Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homemade Baby Food in Ice Cube Trays

Even though this baby won't be eating solid foods for at least six months (no, she's not born yet - six days until my due date!), I've started to think about what I can feed her when the time comes.  I plan to make my own baby food and got a food processor from a friend as a baby shower gift.  I love that I've already been able to use it to make hummus and virgin margarita jello cups.  It's one thing I didn't mind acquiring as part of the vast flood of baby items!

I've been sent repeatedly to an awesome site with recipes and food storage tips.  This seems like a one-stop shop for all of your homemade baby food questions:

What I didn't realize was that you can't just grind up what you're having for dinner and feed it to the baby the first time you introduce solid foods.  I'm told food introduction should be done gradually and one food at a time, until your baby is comfortable with a variety of foods (and to better distinguish foods they might be allergic to).  So that leaves you with the problem of how to make tiny portions of one kind of food at a time.

Solution: A lot of people will make batches of a particular food and freeze it for up to one month.  The neat trick I learned today is to use ice cube trays.  It simultaneously helps you save it in chunks small enough for a baby meal, and also conserves space in your freezer (plus you may not need to buy any new equipment)!

If you don't have ice cube trays already, they make some with lids just for baby food

Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food/Breast Milk Trays

Once the food is frozen, you can pop it out and store it in a ziplock bag until you need it (then reuse the tray for another type of food).  This should be easier than I imagined.  I love elegant, green solutions using stuff I already own!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prepping Your Cloth Diapers

It seems intuitive to me that you should wash your cloth diapers before using them, but I didn't quite understand why some women talked about their elaborate rituals for "prepping" them beyond one wash so passionately.  I'd read a lot of interesting stories about cloth diaper prepping, including recipes for boiling new diapers in what can only be described as a witch's brew of sorts (minus the toad's feet) and people who wash them 8-10 times before use.

It turns out there is some rhyme or reason to prepping your cloth diapers:
  1. Some cloth diapers have some agents left over from their factory processing.  One wash should get rid of those and soften up the diapers.
  2. Cotton shrinks and cloth diaper manufacturers have taken this into consideration.  If you don't wash your diaper liners to pre-shrink them ahead of time, the fit may be wrong the first couple of times you use them.
  3. After a few times in the dryer, cloth diapers fluff up and reach their full absorbency potential.

Just like the rest of parenthood, people develop their own style when it comes to prepping cloth diapers.  Some people simply boil them.  Others wash them multiple times.  I thought the 8-10 washes theory was a bit much, so I settled for washing (and drying) them three times (why three?  because third time's the charm, of course!).  I decided to do this in cold water to be more eco-friendly and am trying out a cloth diaper detergent that I've heard many a mom rave about: Rockin Green.  I only used detergent in the first wash, then just water for the others.

Above all, I think the best advice I've found is that you know your diaper prepping is working when you can pour some water on them and it gets absorbed, instead of beading up.

There was a noticeable difference in diaper volume after just the first wash/dry cycle.  I'm not sure that the second and third washing did much, but you can definitely see the difference between the prefolds I washed and the out-of-the-box ones.


 Gerber Brand 6 Pack Prefold Birdseye Organic Diaper, White

Before I washed them, they seemed a bit thin and were in some places see-through, but they seem much more up for the job at hand now!

 TWO MORE WEEKS before I'll be able to try out their REAL absorbency.  I hope they work!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Starting Plants as Seeds

A major step you can take towards green eating is growing your own vegetables.  It's easy, cheap, local, and nothing compares to grabbing a pepper off the plant and eating it right away for dinner.  Freshness really does make a difference! 

Seed Trough Just Before Planting Outside

This year, we don't have our own land or garden spot to rent, so I'm experimenting with container gardening.  The project started off in North Dakota with a few seeds in a North-facing window.  Now, what I know about growing plants from seeds can definitely fit into a single paragraph, but I've learned a lot from my first-year experiment and am having some success:
  1. Check the seed packet, which tells you how long it takes before the seeds should be planted in the ground. 
  2. Figure out your region's "frost dates" which, in the spring is typically the latest you might expect frost.  You'll use this date to plan when you'll plant outside.
  3. Using the information from 1 & 2 count backwards for each type of plant you want to grow and create a seed schedule for when you should be planting each seed indoors.  For example, Larned, KS has a frost date of May 11th, so I picked the Saturday immediately afterwards to plant, May 15th.  My squash packet indicates that I should plant the seeds indoors three weeks before the last frost, so I planted those on April 24th.
  4. Your seedlings need lots of light.  The North-facing window in our apartment in North Dakota did not provide enough, so next time I'll choose a South-facing window, or possibly supplement with growth lights.
  5. I bought a little seed trough and some organic soil in which to grow the seeds, but you could use just about any small container (dig through your recycling or use the bottom of a milk carton) to get your seeds started.
  6. Make sure you keep them watered!

 My Seed Schedule

That's honestly about all I did.  There are far more thorough step-by-step instructions online like these.  I should have planted more than one seed per container as some seeds never germinated.  I did this for my strawberries, then just thinned them out later.

The Results

So far so good!  I've harvested one zucchini and a handful of green beans so far and have plenty of tomatoes and other zucchini on the way.  The strawberries have all died off, unfortunately, but the rest of my plants are doing well.  I know it's a little late in the season to be harvesting zucchini, but I blame the low light in North Dakota for that.

First Zucchini

A Single Bean

 Container Garden

I'm looking forward to the impending explosion of produce and will definitely do this again next year!