Solid State

The introduction of first foods is looming, and as you can imagine it has been very much at the forefront of my mind. A love of good food and drink is a big part of what brought Mike and I together, and it’s still a huge part of our lives – it’s only natural that we’d be very excited about sharing this whole new world with our son. But like any new stage in parenting, we’ve got a lot to think about, and decisions to make. There are so many opinions about how to feed your baby, so many ways to transition from breast or bottle to solids – it seems I’m spending all my free time reading about it, and I’ll likely post a lot about it here in the coming weeks.

Julian has inherited my brown eyes and his daddy’s adorable dimpled smile, but we’ve also passed along something rather less appealing – our strong family histories of type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Mike has been working hard to get his own health issues under control; I’ve been lucky so far that none of the issues I’m genetically predisposed to have reared their ugly heads. Knowing what we do about our family history, I think we both feel that one of the best things we can do for Julian is to start him off on wholesome, real food, and model for him the sort of good cooking and eating habits that will hopefully minimize his risk in the future.

roasted carrot and avocado salad

I hope that our boy will be a good eater, that he’ll enjoy a wide range of flavors and textures in his diet, or at least be willing to try things, but I assume nothing. I didn’t always eat the way I do now, nor did Mike, and to this day there are foods that are far from our favorite (sweet potatoes, anyone?), but that we’ll want to expose Julian to while he’s young.

That said, I don’t want to let the perfect get in the way of the good. I’ll admit that I enjoy a crisp, hot, gooey jalapeno popper just as much as I enjoy a heaping helping of kale sauteed with olive oil, garlic, chile flakes, and a hit of sherry vinegar. These days I have the latter far more frequently than I do the former, but I want Julian to learn that there’s a time and a place for all sorts of foods in his diet. Trying to banish junk food or sweets entirely just seems like a recipe for failure – I want him to know that just about anything is fine in moderation, and to learn to listen to his body’s cues about what to eat, when, and how much.

But let’s start at the beginning, with the transition to first foods. I’m currently giving another read to Nina Planck‘s Real Food for Mother and Baby, which I found indispensible during my pregnancy, but I’d love to hear about any other resources you might recommend. When introducing solids, what worked for you? Any advice for the newbies?

4 Months

Post 4-month checkup

Julian had his 4 month well baby visit yesterday. He weighed in at a healthy 15 lbs. 8 oz., measured 26 1/2 inches long, and his head circumference was 17 inches. He has still had nothing but breast milk to eat or drink, though his doctor says that at his next visit, we’ll talk about introducing solids. Julian absolutely loves to watch us cook and eat, and has already started grabbing at the food on our plates, so I’m confident he’ll be ready.

This is a conversation I’ve been waiting for since before he was even born, but now that it’s just two months away, I feel like I have a lot more research to do. I’m certain these next two months are going to fly by.

Julian and the radishes

Julian and the radishes

Soon, kiddo. Soon.

Fine Dining

Fine dining.

Mike and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary yesterday, and Julian was right there with us. We had a lovely meal at one of our favorite local restaurants, Nick’s on Broadway here in Providence, and our little guy was an absolute champ during the almost 3 hours that his mommy and daddy savored course after delicious course. I’m so proud.

Honorary ‘Monger

Honorary cheesemonger

Thanks to our friends at Farmstead for a great lunch and the adorable onesie!

Adventures in DIY: Homemade Granola

I wasn’t much of a fan of granola until about a year ago. I was born and raised in Michigan, where Kellogg’s was king and granola was strictly for west coast hippie types. Growing up, my breakfast cereal choices were pretty much limited to your standard wheat flakes, puffed rice, or toasted oat “O”s, with the occasional packet of instant oatmeal to warm us during the winter months.

Mike and I began to keep granola around when he started biking some of the beautiful local trails here regularly. A scattering of granola over a scoop of our favorite yogurt was quick and easy to prepare, and would sustain him on those long rides without weighing him down. Once I learned I was pregnant with Julian, a bowl of granola, yogurt and berries became my preferred weekday breakfast – easy on my stomach, but with enough staying power to get me through my long morning commute and into my workday. It’s what I still turn to most mornings.

getting it started

While we’re lucky to have a great locally-made granola available to us from The Providence Granola Project, I thought it would be fun to start playing with our own blends. I recently asked friends on Twitter to send me their favorite recipes, and soon fell down a granola-filled rabbit hole. There were so many options! From oils to add-ins, it seemed the possibilities were endless, and I gave myself a good week to parse and plan before tackling my first attempt. We picked up a big bag of Maine oats at our new neighborhood market, and I was ready to get started.

