Food

four years

We have a little know it all in our house. And if she doesn't know, she asks. And asks. And asks.

And even when she does know, she still asks, just to make sure Mom and Dad keep on top of things.

I guess when you are four and think you're a princess, that kind of behavior comes standard.

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Having parents that coordinate your birthday cake and party favors to match your outfit probably doesn't help in the 'sense of entitlement' department.

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Happy birthday, Brooklynn.

pretty lights

I'd like to say happy birthday to my wonderful wife, Rhiannon. Because I'm a gentleman, I won't say how old she is[1. I imagine everyone who reads this already knows how old she is anyway.].

Sparkler Sundaie

And, because I'm a gentlemen, I also won't tell you that Rhiannon strongly considered blowing out that sparkler, nicely placed in the ice cream sundae at her birthday dinner. The fact that the ice cream is sitting on top of a half pound of cookie was what made the choice of dessert an easy one.

every four years

Rhiannon and I really look forward to the summer Olympics every four years, completely forgetting that the enjoyment of watching so many different sports will soon be followed by the fall presidential election season. Unlike four years ago, we have now have two kids that occupy much of our time[1. So we don't pay as much attention to politics, I guess.], and perhaps more importantly[3. I don't mean to imply that anything like this is more important overall than our kids. Rather, it was intended to be a comment that the new TV technology helps us tune out political messages more than children do. Or something like that.], we watch most[2. Anything that isn't live sports, basically.] of our TV via DVR-type technology, which means no commercials[4. Now if we could just get those political surveys and focus group telephone calls to stop].

We've already conceded the fact that our two votes will not make one bit of difference one way or the other in the county we live in, but we will still probably fill out our ballots and turn them in. Maybe I'll let Brooklynn help me with mine. She seems to have taken a recent interest in politics, especially last Saturday morning when we visited the nearby donut shop and saw these on the shelf.

The Race

Apparently, Lamar's Donuts is doing a little informal political polling of their own and they let all ages make their viewpoints known. Rhiannon and I chose to abstain from picking one or the other lest our extremist views unduly influence our young and impressionable wards.

Brooklynn had no such reservations, and when we told her the blue one was a donkey and the red one and elephant, the correct choice was quickly obvious[1. I should have said the blue one was something cool like a giraffe, just to make it more fair.].

Maybe I won't be having her help me with my ballot after all.

late night projects

For anyone wondering why I haven't been posting long written articles[1. Or really much of anything for that matter...] recently, it's because we stay up until midnight doing projects like this: Brooklynn's 3rd birthday cake

Yes, I'm a little behind on the letters (written but no photos) and general baby news. Maddi is still around and hanging in there, and hopefully after everything settles down a little later this summer we can get back to the baby updates with a little more regularity.

Until then, have a virtual piece of Little Mermaid cake on us.

it's a treat

I'm posting this too late to help you if you didn't already know[1. First Friday of June of every year. so go ahead and mark June 7, 2013, down on your calendars now.], but happy National Donut Day. Brooklynn enjoyed her free donut (and her mom's as well) compliments of our local donut shop.

Donut day

cheesecake truffles

We like to make cheesecake. We like to melt chocolate to make a firm ganache coating for the top of some cheesecakes. It was only a matter of time. Cheesecake Truffles

Yes, cheesecake truffles. And they are every bit as good as they sound (and look).

When we were in Seattle last spring, there was a bakery near the Pikes Place Market that had cheesecake truffles for sale, and ever since that, we figured we should really learn how to make them. Turns out it isn't nearly as hard as you would think.

Step 1: Get ingredients to make cheesecake. We've done this before, several times.

Cream Cheesy Stuff All Cracked Up

Step 2: Make cheesecake sans crust. I did miss food processing small graham cracker bears, but it makes the process pretty quick. The edges get brown in the pans, but we just sliced those off with a knife or dug around them with a spoon.

