Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tools for Food

On June 26, I gave Lillie and Dani cereal for the first time. That did not go well. I tried again on July 8 with far more success. About a week later, per our pediatrician's recommendation, I started adding fruits and veggies to their cereal. We started with apples, then pears and carrots--all store-bought baby food. Then, I made sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peas, peaches and green beans for them.

This is what I learned from making my own baby food: you must, must, must have the right tools. Otherwise it seems so simple until you're pulling pea skins out of your daughters' food bowls.

It doesn't take much. You need fresh or frozen food, a solid food processor, storage containers, a potato masher or fork, and a food mill or mesh strainer. Let me stress that last one. You need a food mill or mesh strainer. If you don't want your hand to fall off from pushing food through small holds, get a food mill.

Though I've only been making food for the girls for about two weeks, I've already decided what tools I need to make this all go much smoother.

Some Good Reading
My sister-in-law Pam pointed me to a wonderful website called Wholesome Baby Food. It has some great recipes, tips and menu plans. I'm of lover of most things Internet, so I always have to recommend a website.

I also must recommend two wonderful books. First, Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler. It has wonderful tips on when and how to start your baby on solids. It gives nutritional information, recipes, menu plans and storage information. It also will take your child through her first five years. I've read half of it and love it already! Second, Blender Baby Foods which has tons of recipes for children ages 4 months to whenever. It's broken up by age, and it gave me some great ideas on how to combine fruits and vegetables once the girls start on their second stage of solids.

Mash and Puree
Next up, a good food processor. I'm still working on finding this, but if my food mill works well, then I'll survive with the mediocre food processor I have now. There are some great processors made just for baby food, but I'm not sure they're really worth the extra cost. While browsing at Target, I did find two that meet the standards I'm looking for.

The Kitchen Aid 7-Cup Processor is small, powerful, and under $100. It doesn't have a gazillion settings like my current food processor. (Do I really need 1-12 speeds for baby puree?) It's got a good sharp blade and a wide opening to add food or liquid. I don't know how loud it is, but it's got to be quieter than my current processor which is much like listening to a jet engine in my kitchen.

For foods with skins and stringy pieces (e.g. sweet potatoes, peas, green beans), you will also need a fine mesh strainer or a food mill. As I said before, I recommend a food mill. I bought a fine mesh strainer for the low, low price of $5, and I would've paid someone twice that to push a cup of green beans through it just to get rid of the skin. Ugh. My food mill is arriving today, and I'm already excited about using it! I went with the RSVP International Veg-3 Rotary Mill. It comes with three steel discs (a lot of baby food mills are plastic) and a long handle. 

For soft foods like potatoes, avocados, bananas and most melons, you'll simply need a potato masher or a fork--depending on your batch size. 

Store Away
As soon as the girls have tried a food and prove to have no allergies, I will be making things in bulk. And when making in bulk, you must have a good storage system. Ice cube trays are a great way to go. (Look for ones that have a lid to keep out freezer smells.) They're about one ounce in size, inexpensive, and freeze baby food in nice convenient cubes. Once the food is frozen, you can transfer it to freezer storage bags. Now, you can go straight from freezer to warmer or microwave and the meal is ready to go. I decided to go a step beyond ice cube trays. Mostly because I hate plastic freezer bags in my freezer. I went with the 2 oz Baby Cubes from Juvenile Solutions. For smaller batches that I plan to serve right away, I just use the smallest storage containers I have. My mom was nice enough to buy me a great set from Rubbermaid with snap locking lids.

The Food
You can't make baby food without the food. Great first foods include peas, carrots*, green beans, peaches, pears, apples, sweet potatoes, bananas and squash. By all means, if you want to buy everything fresh, go right ahead, but I've got two babies to worry about and prepping, cooking, mashing, pureeing and storing all fresh is not exactly my cup of tea, so I choose which to buy fresh and which to buy frozen.

Green beans, squash (especially butternut), peas, and peaches are perfect frozen. There's not cutting, snapping or peeling necessary. Plus, peas are at they're freshest when they're frozen, and butternut squash comes already pureed if you buy the frozen box instead of the bag!  Just make sure to read the ingredients. Baby food has the fruit or veggie, water, and sometimes absorbic acid. Your frozen foods should read the same. So far, I've only run into a problem with peas--most of the frozen ones had added salt.  Avoid canned because of the extra preservatives. I would only but canned pumpkin since I'm in no mood to seed and roast a pumpkin!

So far, I'm really enjoying giving the girls new foods everyday. They haven't had much that hasn't been mixed into their rice cereal yet because I'm mostly looking for allergic reactions right now, but soon I'll be giving them tiny meals in the morning and evening. 

The only difficult part thus far is keeping one occupied while I give the other a few spoonfuls. My girls are definite chow hounds, and they can't stand waiting while the other one gets to munch on the yummy stuff!

*You should use store-bought carrots. The American Pediatrics Association advises against homemade carrots, beets, turnips, spinach and collards due to high levels of nitrates.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's What?!