DIY granola

I decided to begin with a very trusted sourceMelissa Clark, and her Olive Oil Granola With Dried Apricots and Pistachios. I didn’t have enough maple syrup, so I used honey instead, and I skipped the cardamom since we didn’t have any pre-ground. This first batch was quite good, if a little flat (due to my omission of the cardamom, I’m sure), and I was eager to punch up the flavors.

baked, cooling

So I made a second batch last weekend, tinkering with the ingredient list even more to incorporate some of the nuts and seeds we had on hand, plus adding back the maple syrup and cardamom from the original recipe. I decided to crack into a jar of virgin coconut oil that I’ve been wanting to play with for ages, using it in place of the olive oil. The result was a lovely, deeply golden and intensely fragrant granola that we just can’t stop eating – with our yogurt or just by the handful. As far as DIY foodstuffs go, making granola at home couldn’t be easier, and we’re already talking about how much fun it will be for Julian to have a hand in making his own favorite blends once he’s old enough to enjoy it with us.

mmmm, duck

Our Spin on Homemade Granola
(this borrows heavily from Melissa Clark’s recipe, linked here and above)

3 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup organic raw almonds (feel free to substitute other nuts here, or combine almonds with pistachios or another nut of your choosing – I just used what we had on hand)
¼ cup flax seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds ground with 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I used grey salt)
½ cup organic virgin coconut oil, liquefied (you can substitute an equal amount of extra-virgin olive oil)
¾ cup grade B maple syrup
¼ cup organic light brown sugar
¼ cup muscovado sugar
¾ cup chopped dried fruit (I have used combinations of dried plums and currants, or apricots, black mission figs, and papaya. Use your favorites.)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Spread the mixture on a large, ungreased baking sheet and bake for a total of 45 minutes, stirring the mixture gently at 10 minute intervals. (Note: Clumps are good! You want clumps. So don’t break them up when you stir, if you have them.)

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, scatter the dried fruit over the top, and allow to cool, then transfer to a large air-tight container.

That’s a Wrap

Halls: decked.

The very first year-end holidays Mike and I spent together involved multiple airports and airplanes, as we journeyed from New York to Birmingham to Evansville and back again to New York (bookended by an added Boston-to-NYC leg for me) – a flurry of travel that would test any couple’s patience, but which left us pretty certain we were a good fit. In the years since, our holidays have often been just as much a blur, whether due to a frantic pace, a bit too much tippling, or some combination of the two. But this year’s celebration was very different, and without question, it was the best one yet.

When Mike and I were a family of two (plus cats), we got into the habit of spending the bulk of our holiday time, money and energy on food and drink, in part because we often couldn’t afford much in the way of gifts for each other, but also because the food and drink are the part of the celebration that matters most to us. Without family nearby, we’ve been free to create our own holiday traditions – or to ignore longstanding rituals and make the celebration into whatever we like. Mostly, we’ve done a little of both.

starters

We were introduced to the Feast of the Seven Fishes while living in Brooklyn, and despite having no claim to Italian heritage, we carried that Christmas Eve tradition with us to the Ocean State. This year’s version took on a bit of a Spanish flavor, with boquerones and cava among our starters, and a chorizo-spiked seafood stew the main attraction.

Tradition.

Our customary Christmas morning spread of “bagels and bloodies” (with Mike’s home-cured salmon) proved to be just the thing to sustain us while helping a wide-eyed, wiggly 3-month old open his many presents from generous family members, and it feels like a tradition that can grow with us in the years to come.

Santa's helper

We have often had a “go big or go home” attitude toward Christmas Day feasting, celebrating with multiple courses and complicated preparations, but this year we dialed way back, starting with a few choice nibbles from our favorite cheesemongers, then a beautiful beef rib roast from our local butcher. We prepared it using the unbelievably simple method perfected by Anne Seranne, and served it with Fergus Henderson’s twice-baked duck fat potatoes, and our friend Liz’ wonderful spinach gratin.

New Year's Eve brunch at home

Our New Year’s Eve was even more low-key, with a hearty brunch of baked eggs at home, then a good long walk (which we repeated the next day), some prep for the following day’s dinner, and then early to bed for all three of us.

French 75s

Mike did mix up a round of French 75s to help the two of us toast the coming year after the baby was asleep.

Cassoulet's out of the oven. Dinner is served!

As in years past, we welcomed 2012 with a few good luck foods, though we did change things up a bit: after five (delicious) years of choucroute garnie, Mike decided to make a cassoulet instead, with creamy Maine beans, his own home-cured bacon, and a plethora of porky odds-and-ends. If this year is anywhere near as rich as that meal was, we’re going to be very happy campers.

While the holidays themselves stretched out at a slow and leisurely pace, the weeks since have been a blur. We’ll take our beautiful tree down tonight, packing up the lights and ornaments and storing them away for another year. I’m sad to see them go, but we’ve got big things to look forward to this year. I can’t wait to see where those shiny orbs will be hanging next time we pull them out of their boxes.

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Helping mommy prep yogurt and fruit for the week

Did you know…

that there is no federal law against selling expired formula or baby food? At least that’s what this Cafe’ Mom piece (found via Baby’s First Year on Babble) says.

Now, I am very much pro-breastfeeding, but I am NOT anti-formula. There are dozens of reasons that a woman might need or choose to formula-feed her child, and it is not for me or anyone else to judge. Wouldn’t you think that the government would be a little more proactive in ensuring that foods being fed to its littlest citizens are as safe as possible?

Apparently not. Appalling.

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