Dining haul

Sitting down to share food together. This simple, beautiful, essential act was the thing that defined my relationship with Darry in all of the years that we were together before children. It is how we found and nurtured our most important relationships with our dearest friends. Nearly 10 years, this twice daily act (always breakfast, always dinner)  grounded us, kept us healthy and in the moment for the duration of each delicious meal.

We are working so hard to keep that foundation present now that we have three children. It was challenging but manageable when Serafina arrived. Every day of her first two years was reliably book-ended by a hot meal at the start and finish of each day with both of us next to her. In the mornings, she would nibble on our eggs. In the evenings, she would often crawl into my lap and gobble up a bit of whatever we were eating. She was a remarkably tidy eater, even in her baby phase, and the post-bedtime cleanup was minimal. In this way, she was a weirdo and she fooled us.

Needless to say, mealtime these days is not the luxurious, deliberate and often artful act that it once was. We are still eating twice daily, always breakfast and always lunch, with all of the children together. We are still preparing hot meals, miraculously made from mostly whole foods. But the time spent seated at the table is now a total fucking circus that generates up to an hour of cleanup after every meal.

When it’s time to eat, Serafina gets a head start on everyone else and often vanishes mid-meal to collect toys from another room, make mischief somewhere, demand that she is tired and ready for bed, etc. The twins cease their clockwork pre-meal whining (they are very conditioned) while finally stationed in their chairs — always with food already placed on their trays so they don’t attempt a premature escape. (At 9 months, Mairead started standing up in her chair and it was terrifying.) Darry and I shuttle all the necessary accoutrements to the table, attempt to sit down, both of us with one eye on the children as they start to inhale food. And then, instead of eating, one of us is continuously tearing up and throwing more and more food to the babies, who are consuming it faster than we can keep up. Meanwhile, the other is trying to keep Serafina engaged and present, and making sure she eats at least a couple of bites of the more important parts of the meal.

When we are done, usually 15 to 20 minutes later, the space around the table is a crime scene of food waste, suggesting that the twins did not actually ingest anything we gave them and that, instead, 100 percent of the tiny pieces we lovingly ripped up and tossed to them, were redirected to the floor. The babies themselves are covered in food, with bits of stuff somehow penetrating their onesies and digging in deep into their cloth diapers. (These will spill later on the bathroom floor, when they are stripped for a tubby.)

I know many families have their kids nibble on their own kid food separately and wait until after bedtime to eat in a more relaxed way themselves. I appreciate that, but I honestly don’t know how those parents can wait so long to eat dinner or when, if at all, they eat breakfast. Darry and I are also very conditioned and always very hungry.

But we are hoping the investment we are making at our mealtime circus now will nurture the same love and graciousness Darry and I have with each other, and the same love and gratitude for food. I like to fantasize about years from now, when the girls count on their time with us in the morning and the evening as a space to share how they’re feeling about the day ahead and about the day behind them. I also like to fantasize about them cooking entire meals for us, many years from now.  And I am proud of us for persevering and committing to the hard work required to procure good food, to prepare it and to share it, religiously, around the table as a family.

Secretly healthy homemade pouches

As first-time parents, we were militant about keeping fruit and veggie pouches out of Serafina’s hands. When visiting with friends with kids, it could get awkward. They would generously offer a pouch while their child sucked one down, and one or both of us would politely decline, not wanting to say out loud, “hey, we think those things can go rancid and they will never touch our baby’s lips.”

Fast forward to a 2-year-old Serafina, who is able to ask directly for a pouch, and articulate very clearly that she knows exactly what they are and how to use them. When we asked how, she explained that her grandma buys them for her sometimes. Joke’s on you, mommy and mama.

We’ve been more lax with babies #2 and #3 — they’ve had a couple of pouches, and we’ve even bought them. But we still have reservations about the shelf life, the sugar content and the packaging. Thus, we’re experimenting with our own, reusable pouch.

