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FUN with Food

img_3647Calvin gets a kick out of mealtimes, especially when we’re serving some of his favorite options like avocado.  I’ve posted this photo before, but it’s one of my favorites, and I want to play in the contest at 5M4M.

Mom Made Wholesome Goodness

I love making food for my son from scratch.  But, there are days when it gets hectic, and having enough food prepared to last several meals or several days when we’re on the road just isn’t pragmatic.  I’m not interested in purchasing jarred baby food that’s been sitting on a shelf for who knows how many months.

So, when I heard about the Virginia-based Mom Made Foods was going to be available in Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Super Targets all over Virginia (and many other states) I was thrilled.  Finally–wholesome, organic, baby food that I can purchase locally if I’m in a pinch.

So, the first question on my mind is always, “Does it taste good?”

The answer is a resounding “YES!”

For baby, Mom Made Foods come in apple, pear, sweet potato, and broccoli.  Okay, so my son wasn’t as thrilled about the broccoli as he was with the other flavors, but I just mixed the broccoli with sweet potato and all was well.

These fab flavors are all made from USDA certified organic produce.  The only other additions are filtered water or lemon juice (to prevent oxidation).

Is it as good as homemade? Definitely.  It looks just like my applesauce and pureéd sweet potatoes except maybe a little runnier, since I don’t add water.

Overall, the consistency is smooth (no lumps).  It’s easy to thaw out the container at room temperature or dunked in warm water.  The color of the food is beautiful and fresh.

For a baby just beginning on solids, the serving size is a little large.  Yet, the servings (2 containers of 3.5 ounces each) are just a little too slight for a baby who’s been on solids for several months.  So, I’d recommend for a bigger baby, mixing and matching flavors, or adding some of your own (plain yogurt, mashed banana, mashed avocado…to name a few).

Besides little ones, Mom Made also has a line for Big Kids which includes fiesta rice, cheesy mac, cheese pizza, and bean burrito.

The Mom Made site also includes recipes and healthy tips for babies, toddlers, and big kids.

Glad: This is a great, healthy, organic option that’s just like I would make for my son…except it’s conveniently pre-frozen and ready for on the go.

Sad: I like the flavor options for baby, but I wish there were more.  Mango, cauliflower, berries, squash . . . this is something worth diversifying even further!

An original Traveling with Baby post by Dr. Dolly.

200th Post Celebration

UPDATE

Congratulations to the winners!  The winner of the Scholastic DVD: Corduroy…and More Stories About Caring is Sarah, on August 15th, 2008 at 12:19 pm who said:

“I don’t know if there are videos of these or not, but my kids’ favorite books include: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle); Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Eric Carle); Hippos Go Berserk (Sandra Boynton); Moo Baa Lalala (Sandra Boynton); and Runaway Bunny (Margaret Wise Brown)”

Alternates:

Heather, on August 16th, 2008 at 9:33 pm Said:

Jack’s current favorite book is “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” I don’t know how well that would work animated but he doesn’t quite sit still for a longer storybook. Althought he does also enjoy a childs bible we have with many short bible stories, that might work better for the dvd.

kristen c, on August 17th, 2008 at 12:23 am Said:

And as for the children’s book come to live action, my kids and I vote for “Where the Wild things are” by Maurice Sendak. Wouldn’t that one be fun with the rolling yellow eyes and sharp claws and wild rumpus? )

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The winner of the HAPPYBABY giveaway package is Heather, on August 16th, 2008 at 9:31 pm who said:

Wow 200 posts in just 15 months, so impressive, Congrats Dolly!!! I hope my blog is someday half as successful and helpful to others as yours is! Jack has now had avocado’s, banannas, and will start sweet potatos soon. He would love to try “smarter squash + wiser apple”.

ALTERNATES:

kristen c, on August 17th, 2008 at 12:20 am Said: 

Hi Dolly! I…er…holly would love to try the mac n cheese plus veggies for sure!

