Category Archives: Food

On making baby food

After my last post, I got a few questions (and a few snarky emails) about making my own baby food. Here’s the thing. This works for me. I spend all day Sunday cooking *anyway* (thanks, paleo!). So it’s no big deal for me to steam more vegetables, then puree them before making some paleo mayo. It might be a real hassle for someone else, and that’s OK. My making Grace’s baby food isn’t a criticism of those who don’t.

So.

Why do I make my own baby food?

In Freetown, the supply of baby food available to purchase locally was not reliable. Jars were often expired, their provenance was often unclear, and there weren’t any hippy organic brands without sugar and additives.

Here in DC, there are a wealth of baby food options available! Hurray! But after making all of Jasmine’s food in Freetown (often from frozen vegetables), making all of Grace’s here in the States doesn’t seem nearly as scary.

  1. It’s less expensive. Seriously. 5 lbs of sweet potatoes vs. 20 jars of sweet potatoes? A bag of collard greens vs. 10 jars of spinach? I made 2 months worth of vegetables for less than $15.
  2. No sugar. No salt. No additives of any kind. I can get my control freak on and make sure that nothing’s going into Grace’s mouth that I don’t want to. Hahaha. Except when Jasmine tries to feed her Cheerios. *sigh*
  3. Less waste. No jars, no pouches, no nothing that has to be tossed, aside from the occasional ziplock bag that’s too grody to be reused again (yes, I wash and reuse my ziplocks).

It’s a relatively simple process. Buy food, steam or boil food, puree food, freeze into ice cube trays, move into ziplocks when completely frozen.

My baby likes it. My husband likes it. I like it. And that’s really all that matters.

Grace is eating solids!

Grace eating sweet potatoes

Grace loves sweet potatoes! Forgive the blurry photo. I am iPhone only these days!

The bad news is that I spent the weekend eating wheat products in hopes of increasing my milk supply. The good news is that I am now super clear on what types of food utterly destroy me when eaten in any sort of quantity.

My supply did increase, but at the expense of my body. And it STILL wasn’t enough! ARGH! All this misery, and Grace still needed bottles of formula this weekend. We introduced her to solids this week, and I think the answer is MOAR FUD PLEEZ. Sure, I could spend another week eating bread and oatmeal and other grains, and being absolutely miserable, or …

I could get out the immersion blender and get to work:

Several ice cube trays of baby food in the Sondjo freezer

Half of the baby food I made today

Sweet potatoes. Butternut squash. Pears. Collard greens. Carrots. Plantains. Bananas. And one tray of oatmeal, to mix in as her appetite continues to grow. Yeah, she’s gonna eat better than I do. :-P One of the best things about being back in the States is how damn easy it is to find an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables. And also, being able to mix in water from the tap to get the consistency of my purees right. SO MUCH EASIER. I love America!

In any case, if the apocalypse comes tomorrow, I have enough frozen purees to last us awhile. And if it doesn’t, then I still won’t need to do this again for several weeks. Hellsyeah.

Jumping on a bandwagon is awesome. And flatulence free.

The good news is that cutting grains out of my diet has cured my digestive ills. Coworkers, I owe an apology to anyone who got stuck in an elevator with me my first two months in Freetown.

The bad news is that it is really hard to go out to eat in Freetown and avoid grains and potatoes. As I learned when I had to start avoiding dairy and soy for Jasmine, the only way to really avoid eating something you don’t want to is to avoid processed foods all together.

Jasmine appears to be more and more OK with small amounts of dairy. A chocolate here or a piece of cow’s milk cheese there don’t seem to have major effects on her system. That said, a chocolate binge + a wine and cheese party yesterday = a gassy Jasmine last night and a big breakout today. Oops.

At this point, no grains + no dairy + no soy = basically a paleo diet. The only things left to cut out were sugar and beans. 7 lbs later, the experiment has been a resounding success.

All natural, all the time has also forced me to spend a fair amount of time cooking. This week’s lunch prep:

  • 1 roast chicken
  • 1/2c baba ganoush
  • 4 salmon patties
  • 1 dozen hard boiled eggs
  • 6 carrots, sliced
  • 2 green peppers, sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced

Bertrand’s all like, WTF? The kitchen was spotless just a few hours ago!

So it goes.

Egg in an avocado

_DSC0353Perhaps you’ve seen the gorgeous egg-in-avocado recipe that’s been floating around Pinterest. My version was also beautiful. Unfortunately, beautiful != delicious.

I always forget how bland avocados are when baked. The texture was luxurious, but combined with the egg, the dish needed more than just a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil.

I’m sure there’s a good way to do this. Bertrand suggested mashing up the avocado with garlic, scallions, salt, and pepper first, but that would ruin the aesthetic of dumping an egg into the center of the avocado.

Any suggestions?

WIAW: sleep deprivation edition


Yesterday was rough. Fun, but rough. Also, avoiding everything on the list of stuff Jasmine may or may not be sensative to has been less than fun.