Step 3: Dig out cheesecake. Roll into balls with hands. This was way easier than what I expected and a little messier. Cold cheesecake is essential, and slightly damp hands help a lot too. When my hands were dry, the cheesecake started to get warm and sticky faster than I could roll them and ended up looking like fuzzy balls rather than smooth. I think the chocolate still would have coated smooth, but we wanted them to be good. If you have issues, freeze 'em and roll them again once they're firmer (but not completely frozen).

Finished Baking Rolled Out

Step 4: Melt the chocolate and shortening and dip. We use a glass bowl set on top of pot of boiling water as our DIY double boiler for this sort of thing. It keeps the chocolate melted the entire time without the risk of scorching. We did do several small batches of melted chocolate. We found that after 15 or so cheesecake balls, the chocolate started to curdle. I don't know if this was from the moisture in the cheesecake or what, but it happened every time.

Step 5: Decorate as desired. We used white chocolate and drizzled it with a spoon. Do it on the parchment paper that you set out the dipped cheesecake on, so leave some space between them. And, as a bonus, you can eat the scrap chocolate that falls on the paper when you're done.

Melting it down Dipped

Drippings Drizzled

Step 6: Enjoy. Brooklynn approved. She would have liked to approve a couple of them, but we had to cut her off.

Brooklynn Approved

let's all get messy

Today, we were invited to the first birthday party of Kaiya, one of Brooklynn's friends. (Rhiannon used to teach with Kaiya's mom.) Whereas Brooklynn never really seemed to keen on digging in to her cake, Kaiya had no such reservations. Once she figured out the cake was soft and sweet, it never really had much of a chance. Digging In

They had a cake just for the birthday girl and a cupcake butterfly for everyone else.

Cupcake Butterfly

I think Brooklynn was trying to make up for her lack of mess at her own birthday (although she did very well using the fork). Now we just have to work on teaching her that attempting to upstage the guest of honor at a party is never good behavior for an invitee, regardless of how great a present you brought. It just isn't done.

So Good

Fully enjoying the food that is presented is very acceptable, so I suppose we'll let it slide this time.

what's for dinner

Feeding a baby is not easy. Well, I should rephrase that. Providing a baby with healthy and wholesome foods can be a laborious process. For us, the actual feeding is easy. It just takes the following 10 simple steps:

  1. Make food. It really doesn’t matter what. The baby will eat anything put in front of her.
  2. Hurry to cut up food because the baby in the high-chair is HUNGRY!
  3. Leave bigger pieces of food, because a) screaming baby and b) she has teeth, now, right? Then she can chew a little bit.
  4. Put food in front of baby.
  5. Watch baby shove handfuls of food into mouth and attempt to swallow without any chewing.
  6. Place hand in front of baby’s mouth and say “Spit it out!” in an authoritative voice. Catch slimy, spit-covered food in hand.
  7. Break food into smaller chunks.
  8. Attempt to eat your own food while being stared at by a small person who wants to eat from your plate. (See number 2, soooo hungry. And really guys, give me a bite, pleeeeaaaase.)
  9. Give baby some of your food. Realize that her plate is empty. She really didn’t chew at all, huh?
  10. Wipe down baby, chair, table, floor, walls, etc.

Really, nothing to it. Step six comes in especially handy when she tries to eat rocks from the gutter in front of the house.

So, given the fact that Brooklynn will in fact eat just about anything we put on her plate (turkey, chicken, beef, salmon, tilapia, peas, carrots, corn, zucchini, squash, bell peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, waffles, pancakes, crackers, peaches, grapes, pineapple, ketchup, yogurt, etc.), we really do work on putting decent things in front of her.

Yes, she has the occasional cookie at the grocery store or a little ice cream from time to time, but she has never had pop or juice, and we try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

She loves her some Sponge Bob macaroni and cheese from a box, and we think it’s because she can pick up the noodles easier than the standard mac and cheese made with elbow macaroni. But other than that, we do attempt to use food that does not come from a cardboard container and list several unintelligible ingredients where possible.

