the brunt of it when my days ran long and my time for him short.

    I don't regret a moment I spent in education. I didn't love every moment, but I don't regret a one. When it is your calling, you don't mind the sacrifices. Not a one. Your husband still loves you. Your friends still invite you to their dinner parties. Your dog still enjoys the walks you take together. I still have parents and their children who message me updates in their lives or invite me to family events. And they will never truly realize just how special it makes me feel to continue to be included in their current lives when I was a part of theirs years ago.

    But now it's time I put my family first. It's a struggle sometimes, especially since staying at home doesn't mean it's automatically easier to keep the house running. I just got back 60 hours a week of my time back, and the laundry STILL doesn't get caught up. What's more comforting is that every loved one in my life has supported me in this decision. It helps considering the other thing I cry over is the fact that I no longer have a salary to contribute to the household. It's another sense of identity lost in the gaining of my SAHM identity.

    Plus, staying at home means I can wear jeans EVERY DAY. Well, sometimes, it's running shorts. But I get to say "no" to slacks every morning.

    All in all, staying at home with Baby Nerd is something I love. She is both a miracle and a blessing, and I get to see those awesome milestones as she grows. I spoil her with my home cooking and reading dozens of books. I take way too many pictures of her. I show her off in emails, text messages, and Facebook posts. It's totally worth it. Maybe when she's older and she has a little brother or sister she can drag to school with her, I'll be ready to sit at the head of the classroom again. I know I will have the itch to teach again. It's in my veins. As for now, I'll celebrate our time together as Mommy Nerd and Baby Nerd, keeping our nightly date with Daddy to watch Jeopardy.


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