Lucky for everyone, I am pretty damn creative.

Turkey sausage and sweet potato

For breakfast, I crumbled turkey sausage on top of half of a leftover sweet potato, then drizzled delicious fake maple syrup over it.

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Lunch was ham, fake mashed potatoes made w/ olive oil and water instead of butter and milk, and a vegetable medley.

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Dinner was a ginormous salad. Not pictured: gross Wolfgang Puck canned soup that I also ate because I was starving.

Also not pictured: honey graham sticks that I noshed on throughout the day. Turns out, I am too damn lazy to take pictures of snacks.

After today’s trip to DC was canceled, Bertrand and I made some decisions about Jasmine’s (read: my) diet. It’s time to start adding potential allergens back in, so that we can figure out what it is that’s actually bothering her digestive system.

Before bed, I downed a glass of milk and a handful of cheddar cheese cubes. So far, no problems! Hurray! Dairy, I missed you so much!

On (not calorie) restricted eating, for a good cause

I’m only going to talk about the baby on Thursdays. One day a week. That’s my New Year’s Blogging Resolution, and I’m sticking to it.

Except that having a baby has affected every part of my life, and sometimes it’s damn hard to talk about anything else without talking about her.

Like food.

Baby J* has a food intolerence, an intolerence that gives her crazy-ass gas and sometimes diarrhea. Brand new baby has diarhea on the day after Christmas? Guess who spent December 26 in the ER. :-P We don’t know what it is. Her doctor doesn’t know what it is. But everyone’s universally agreed that something I eat messes up her immature digestive system and that I should cut it out.

The Internets are full of lists of food to avoid while breastfeeding. Thanks, Internets, for giving me more Mom guilt, as if I don’t have enough already. I’m on a strict elimination diet, and guess what! It works! Baby J no longer has gas or diarrhea or gastrointestinally provoked colic. Of course, Mama T is hungry and cranky, but that’s actually not as important as actually being able to sleep at night.

Things I can’t eat:

  • Broccoli and related vegetables
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions and garlic
  • Citrus
  • Beans
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine the doctor said to go ahead and have a cup of coffee in the morning if it didn’t appear to upset Jasmine. THANK YOU LORD I CAN CONTINUE TO LIVE.
  • Peanuts
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Beef
  • Soy

The biggies are foods that are hard to digest (veggies, beans), foods that irritate the digestive system (caffeine), and common allergens, including cow proteins. Do you know how freaking hard it is to find processed foods without soy in them? EVERYTHING HAS SOY. Soybean oil. Soy litchen. MSG. Soy is in breads, crackers, cookies, and even frozen veggies.

So whatever. I eat a lot of sausage (pork and turkey), fruits (apples, grapes, bananas), chicken, innocuous vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, green beans), and carbs (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes).

Breakfast was delicious: crumbled sausage on a sweet potato with maple syrup, and coffee with vanilla almond milk. I didn’t take a picture because I had already eaten everything by the time I’d finished reheating my coffee in the microwave. Yeah, I microwaved my coffee this morning. Don’t hate.

Needless to say, it makes watching what I eat an excercise in frustration. Avoiding anything with soy or dairy in it is hard enough, not to mention the raw veggies I have to avoid. I’m just not interested in freaking out about POUNDS and the SCALE and OMG FITNESS, when it’s all I can do to get enough calories to breastfeed Jasmine every day.

*Not a blog pseudonym; we call her “J” around the house. Bertrand’s “B” (prounounced “bey”, as in the French letter B), and I’m “T”.

Grocery dilemma. Where to shop in NoVa and DC without a car?

Moving to DC without a car has been marvelous. We walk everywhere! Including the closest grocery store, which is a mile away. Oh, Harris Teeter, you are wonderful, but how can you possibly not carry rice vinegar?

When my husband and I lived in Benin, we were broke-ass cheap-asses. We agonized over every dollar spent (except at Happy Hour, strangely enough) and got used to living frugally. Now we live in souless Crystal City, where stores are aimed at a demographic that has an expense account and lives off of per diem.

Harris Teeter is not only a mile away, but sells food at Whole Foods prices, without the whole “it’s organic so it’s OK that it costs an arm and a leg” cachet. Did I mention that it’s a mile away?

Somewhat closer is Costco. Costco is heaven, but you have to buy food in bulk and if you need anything weird, you’re outta luck. No rice vinegar their either. Also no pumpkin pie spice. I can, however, buy a packet of 48 string cheeses and kilos and kilos of strawberries. SCORE!

We can take the metro into The City and brave the crowds at Trader Joes for more reasonable prices, but waiting 45 minutes in a checkout line that wraps around the store is not my idea of a good time.

Today, I went to Clarendon to see what Whole Foods had to offer. I thought the sticker shock when I came back to the States was rough, BUT HEY WHOA. Whole Foods is not worth having to change metro lines in Rosslyn. Sorry lovers of organic food, I just can’t justify the time and expense.