Carol Ezovski, on August 17th, 2008 at 10:20 pm Said:

We’d like to try Sweeter Potatoes + Purer Pear

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Traveling with Baby is proud to celebrate it’s 200th post in the 15 months it’s been active.  Thanks so much, loyal readers, for inspiring the content with great feedback via comments and e-mails.  To extend gratitude in honor of this two-hundredth post, Traveling with Baby is teaming up with two companies to offer two giveaways for two readers.

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First up is a grand-slam giveaway from HAPPYBABY.  One reader will win an organic cotton baby tee shirt; a free trial coupon to HAPPYBABY for fresh, frozen, organic baby food; 3 cans of HAPPYBELLIES (organic brown rice cereal, organic oatmeal, cereal or organic multi-grain cereal); and coupons for Fresh Baby’s homemade baby food starter kit. (Retail value $55)

I love that HAPPYBABY is organic and chock-full of DHA for baby’s growing and developing nervous system (this brand could also be called SMARTBABY).

HAPPYBITES is a new line by HAPPY baby: this hand-held toddler/kids line with hidden veggies in every bite was just released in stores nationwide.  Who doesn’t like Mac+Cheese when its got hidden veggies and a delicious vegetable-based dipping sauce?

Check out the HAPPYBABY, HAPPYBELLIES menu.  Purchase HAPPYBELLIES online.

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Next, one reader will win the newly released Corduroy…and More Stories About Caring DVD by Scholastic’s Storybook Treasures. Corduroy, the beloved character from Don Freeman’s classic storybook, turns 40 in this year!  SCHOLASTIC STORYBOOK TREASURES™ celebrates the milestone with a newly enhanced DVD — CORDUROY…AND MORE STORIES ABOUT CARING. This endearing collection of seven award-winning, family-favorite adaptations features celebrity narrators like Mia Farrow (Be Kind Rewind), Laura Dern (Jurassic Park IV) and David De Vries (Remember the Titans).  It’s now available to add to every family’s home entertainment library for $14.95.

The title story features a combination of live action and stop-motion animated adaptation of the original Corduroy .  In this bear-y wonderful tale, Corduroy longs for someone to take him home from the department store.  When he discovers one of his buttons is missing, he sets out to find it, thinking that will hasten his purchase.  Will he find it first or be discovered by the store’s security guard?  This original production from Weston Woods Studios won several national awards from the American Film Festival, the American Library Association and the New York International Film & Video Festival.

This heartwarming DVD also features six more animated stories for more than an hour of classic storytime fun for kids (ages 2-9).  Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is based on the tale by Virginia Lee Burton, and it’s narrated by David De Vries; The Happy Lion, based on the story by Louise Fatio; I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, based on the story by Rose Lewis and narrated by Mia Farrow; Smile for Auntie, based on the tale by Diane Paterson; The Happy Owls, based on the story by Celestino Piatti; and Goose, based on the story by Molly Bang, narrated by Laura Dern. And, as with all new releases in the line, the DVD includes an innovative read-along function which highlights words as they are read, encouraging kids to follow the narration and develop a love of reading.

The live action sequence with the title’s namesake was originally filmed in 1986.  However, it’s a timeless classic with very little script and lots of family fun with an endearing fuzzy, cuddly, and curious bear.  My son was engaged and laughing before the film even began–he just enjoyed the Scholastic intro sequence with animated characters.  The special effects were pretty seamless for the transition from a man in a bear suit costume-to-a bear puppet-to-a stuffed bear.  It was an adorable short film and my son was definitely entertained.

Read more about Scholastic and Weston Woods Studios.

Purchase your own copy of Corduroy…and More Stories about Caring DVD online.

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To enter the giveaway for HAPPYBABY, leave a comment on what product/flavor you’d like your baby would like to try.  To enter for the DVD, leave a comment on which classic children’s book you’d love to see come to life on film.  One entry per person per giveaway.  Remember, TWO is the key to this 200th post celebration.  No more than TWO comments, please.  The contest for the Traveling with Baby 200th post Celebration ends at 11:59 PM (EST) on Friday, August 22nd. The winner will be announced on Saturday, August 23rd.