A year ago today, Tim and I found out that we were not having one baby but two.

It was a Tuesday morning, right after the McQuinn family reunion. I'm lying on the exam table. Tim's standing next to me, and Dr. Woodall asks, "Do twins run in your family? I sort of laugh and lose my breath all at the same time. I have no idea what reaction Tim is having because my eyes are glued to monitor showing the two small dots that were my two babies!

My mom went from saying "as long as you're happy" to saying "oh, twins!" with a look of sheer joy on her face. My grandmother claimed she knew all along. Heck, she may have! My friends had various reactions from "seriously?" to "wonderful!" to laughing their asses off (you know who you are).

It took almost a month for me to accept the idea of twins. Who knows if Tim's accepted to this day. :) But now I'm in a state of mind that I can't think of just having one (that is different from sometimes wishing I only had one). Everytime I see a friend's baby registry, I always--even if for only a moment--wonder where the other car seat, high chair, carrier is. I guess when you get used to buying things for two, it's hard to set your mind on one.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Five Month Report

This past month was a big month.  Lillie rolled onto her tummy and learned that sleeping on her tummy is the way to go. Dani learned to roll onto her tummy as well, and now she does it nearly every time we put her on the floor. She recently started sleeping on her tummy as well.

 Mom! Is it really necessary for us to be this close?

We went on our first excursion without a second adult. Granted, we went to visit Rachael and Zanon, but still, I survived a car ride to Spring Hill with them in tow.

They went to their first sit-down restaurant for Day-Before-Father's Day brunch. They were complete princesses.

I survived a week of Tim being out of town plus a week of going solo during the day.

We started cereal. Failed. Then tried again two weeks later to great success. Now they're both eating a couple of tablespoons twice a day. Yesterday, I added apples. Dani likes it, but Lillie can't get enough!

We experimented with a modified cry it out. Failed at that too. Then tried again starting last week with some tweaks. It actually seems to be working. The girls are sleeping more soundly at night, and I think I may be getting nearly seven (yep, that's a number that comes AFTER five) hours of sleep! I even had waffles out on my deck one morning.

The biggest thing of all, though, is that they're really started to interact. When I put them on the floor or in the play yard together, they will turn towards each other holding hands. In fact, a couple of days ago, they played with one of their soft books for nearly 20 minutes while I ate breakfast. That little reprieve brought sweet visions of them keeping each other company when they're a little older. It was a small glimpse of one of the perks to having twins--a built-in playmate!

Finally, if only in small doses, I'm starting to really enjoy being a parent. Up until now, it's really been work, work, work, work. It's still tons of work--I don't think that will ever change--but it is becoming more like work I love.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I realized this morning that I should do a monthly report on the girls who actually brought this blog into being. Since I didn't think about it until their fourth month of life, I'll begin with month five. But just for the heck of it, check out their progression in photos.

Lillie (right): 5 lbs, 7 oz & 18 in.
Dani: 5 lbs, 12 oz & 19 in.

They arrived a little early--35 weeks, 4 days. They were healthy though and never spent any time in the NICU. When Lillie was born, she didn't cry right away, but when she hit the examining table, she let out a nice wail. Dani started the moment the doctor held her up. I got to hold Dani first since Lillie needed a little warming up before she could visit, but it wasn't too long before I got to hold them both. 

One Month
Lillie (left): 8 lbs, 8 oz
Dani: 8 lbs, 7 oz

Two Months
Lillie (left): 9 lbs, 10 oz
Dani: 9 lbs, 14.5 oz

Three Months
Lillie (right): No idea about weights this month.
Dani: I'm sure I wrote it down somewhere!

 Four Months
Lillie (right): 14 lbs, 1 oz & 24 3/4 in.
Dani: 13 lbs, 8 oz & 25 1/8 in.

Rice on a Spoon on a Chin on a Bib

At their four month checkup, Dr. Triggs gave Lillie and Dani the go ahead to try solid foods. Last Saturday, in an effort to "entertain" the girls until bed time, Tim and I decided that it was time to bust out the rice cereal and try it.

Lillie wasn't really having it. She was already a little upset, so I didn't really push it. She definitely ended up with more on her chin than in her mouth. She did tilt her head way back to let some roll into her throat though.

Dani was more than ready to go. As soon as the spoon headed in her direction, she opened her mouth wide. Once the cereal was in though, there was more slurping than swallowing.

Sunday morning, I tried again. Both girls opened their mouths a little bit (after a demonstration from Mommy and a bowl of Kix), but still not much happening. I decided to do a little taste test to see if it was a flavor issue, but they both happily sucked on their pacifiers dipped in soupy cereal, so I just think they may not quite be ready.

We will try again in two weeks or so.

Once they get the hang of cereal for a couple of weeks, we'll move on to fruits and vegetables...of which I plan to do most of the preparing. That's a whole 'nother blog!

No matter what, it was a fun experience. It will definitely be easier once their new high chairs arrive, and when I'm a little more organized with the whole thing.