Tag Archives: cooking

Frozen Homemade Baby Food vs. the Dead Microwave

I’ve posted a few times about making homemade baby food. It’s a process I’ve been enjoying.

Serving it, on the other hand, has been a bit more challenging of late. You see, my microwave died.

Well, not so much died as started sparking. Not a good thing, especially since it’s quite new.

Good thing it’s still within the return period.

But that does mean I have to plan a bit more ahead for when Selene wants her meals. It takes rather longer to reheat her food without a microwave.

How I handle it depends on what I’m doing. Fastest is popping it in a small pot and stirring the baby food until it’s about a safe temperature.

But sometimes I’ll put it in an oven safe bowl and put it in the oven to warm up. This is effective if I’m already using the oven for something else. Takes about 10-15 minutes or so, and if there’s a touch of ice still in the food when I take it out, that’s a good thing. Helps to cool off the parts that are already melted and too hot.

Reheating her food this way means that it often has to spend a few minutes cooling back down to a baby safe temperature. That’s no fun if she’s hollering for her meal now! You know how patient babies aren’t, especially when they’re hungry.

I’ll be glad when I get that microwave brought back to the store and get a replacement. It’s just so much faster and I know better how long to heat the baby food to keep it at a safe temperature so I don’t have to cool it back off.

Still, it’s nice to know how easy it is to cope without.

What Equipment Do You Need to Make Baby Food?

I’ve been having a lot of fun making baby food for Selene. She loves it too. She hasn’t minded jarred food when I have to give it to her, but she seems more enthusiastic about the homemade stuff.

If you’ve ever tasted jarred baby food then homemade, you’d know why.

It’s really easy to make baby food. You probably even own much of the equipment you absolutely need, although to avoid BPA and such you may choose to buy newer products.

I bake or steam most of her fruits and vegetables, so that’s just products I already use for regular cooking. Nothing special needed there. You can buy a special food steamer or get a stainless steel vegetable steamer insert for a pan if you don’t have anything along those lines yet.

Then you need a good blender. I like my VitaMix, and I understand the newer ones are BPA free for if that’s a concern. But if you don’t want to spend that kind of money, find something within your budget. But remember that a good blender also works for smoothies, which are fun for any age.

If you’re making baby food in any sort of quantity, you’ll need to freeze it next. Ice cube trays do the job, but you can buy baby food storage trays that may do a somewhat better job, as well as give you more choices as to what it’s made out of. You can buy ones without phthalates, BPA and PVC.

I also consider my crockpot to be a baby food maker. It’s a great way to make meat tender, which makes pureeing it much simpler. Also nice when you don’t want to be fussing with the exact time that everything is done cooking.

As baby gets older and doesn’t need pureed food, a food mill becomes a much better choice. I’ve had mine since my oldest was a baby, and it’s still in great condition. Just pop the food in and start cranking.

There’s one more piece of equipment that’s really nice to have if you can afford the space and time it takes… a garden! What better way to really know what goes into baby’s food. We can’t all have gardens, of course. But if you can, it’s a good way to make food for baby and the entire family.

With any luck, you have at least some of this on hand before you start wanting to make baby food.

11 Tips for Saving Energy in the Kitchen

When you’re an at home parent, you probably make a lot of meals in the kitchen. At least, I hope you’re not eating out too much.

It’s easy to be a little inefficient with your energy use in the kitchen, however. Here are some tips to help you be just a little more efficient.

1. Check that refrigerator seal.

Is it clean? If not, wipe it down.

You can test how effective your refrigerator door seal is with a piece of paper. Close the door on the paper and try to slide it out. If it moves easily, your seal isn’t tight.

2. Full loads in the dishwasher.

Handwashing is necessary for many things in the kitchen, but wash what you can in the dishwasher. Most use less water than handwashing does. That’s less water and less energy from the hot water heater.

If you have kids, full loads are probably pretty easy to come by. The fewer people in the house, the harder this one can be.

3. Put a lid on it.

Your pots and pans come with lids for a reason. Putting a lid on as you cook makes foods cook faster and reduces the amount of energy lost. While this won’t work for all recipes, especially if you have to stir a lot, try to remember to use lids when you can.