It isn’t easy. This weekend, we were making some homemade Cold-Stone like ice cream creations and needed to pick up caramel. I’ve made my own caramel. I love caramel. So, when presented the choice between caramel “flavored” topping and what looked like true caramel goodness in a glass jar no less, which do you think I picked?

I looked at the back of the “flavored” el-cheapo stuff (which I have had and think is actually quite tasty). Ingredients: High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, etc. Now, the back of the glass jar, real caramel version. Ingredients: Corn Syrup, High-Fructose Corn syrup, etc.

See. The real stuff is obviously so much better, be cause there’s more plain corn syrup than the high-fructose variety. Obviously.

Now, the last time I made caramel sauce, I’m confident the recipe didn’t call for corn syrup of any kind, or any artificial flavors or colors or preservatives. Homemade caramel ingredients: Sugar, Butter, Heavy Cream.

Period. Nothing else. Of course, it only has a refrigerated shelf life of around two weeks, but let’s all be honest here. I have never had a batch of homemade caramel last anywhere close to two weeks to actually test that out. So we got the cheap stuff that I knew tasted good, because I wanted some ice-cream (actually frozen yogurt) and I wasn’t about to take the time to make it myself.

When I was growing up, sugar was bad for you because it would rot your teeth, or at least that’s what we were told every Halloween. Now, with preservatives and corn-this and soy-that, sugar is healthy. There are “throwback” versions of pop, made with real sugar, and they advertise it like it’s great. Our pop has real sugar, not fake sweeteners, so it’s good for you too!

Between hormone enhanced beef, mercury laden farm-raised fish, and ground up soy products leading to surplus of estrogen production fears, it’s hard to know what to feed your kids. Sometimes, I think eating out at restaurants is the easier option, not because the food is any less processed or healthier, but because there are no ingredient labels on the bottom of the plates.

Ignorance really might be bliss.

In this economy, the price of food seems to come up on the evening news and morning talk shows every other week, and there always seems to be a segment highlighting someone who clips coupons and buys only sale items and seems to feed a family of 15 for $2 a day. And when you look at their cart as they go through the checkout, it’s stacks of boxes and cans and bottles and very little fresh meat, fruit, or veggies.

Manufacturers don’t make coupons for vegetables, maybe because there’s nothing to manufacture. Same with fruit. And if I buy a steak or roasting chicken, I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many artificially processed ingredients there.

Don’t get me wrong and think I’m naïve. Farming and ranching is big business. As much as we’d all like to imagine our cows were in the pasture last week eating fresh grass, that isn’t the case. Chickens aren’t roaming a barnyard only to scatter when the farmer idles through on his tractor. Feedlots. Cramped conditions. We just feign ignorance and move on.

So, we shop on the outside of the store as much as possible, and most of the time, it means we don’t have a lot of food that lasts more than a week in the fridge. Some of it is frozen, once in a while some of it gets moldy and we through it away. We buy some organic and make a lot of food at home. We spend more than we could scrape buy on and less that we would if we ate out more and feel fortunate that, overall, money is not a factor in what we choose to eat.

I read a statistic that the average one year old needs 1300 calories per day. Considering adults should be somewhere around 2000 calories, that’s a lot of food for a person who is hovering right around 25 pounds. When you look at the nutrition facts on raw veggies and fruit, it takes a lot of food to get to 1300. I have no idea if we’re doing the best thing for Brooklynn. I don’t know if I do the best thing for myself most of the time.

I like to think we’re doing the best we can with the knowledge we have. And I know that some real caramel and ice cream from time to time is never a bad thing.

the taking of a bite

Brooklynn has progressed in leaps and bounds recently in the ability to feed herself. It's almost getting to the point that she would rather eat off of the table than have one of us put food in her mouth (although she really never turns down food). Taking a Bite

Hmm, could that be food? A bit of freeze dried yogurt, placed here specifically for my enjoyment? And look, it even happens to match my bib. How fortuitous indeed!

