Eat Local this summer: beginning with asparagus and strawberries

It’s almost asparagus and strawberry time in Ontario, the beginning of *hopefully* a long and prosperous growing season. My cousins run an incredible Organic farm and it’s amazing to be so close to the hard, hard work that goes into their CSA and production every year.

It’s given me a passion for eating locally, of course.

strawberry asparagus festival toronto
The strawberry & asparagus festival in Toronto is June 2nd, 2013. 

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what’s in season when, because you really can’t tell the difference from going to the supermarket. So I’m here to remind you that May is Asparagus season in Ontario! (Why am I so excited about this??), followed closely be Strawberries in June!!!!

I can’t wait to take RZ to pick Organic fruits and vegetables! She’s been fascinated with the outdoors since birth, and LOVES plants, trees, and….food.

& also….

… the Asparagus and Strawberry Festival!

Date: June 2, 2010
Venue: Cedarvale Park – Children
Address: 433 Arlington Ave, Toronto, Ontario,M6C 3A2, Canada

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What’s so great about Organic?

Today Parents Magazine had a feature on When to Buy Organic. It was well done, educational, and actually scarier and more factually accurate than I expected. Like Global Warming, there’s a stigma attached to buying Organic  – and where you fall on the spectrum means someone on the other side thinks you’re crazy or snobby or a bad mom.

Bananas for Organic Bananas
Bananas for Organic Bananas

Sometimes I feel I have to defend my choice to buy organic produce, milk, and meat. Why am I purposely spending more money on food that has questionable differences from the other ‘normal’ food? Does it make me a rich bitch? A hippie? Both? In most cases, people resolve themselves to one side of this argument or another, and feel that they’ve made the right decision for their family.

Well, here’s my take.

We don’t do it for the environment. Sorry environment. Guess I’m not a hippie after all. Or because it’s shinier and fancier. Because usually it’s not. We don’t do it as a mark of pride, either. It’s actually shameful that we have to buy a food that essentially stamped “not toxic!”.

In our family, we buy Organic out of evidence-based, factual reasons that it will do LESS harm. In other words, we fear the hormone and pesticide soaked ‘regular’ stuff.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees:

“Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.”

 – American Academy of Pediatrics, Council on Environmental Health

Does that sound extreme? I just don’t want to take the chance on my daughter’s health. My husband’s family suffered with Grave’s disease and Lymphoma. My side of the family has turned up insidious diseases like Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidoisis. All of these have been linked to environmental factors. There is enough out there on the outside that puts us at risk. I want to try to limit the toxicity she’s battling from the inside.

Simple, easy, healthy meals for picky, busy, hungry toddlers!

Corn Salads

Cold salads aren’t the first thing you think of for little people with 8 or so teeth, but these are kid-approved. I’m kind of obsessed with them right now actually, because they are so easy, and perfect for the warmer weather.

1. Toddler’s Picnic

  • 2 cups of cooked corn
  • 3 -4 hearts of palm and/or artichoke hearts in oil (diced. Don’t use the tough leaves either, just the tender ones.)
  • As many Cherry tomatoes as you can dice before getting bored (around 6?)

Dressing: a dash of mayo, a dash of lemon, some olive oil, and Herbamare or sea salt

2. Monster Pasta Mix (some cooking required) 

  • 2 cups Rotini (spiral pasta)
  • 1 bunch Asparagus Tops (steamed well in water first, chopped diagonally is good)
  • 1/2 Avocado (Diced)
  • 1/2 cup Peas

Dressing: Olive Oil, Lemon, Mayonaise (a dash), Dill (a dash), Soy Sauce/Tamari (a splash), Herbamare  

3. Cleopatra’s Quinoa (some cooking required)

  • 1 cup Quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked carrot or sweet potato chunks (steamed or roasted until soft)
  • 1 handful rehydrated dried raisins or cranberries

Dressing: Olive Oil, Lemon, Mayonaise (a dash), Dill (a dash), Soy Sauce/Tamari (a splash), Herbamare. Quinoa can be a bit dry, so you could also add yoghurt or a little extra olive oil to taste.   