Our last and final attempt at keeping the fridge stocked is PeaPod. Yes, we’ve given in and tried grocery delivery. It’s free for the first two months, and then we’re moving back to my parents’ for my maternity leave anyway.

I know, I know, we’ve turned into souless yuppies. My friends, not having to trek a mile and back four times a week to keep up with my need for fresh produce is well worth it. I’ll let y’all know how it goes tomorrow!

Lentil loaf

Red lentils

Turns out, cooking split red lentils has nothing in common with cooking regular brown lentils. Or maybe I just buy a lot of stale brown lentils. After soaking the red lentils in water for an hour, I put them on the stove. I think they were done even before the water boiled. So now I’ve got a few cups of lentil mush. It’s delicious mush, but never-the-less, still mush.

Cooked lentil mush

That’s OK.

The lentil loaf turned out fine anyway. I based the loaf on Bella’s recipe. And by “based on,” I mean, “Hmmm, a lentil loaf sounds delicious, but I don’t actually have any of the ingredients she used, so I’ll make it up as I go along.”

That’s OK too.

I used lentil mush instead of lentils, fine brown bulger instead of brown bismati rice, mustard and worchestershire sauce instead of BBQ sauce, eggs instead of egg subsitute, red pepper flakes and oregano instead of cajun seasoning, and I added a cup of shredded zucchini. I did keep the mirepoix, because who doesn’t like a good mirepoix?

Mirepoix

A-OK.

The first lentil loaf turned out pretty well. It tasted great, but it only rises to spectacular when paired with more ketchup. Bertrand adores it. Go figure.

Lentil loaf

Since I had leftover lentil mush and bulgar, I decided to make a second loaf! I replaced the celery with a huge handful of chopped parsley, and put as much dijon mustard in as ketchup. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!

Lentil loaf II

And leftovers for lunch this week. ;)

Egg Scramble

Veggies on a plate

Oh, egg scrambles, how I love you so. Delicious vegetables. Lots of protein. Not lots of calories. It’s a perfect way to start my day (and a perfect way to use up old vegetables before I hit the market on the weekends).

The recipe is simple: chop whatever vegetables you like, sautee them, pour eggs over veggies, cook eggs, eat. I usually have tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, and onions on hand, but it works well with spinach, leeks, and celery too.

Egg scramble. Yum!

Recipe for Easy-Peasy Egg Scramble

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes (or 250g)
  • 3 green peppers (or 125g)
  • 3 baby zucchinis (or 125g)
  • Half a large yellow onion (or 75g)
  • 1-1/2t vegetable oil (you can use olive, but I don’t like the taste)
  • 6 eggs (2 whole eggs, 4 egg whites)
  • 2T skim milk
  • 2t salt
  • pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Chop vegetables. Toss with 1t salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  2. Sautee vegetables in oil.
  3. Beat eggs, milk, and 1t salt.
  4. Pour egg mixture over vegetables.
  5. Gently turn to avoid burning the eggs.
  6. When the eggs are cooked, you’re done! Bon appetit.

Nutrition information

This probably goes without saying, but nutrition information is going to vary wildly between egg scrambles, especially if you’re like me and tend to eye ingredients and use whatever vegetables are in your fridge. The recipe above could easily serve 3 or 4 people, but I like a hearty breakfast before a long hard day of relaxing at home.

Servings: 2 | Calories: 180 | Fat: 9g | Carbs: 17g | Fiber: 4g | Protein: 17g

Vegetable skewers

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Now that we’re hitting the beach several times a month, I need some good, portable, grillable recipes. Just grill delicious meat and fish you say? Guess what Bertrand and I gave up for Lent.

Enter the vegetable skewer.

Benin’s got delicious cheese. It’s kind of like ricotta, except that it’s solid, has a tofu-like texture, and doesn’t melt, and grills up perfectly. Oh wait, it’s nothing like ricotta.

Start your skewers soaking. This is so they don’t turn black on the grill (or in the oven). This is less important if you’re not a freak about aesthetics.

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Optional: blend up a basic Beninese sauce for your marinade (recipe to come this week), heavy on the ginger and the hot peppers. Wait, there aren’t any hot peppers in that recipe? Just chop up a tablespoon oo so, and add it to the blend mix. Add in a teaspoon or so of salt and a tablespoon of oilve oil. Don’t cook the sauce!

Then, chop a bunch of vegetables. Also chop some pineapple and wagasi (or leave the wagasi, if you’re not in Benin).

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Toss marinadeable veggies (zucchinis, pineapple) and wagasi with the marinade. If you didn’t make a marinade, toss with olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt.

Build your skewers! Leave chunks of onion in tact. They are more delicious that way.

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I cheat and roast my skewers in the oven for 20 minutes before heading out to the beach. This cooks all of the vegetables, so all I have to do once I get to the beach is reheat on the grill. When I’m cooking at home, sans grill, I roast for 30 minutes, turning and rotating the skewers halfway through.

Grill.

Eat.

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