Taking a Bite

I will now carefully grasp this most tasty morsel in my tiny meaty hand, even though there is enough saliva to make nearly anything stick without actually holding it. Still, one can never be too careful with the care of one's food.

Taking a Bite

Open mouth, then insert food. This is the proper order to ensure most immediate gratification. Also, pay no attention to any food still in mouth - there is always room for more.

Taking a Bite

So close. You'd think with a large facial opening such as a mouth, aim would not be a problem. You'd also be surprised at how elusive that mouth can be at times.

Taking a Bite

Success! Let the people rejoice and dance, for there is joy in the land once again. Also, have you started to think about giving me another one of those yogurt thingies? I'm ready to go again.

does anyone have the number for poison control?

On Sunday, I finally got around to making Brooklynn some food she could eat that doesn’t come from a small plastic package with a picture of the food on the side. A trip through the local library revealed no fewer than 10 books on how to make baby food at home from six months up to two years. We missed the six month mark by a little bit; it would be easy to blame the fact that we were in the hospital and then we were in and out of the doctors office and traveling and had company, but the fact is we didn’t do it earlier and we probably should have. We’re already over a third of the way into the books and talking about introducing textures and gumming and chewing foods.

We give her rice puffs to pick up and chew and she could probably start on some Cheerios or something like that. Other than that, her texture has been mostly limited to the time that I didn’t put enough water in the powdered oatmeal and the dead leaves that happen to blow on to her blanket outside.

I made chicken (ground in a food processor), a combination of potatoes, butternut squash and apples all mashed up together, and dish of carrots, parsnips, and sweet potato with some seasoning mashed up. Personally, I thought the last two dishes would be good enough so serve with our own dinner, so I didn’t expect any issue from the baby.

Really, you might think that after nine months of living with a baby, I would have learned to never expect consistent behavior.

The hard part about this is Brooklynn loves to eat. She sees a bowl and a small spoon and her mouth is open before we can even get her all the way into the high chair. Last night, bowl and spoon, just like normal, except this time the bowl had a mixture of chicken and potato/squash/apple in it.

Mouth open, in goes food.

She really looked like she might die right there on the spot. Half of the bite was spit back out and she looked at me like she was asking, “What did I ever do to you to deserve this?”

I have to give her credit – I help the spoon up to her mouth again and she took a second bit. Maybe she thought that first bite was an aberration. Maybe she didn’t think I was actually mean enough to feed her the horrible stuff again. I expect it might be a little while until I get some of that trust back.

We normally give her a little water from sipper cup, and she went through her usual dinner amount in the first two bites, like she was desperately trying to wash the yuck out of her mouth. After four bites, she stopped eating for me entirely. Rhiannon walked over, grabbed the spoon and held it up. Brooklynn was relived, like she thought, “Well, I know that Mom won’t put gross stuff into my mouth…  Oh no, not you too!”

We did give in and feed her some powdered oatmeal with fruit in it. I don’t know if the right approach is to force the new food only or work it slowly. I’m just thankful she doesn’t know how to call either 911 or child protective services.

when it rains, it pours

The obligatory baby in the hospital photo: Same Sized Friend

Now then...

Yesterday, when I stopped at home, I had noticed that the fan on our freezer in the kitchen was running. I looked inside and found that the food was starting to thaw out, so I assumed that Rhiannon had opened the freezer and failed to make sure the door was shut tight before she left.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my wife for my incorrect assumption.

I'm sorry. What I should have noticed when I was home yesterday is that the fan was running but the compressor was not. Our fridge at home decided to stop working when we weren't at home to notice. I have no idea what we have done to neglect it, but it seems kind of spiteful to me.

I moved all of the food in the freezer downstairs to our chest freezer and all of the food in the fridge that wasn't past its expiration date got moved into the mini fridges. Yes, plural mini fridges. We have multiple leftover pint size refrigerators that we have said we need to get rid of because we don't use them enough to justify the electricity they consume.

Well, they are both post-Thanksgiving dinner level stuffed right now, so I think that the expense has just been justified.