4.  Bambino Risotto (some cooking required) 

  • Brown Rice or Orzo, or Arborio Rice
  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Blueberry

Dressing: Creme Fraiche (Fancy!?), Sour Cream + Cinnamon

5. Cloud and Rainbow Salad 

  • Cottage Cheese
  • watermelon (diced)
  • honeydew
  • strawberries

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50 Healthy First Foods – Hassle-free, healthy ideas for baby’s journey into real food

Finger Food Babies Honeydew

It’s such an adventure to figure out what to feed a baby sometimes; but the older the baby gets, the more the kitchen and pantry options seem to expand. I find it so much fun to experiment with new foods and recipes. Many of the foods in this list, Raquel has been eating since she was 8 months old. So here it is… the list of 50 healthy, simple, first foods!

Once you’ve graduated to more food combining, check out some of my toddler-friendly recipes (some teeth help) or if you’re just beginning to give your baby real food, check out my earlier posts on how we started Raquel on food, using a “no-puree” method sometimes called baby-led weaning. <– The name is dumb. It could also be called “eating food.”  

Finger Food Babies Honeydew
Raquel at about 6 months old, eating honeydew.

Here’s a picture of us last summer, with her eating (more like sipping and gumming, at that stage) some fresh honeydew.

50 Healthy Baby Foods for the First Year:

  1. Honeydew
  2. Hummous
  3. Watermelon
  4. Avocado (a good very first food)
  5. Cheese
  6. Mango (In the winter we use the frozen, already chopped. Blanche and Dice.)
  7. Green peas (First Food) (Blanche, steam, or boil)
  8. Halved Grapes
  9. Hearts of Palm (Dice) 
  10. Artichoke hearts (From Jar. Dice, hearts only, with olive oil)
  11. Brown rice (Well cooked – 2 to 1 water to rice or 45 – 50 min.)
  12. White rice (but brown rice is healthier, for the record.) 
  13. Raisins (7+ mos.) 
  14. Puffed wheat/rice cakes (7+ mos.) 
  15. Almond butter on toast (7+ mos.) 
  16. Israeli cous cous (7+ mos.) 
  17. Pear (Soft, Diced)
  18. Broccoli (Well steamed or boiled til mushy)
  19. Banana (First Food) 
  20. Spaghetti with pesto, olive oil, cheese sauce or tomato sauce  
  21. Rotini, same as above .
  22. Soba noodles 
  23. Rice noodles
  24. Cottage cheese 
  25. Pita and cream cheese (7+ mos.) 
  26. Scrambled/Chopped egg (7+ mos.) 
  27. Sweet Potato 
  28. Green Beans (Pre-cut, frozen – blanche, steam or boil)
  29. Carrots (Blanche, steam or boil)
  30. Bluberries (Organic is best for thin-skinned fruits) 
  31. Chicken pieces
  32. Fish pieces
  33. Steamed Squash (Diced.) 
  34. Strawberries (Diced.) 
  35. Clementine/tangerine pieces (7+ mos. Diced and Deveined.) 
  36. Yoghurt (Also great as dressing or dip) 
  37. Cheese Curds (big hit) 
  38. Papaya (Diced) 
  39. Plum (Skinless, Diced.) 
  40. Apricot (Diced) 
  41. Asparagus tops (Blanched, Boiled, or Steamed until ‘gummable’.) 
  42. Beets (Boiled til soft) 
  43. Cauliflower (Boiled or Steamed until soft) 
  44. Zucchini 
  45. Spinach (Blanched or steamed. Chopped.) 
  46. Tofu (Raw. Mashed or Cubed) 
  47. Black beans (slightly mashed) 
  48. Kidney beans (slightly mashed) 
  49. Mashed Potato
  50. Turkey! With cranberry sauce! — Ok, this one might take a little work ; ) 

Markets with Toddlers. Makin’ it work.

Ask any Torontonian about how packed St Laurence Market is on a Saturday morning and they’ll tell you there’s barely room to move WITHOUT an oversized stroller.