It still strikes me as weird, kind of gross and the antithesis of the kind of eating habit we hope to establish — a long, slow, luxurious appreciation of all flavors, shapes, colors and textures — but the fact is, kids seem to like their food when it’s delivered in plastic. And for the moment, it’s still a challenge to get certain (green) vegetables in Serafina’s diet and a desirable balance of fat, protein and fruit or veg.

We ordered the Little Green Pouch on Amazon (a 4 pack). They are actually easy to clean, though the spout is a bit tricky and requires a narrow bottle brush. If these are a hit with all three kids and we find we need to order more, I’m going to try the WeeSprout brand, because the loading zone on these looks wider.

Here are our first two recipes:

Protein pouch

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Serafina, naked and happily sucking down a protein pouch.

1 medium sweet potato (roasted)
1 medium ripe banana
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter

^ This one was surprisingly tasty and the right consistency (not too liquid). It filled two pouches.

Green pouch
1 cup of (raw) spinach leaves
5 strawberries (we used frozen)
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 banana
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon of peanut butter
1/2 cup water

I’d recommend going lighter on the water and heavier on the peanut butter, to make the end result thicker. This one was tasty, basically like a smoothie. It made enough to fill three pouches.

 

 

Secretly healthy homemade gummies

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When Serafina was first exploring solids, we were fanatical about making everything ourselves, procuring only the purest, priciest ingredients and carefully exposing her palette to a broad range of subtle flavor differences. Of course.

The twins’ first foods were primarily from (organic) jars, and though they have rapidly graduated to table food — whole slices of pizza, why not? — they’re getting far more processed (“healthy”) snack food geared towards infants and toddlers and so is Serafina. We are eating those words we once uttered about how a pouch would never touch our child’s lips.

It is a serious job to keep up with the food needs of our family as part of everything else, and we are plagued by the guilt of seeing our kids eat stuff out of plastic, primary-colored wrappers. These homemade gummies were born of that guilt.

I bought everything I needed to make these from Amazon and used mostly fruit and veggies we already had in the fridge. If you google homemade gummies, you’ll find a bunch of starting points. I riffed off this recipe for our first try.

Here are the ingredients we used in ours:

  • 7 strawberries
  • 1 red apple
  • 1 carrot
  • Handful of cherries and grapes (we had some left in the fridge)
  • 1/2 medium sized beet
  • A glug of grape juice (which we also had in the fridge)
  • Raw honey
  • Grass-fed gelatin. (The packaging on this prescribes a few tablespoons a day, dissolved in water or juice, as joint support.)
  • Cod liver oil, this is the particular brand we have right now
  • Kid safe elderberry syrup

    The goal here was to achieve a rich red color and make 1 1/2 cups of juice.img_7046.jpg

And here’s how we made the gummies:

  1. Cut fruit and veggies. Serafina was especially useful during this portion.
  2. Juice them all. Serafina was moderately useful here — she wanted to drop everything in our juicer very methodically — one grape at a time.
  3. Measure the juice to make sure we had the right amount. Pour it into a medium pan and add 4 tablespoons of gelatin. We let it dissolve for a few minutes. When it appeared to have “bloomed,” I put it on medium heat and mixed it well to fully dissolve the gelatin.
  4. Once dissolved (really just a minute or two), I turned off the heat and added 3 tablespoons of honey, a 1/4 teaspoon of cod liver oil and a 1/4 teaspoon of elderberry syrup and stirred again.
  5. We used a dropper to put the liquid in the molds and refrigerated them for an hour or more. This was Serafina’s favorite part.

*note this amount of juice, filled all 4 of the molds that came in this package.

We could have made them sweeter. After the initial bite, the earthiness of the beet really came through. But it didn’t seem to deter Serafina. She ate half of them today without complaint. She did seem to prefer the smaller bites of the bear mold; the other shapes are pretty big by comparison. We’re going to make green gummies next time, sneaking in kale and spinach.