And not to scare anyone away from visiting us, but I did find some food that had expiration dates in the middle of 2008. And with he recent year change to 2010, I think we were this close to having one of the first refrigerator towns colonized by the life that sprang up from the out-of-date leftovers lurking in the dark corners.

Maybe it's not so much that the fridge stopped working but that this was more of a protest of the working conditions. Picket lines and unions and protesters galore. One of us is heading back home tomorrow to see if anything has changed, and if there is a rally with bullhorns, tagboard signs, and kitchen appliances marching around in circles on our driveway, I'm calling the authorities.

Or at least one of those places with the offers for free appliance haul away.

Anybody want a disgruntled food processor?

happy thanksgiving

The life of the road of warriors continues. While yesterday was our fifth flight with Brooklynn, it was the first on a plane that was large enough to have three seats together on one side, which meant we had to share a row with someone - up close and personal. Yes, Brooklynn is a good traveler, and we do our best to keep her occupied, but there are some people who would rather not sit beside a baby for a couple of hours. Luckily, we ended up next to a woman who was expecting her first baby in four months. So, we got to discuss naming, nursery decorating, and traveling to see family. Also, she didn't complain about the smell when Brooklynn decided to poop on the plane for the second consecutive flight.

On the last flight, we had a row behind us completely open, so it was easy enough to lay her down and change her. And the plane yesterday had a changing table in the bathroom to use - Rhiannon grabbed Brooklynn and the wipes and headed to the bathroom while I grabbed a magazine to read an article I had seen in the contents when I flipped through it. 30 seconds later, Rhiannon was back. She had the baby. She had the wipes. She just didn't have a new diaper.

We figure that this will be the only Thanksgiving that Brooklynn will be content to kick around on the floor while we eat. She did sit on my lap while I had my piece of pumpkin pie and watched pretty much every bite go by. I think she would have been more than happy to take on of the bits off of my hands for me.

starting down the solid path

Tonight, Brooklynn got cereal for the first time. We stirred it up with some water and mixed it in some prunes. I always thought that we would wait as long as possible to feed her "food" rather than only formula, just to make sure she's ready. I'd say that readiness has come sooner than I anticipated. If you've done any reading on babies and solid food recently, there is debate on when they might be ready and how to tell by seeing if they push food out of their mouth with their tongue. Brooklynn has no such issues. In fact, we have to be careful that she doesn't choke on the spoon as she lunges toward it with her mouth wide open.

She had seconds and probably would have had a thirds helping if we would have let her. And then finished off her regular bottle as well. Did I mention that she's around 17 pounds and we can no longer see her neck without digging through her chins first? We're just hoping this is enough food to hold her through the night. Cross your fingers for us.

Who's a Scary Baby?

good thing one of us is a certified teacher

When it comes right down to it, the amount of stuff about being a human that babies learn from their parents is overwhelming. How to move, how to get to sleep, how to talk, how to throw a ball, how to eat... Ok, I guess eating comes naturally, right?  It's one of the those basic survival skills. Babies are born with a sucking reflex that allows them to get food if it is offered to them, and I suppose, when they are old enough, they instinctively know how to swallow solids (as solid as early baby food is, anyway). So, maybe parents are more of faciliators rather than actual teachers.

Now, when it comes to being civilized about our eating habits? We have a little work to do on that topic.

I think she missed a little bit

(The prunes were a suggestion from Brooklynn's doctor to help the hard poop issues she's been having. So far, it's working.)

halloween hangover

Halloween Drinks Due to some large amounts of snow and numerous holiday parties happening, trick-or-treating seemed a little lighter this year.

No, we didn't have too much extra candy, but between the pop and 3 dozen extra sugar cookies (and frosting) that we ended up with over the weekend, I've been on a 48-hour sugar high bender.