But we do it. And I hope you dare to do it too.

That being said …. I Can’t wait for Spring and the open air local farmers markets.

But here’s a few shots from St Laurence yesterday….

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The Oranges of Species

20130412-173116.jpgYesterday RZ, in her typically adorable fashion, pointed to the five oranges in our fruit basket and said her favorite word: that! (‘Dat’)

She wanted an orange, or so I thought.

I passed her an orange and she squealed with glee at the rollie-pollie object on her high chair tray. Then she did it again: ‘dat!’

Until she had 5 giant oranges on her tray and was loving every minute of getting overtaken by giant orange balls.

But then she pointed to the bananas: ‘dat!’ And I started wondering if this was less about shapes and more about her first inklings of understanding where food comes from.

We spent a while playing with the oranges and bananas, and then I took the opportunity to open them for her and let her have at them: that’s when the real fun began.

Happy to report, a 13 month old baby can probably eat a whole fruit better than you’d expect. In fact, it’s easier almost than those bits and bytes we make for them.

Food for thought!

 

 

 

Diary flashback: @ 7 months pregnant

Went to Yoga today and had a great class. What was way too easy in September was totally challenging today. I’m in very good spirits despite any silliness around me. I just can’t wait to meet her and hang out; feed her and dress her and bathe her. Hey I guess motherhood IS like playing Barbie. Especially when it’s a girl. I’ve somehow gotten my heart set on the name Raquel, even though J’s been rooting for that name for months. It’s grown on me and now I just love the uniqueness and the joy of the ‘el’ ending. Raquel Zara. So lovely.

5 BBQ ideas for babies and toddlers

Can babies eat BBQ? The short answer is yes. (Yay!)

My concern was about carcinogens found in charred meat, but the solution to that is pretty simple. Don’t give your little one any food with black bits on it. But those parts generally accompany the tough parts of food anyway. Baby BBQing is all about keeping foods soft and juicy. For achieving this, we use foil and ‘slow and low’ heat to make sure food is cooked-through and not dried out on the grill.

Extra-precautions: Use FOIL to cook food that’s being BBQ’d for baby – especially on a less-that-super-clean BBQ (hey, it happens) safe away from char, dirt and grunge, BBQ brush wires or other stray objects.

Some starter ideas:

  • Super checked, double-checked, 100% boneless/deboned white fish or salmon pieces (cooked in foil with a little butter or olive oil and dill or light seasoning).
  • Portabello mushrooms in foil (cooked until juicy and soft)

If your BBQ is clean and you trust the surface doesn’t contain any hazards, here are some other no-foil ideas we’re trying out this season:

  • Grilled Fruit (Pineapple, apple, pear, banana, kiwi) Cook on a skewer or tray and then de-skewer (obviously) , cool, and dice up. *If you haven’t tried grilled fruit, you will love it! It gets caramelized and sweet and juicy.
  • Blueberry-stuffed peaches (OMG. baby food? Mommy Food!) Here’s a recipe (drop the sugar though, not necessary at all)
  • Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers with Spinach (How awesome do these sound?!)

And a little more labor intensive and ambitious, but SUPER healthy:

  • Sunshine Burgers “Raw or Cooked” *Substitute the celery and carrot in this recipe for cooked/soft green peas and green beans *the recipe is about half way down the page. What I was looking for was a burger recipe that is fine even if it doesn’t cook through and through, so that you don’t need to char it or overcook it. These burgers are fine even they are basically raw inside, because the ingredients are cooked brown rice, ground flax, and ground sunflower seeds. For a less labor intensive meatless burger, any of the “just add water” quinoa variety are worth trying, or pre-packaged sunshine burger mix!

And then last of all, below is a picture from about 5 or 6 months ago (which would make RZ about 9 months old) trying out her first fried chicken…. not the healthiest option, but she sure loved it! We’ll be experimenting with BBQ chicken, but probably will shred it! Also, leftover BBQ chicken is good for a BBQ chicken pizza the next night ; )

Diggin' a drumbstick with Daddy
Diggin’ a drumbstick with Daddy