4. Size matters.

Using the right size pot or pan can be a help in heating food faster. But that’s not the only time to think about size, at least if you have a toaster oven.

A toaster oven can be more efficient than heating up your full size oven for smaller meals. It’s not so great that I would necessarily say run out and get one, but if you have one anyhow, use it. And if you’re really going to use it enough, it may not be a bad purchase at all.

5. Consider the microwave.

I know some people aren’t fans of microwaved foods, but when you have one and it’s appropriate, you aren’t going to beat the microwave for energy efficiency in heating up food or liquids.

6. Pile on the pressure.

Pressure cookers aren’t exactly the same as they were in our grandparents’ time. Modern ones are pretty safe so long as you follow the directions. And they’re pretty fast at cooking up food.

7. Take it slow.

Microwaves are great for heating things up fast, but slow can pay off too. As in a slow cooker or crockpot.

I’ve long been a fan of my crockpot, especially when dealing with a baby. I can start dinner at almost any time of the day. First thing in the morning if I know things are going to get crazy or I just want to get dinner going. Middle of the day if morning didn’t work out or I think of it later. Just a matter of picking the right temperature.

It’s also great for getting meats soft enough to grind up for baby food.

8. Cut the cord.

Or at least stop using so many little electric gadgets for things that can be done by hand. It doesn’t take that much effort for most people to open a can with a regular can opener. Do you really need that food processor to do the slicing for you? What about a mandoline?

9. Keep it clean.

Clean ovens and stove tops can be much more efficient. They’re designed to reflect energy while you cook, and dirt changes where it goes and can cut the efficiency.

10. Shut it down.

Just because you turned off the heat doesn’t mean your food stops cooking. Whether it’s on the stove or in the oven, it takes time for things to cool down enough to stop the cooking process completely… especially if you use lids on the stove and keep that oven shut until you’re ready to take the food out.

11. Don’t cook everything.

Lots of fruits and vegetables are great raw. Why not take advantage and just not cook them?

Do you have any tips to share?

How Much Food Are You Wasting?

Most of us waste food. That’s the USDA said in 1995 that 27% of the food supply in the United States was wasted. That’s 96 billion pounds of wasted food. This isn’t something they check very often, so I can’t find more recent data than that.

But it’s pretty horrible.

A lot of it is restaurant waste, of course. If you’ve ever worked in one or even just paid attention to what people leave on their plates, you know. Excessive portions are a big problem.

You can help with that, of course, by taking your leftovers home. If you want to be really green about it, take it home in a reusable container you’ve brought from home.

But food waste at home is a big problem too. People buy more than their families can eat. They cook too much then don’t eat the leftovers.

It’s quite a waste of money as well as food.

So what do you do about it?

The first thing you can do is look at your shopping habits. Are you buying more than your family will eat before it spoils? Do you plan your shopping around a menu to control what you buy?

You also need to pay attention to your leftovers. I try to remember leftovers when I prepare my lunch. One of my sisters makes frozen meals out of them to take to work. Other people make casseroles or other recipes by combining leftovers. Figure out what works for you.

Of course, when food does spoil, think about how you’re disposing of it. If you can compost it for your garden, do so. It’s not as good as eating the food you bought for that purpose, but it’s better than throwing it in the trash.

How Much Water Do You Need For Cooking?

It doesn’t sound like much, but boiling too much water when you cook is a waste. It’s not just the water, after all. It’s the energy it takes to heat it.

You aren’t always going to be certain of the exact amount you need, of course. Most people I know aren’t going to measure the water they put in the tea kettle when boiling water for tea. Then again, it’s more efficient to boil the water in the cup you’re going to use in the microwave if one cup of tea is all you’re doing. Just watch out for sudden boiling from superheated water.

You may also want to consider steaming vegetables rather than boiling them. First of all, steaming is generally better for keeping nutrients in the vegetables, rather than releasing them into the water. I think they taste much better that way too.

In addition to only boiling what you need, remember to put a lid on the pot when you’re boiling water. It will come to a boil sooner, saving both energy and time.