I expect to crash sometime just before my alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

weeknight baking project

We've been buying peaches in large quantities for the past month, and with every new batch of them, we swore we would make us some hand pies, and then every batch would ripen and we wouldn't get around to it, because homemade pie dough requires multi-stage cooling techniques and time. Frankly, it's not that we didn't have the time, it's just we always had something else to do, like... oh a new baby, perhaps? So we broke it up into stages.  I mixed the dough one night and stuck it in the fridge overnight, Rhiannon rolled some dough and cut up small circles while I watched Brooklynn, and then I formed the pies and baked them. I've never made a pastry crust from scratch before, and once we realized we had not one but two pastry blenders (compliments of a messy kitchen accessory drawer), we figured that it was something that needed to be done.  Frozen butter, cut into flour, and rolled out.

Pastry Dough Ball Hand Pie Dough

Delicious.

Just a hint - when it says to put the butter in the freezer for an hour, it means an hour. Three hours in a chest freezer while out shopping will not cut it as you end up with butter chunks that snap into smaller pieces in a decidedly un-butterlike manner.

Yes, we stayed up too late last night waiting for the second batch to finish.  Yes, we should have been in bed sleeping while the baby slept instead of salivating over pastry desserts. Yes, we didn't really need the calories and...

Peach Filling Filling the Pies Closed Up Ready for Consumption

Ok, who am I kidding.  Pie is awesome.  Pie you can pick up and eat with your hand on the go? Totally awesome.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen - we used a cinnamon/sugar sprinkle rather than just a decorative sugar. My suggestion - if for whatever reason these last long enough that there are leftovers, don't refrigerate them until completely cool.  The impressive flakiness of homemade, fresh-out-of-the-oven pie crust was noticeably missing when cold as the moisture content in the filling condensed and damped the hand pie spirits of the little morsels. A few hours sitting out brought a little life back to them, but they never quite recovered. Still darn tasty, though.

Couldn't Resist

this calls for a celebration

Cheesecake I know at this point, it's almost 11:00 pm and a little too late for many of you to do anything about, but today (July 30th) is National Cheesecake Day.  You know, cheesecake, the stuff I use to really like to make back when I had free time.

Rhiannon and I had a couple of slices from the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate (Dulce de Leche and Tiramisu, in case you were wondering).  Frankly, at this point, it doesn't take much for us to start looking for reasons to not cook for ourselves.

So have some cheesecake this weekend and mark your calendars for next year.  I already did.

small bite, chew, rest, repeat

Solid food is good.  Chewing isn't as good, but it's worth it.  One can only take so much pudding and ice cream before sweets get to be too much (and yes, I did just say that there is such a thing as too much sweets). During the crazy that was last Friday, the whole that I mentioned felt huge.  And I'm pretty sure I felt it on Saturday morning while I was trying to eat some pudding for breakfast.  When we got to the dentist 20 miles later, no hole.  Plug nose, blow, nothing...

I guess the crazy finally wore off or a blood clot finally formed.  Either way, all seems good enough to last through the follow-up appoint this Friday.

I never really realized how much I appreciated food.  Real food.  Solid food.  Saturday was mostly soup, pudding, and ice cream.  I wasn't really that hungry anyway, maybe from the blood that was still oozing constantly in my mouth.

On Sunday, we moved up to kuchen bars and rice pudding.  And then, when things got really wild, I let some saltine crackers get soggy in my tomato soup.  And then I ate them.  If you've ever tried to chew soggy crackers with the front teeth in your mouth, I think you can sympathize with me.

I've been getting better daily, and I don't think I can complain too much.  The sockets are bleeding less each day and I haven't had excruciating pain anywhere.  I've been surprised at how much the lack of teeth has been aching over the past two days, but I guess that's why they invented painkillers.

Swelling was never too bad, which is why there never were pictures.  Really the worst thing that happened is my face looked a little full, kind of like I need to lay of the pudding for a while.  Funny how that happens.

Tonight, we did pizza.  And I ate it, except for the crust.  Slowly, and small bites at a time.  The one piece I ate took me about 20 minutes, and I'm pretty confident that it was about the best 20 minutes of my life.