The winner for each prize and 2 alternates will be selected on Random.org and announced on this post. If you provide your e-mail address, I will contact you. The winner has 72 hours to claim the prize, otherwise, the prize goes to the first alternate to contact me with a shipping address.

Check back at Traveling with Baby for more reviews and contests, there are many more cool giveaways lined up for August.

Jack’s Harvest is the Cream of the Crop

Since Calvin first began solids in April, I’ve been making his food from scratch using a commercial grade blender and ice cube trays. I thought what I prepared for him was pretty awesome, until we tried some of the fantastic menu options from Jack’s Harvest. Then, I realized my homemade baby fare was a little too lumpy and lacked some extra enzymatic spice for the digestive regime.

Heather and Connie’s creations for Jack’s Harvest are made with love from scratch in small batches using USDA certified organic fruits, vegetables, spices, and filtered water. Then, the servings are flash-frozen in adorable heart-shaped cubes in varying sizes dependent on baby’s age and texture-digesting capability. Jack’s Harvest ships orders every Tuesday from the Atlanta-area based kitchen to anywhere in the United States.

Jack’s Flavors are divided into two categories: so smooth which comes in 12-1 ounce servings (for babies beginning to discover their tastes) and a little lumpy which comes in 4-3 ounce servings (for babies ready to explore textures). Connie encouraged me to sample some menu items that sounded good to me. She mentioned that the lip-smacking sweet potatoes with a dash of cinnamon and vanilla and the blueberrytastic banana are popular-selling items.

However, at the time, I was primarily preparing avocado, bananas, and sweet potatoes for Calvin in my own kitchen. Also, I know that any baby is going to be have an affinity toward sweet-tasting fruit, so, I opted to try some of the vegetable creations and one fruity option that I wasn’t already making at home: 1) more peas please with a hint of mint, 2) succulent succotash (now discontinued) and 3) tango with mango with a squeeze of lime. Those flavors were all part of the so smooth category. For contrast and to make this review more complete, Connie suggested that I also try a sample one of Jack’s a little lumpy flavors: I chose the Pearsnips (which is now on sale and will soon be discontinued).

My order was shipped in an insulated aluminum/plastic bag with dry ice and wads of newspaper for extra insulation. Every single packaged item arrived frozen and in tact in perfect heart-shaped form. Each menu item was sealed in individual and labeled plastic bags which listed the ingredients and expiration date (approximately 3 months from the time you receive them). The items were placed directly into our chest freezer for storage, and I was able to retrieve a serving when needed.

The directions for preparation on the bag only included microwave thawing. Since I’m not an advocate of microwave use for cooking (not only does it kill bacteria, but it kills any viable vitamins in food), I chose instead to warm up the cubes in double boiler (glass teacup in a saucepan filled with water). Sometimes, I would thaw out a cube overnight in the refrigerator. When on the road, I could pop a cube in a glass or plastic jar and let it thaw for a couple of hours at room temperature, and it was ready for Calvin to savor. The instructions for thawing at room temperature and in a double boiler are on the website, but they weren’t printed on the food package. However, I hope this will be added in the future.

More Peas Please, with a Hint of Mint

Sweet and tasty peas are mashed up to a smooth paste. The texture reminded me of wet sand or grainy toothpaste. I added a little water each time to make this particular item easier for Calvin to swallow. Even so, he wasn’t crazy about the taste. So, I combined it with mashed up banana and he was happy as a clam to eat his peas. The peas also mix well with avocado or sweet potatoes.

Succulent Succotash

This mildly sweet concoction included sweet corn and lima beans–delicious. Again, the texture was not liquidy enough for Calvin to swallow. I mixed in a little water, and then he gulped it down before I could blink.

Tango with Mango, with a squeeze of lime

It’s like savoring a mango smoothie for babies! I told Calvin if he didn’t finish his food, I’d gladly help him. He ate every bite I served him, but I’d sneak a little taste every time. For more bulk, calories, and a true baby smoothie, add mashed banana and breastmilk.

Pearsnips

Parsnips are like white carrots, with a slightly sweet taste. These matched well with blended pears. The consistency was only slightly coarser than applesauce. I added a little water when serving it to Calvin. It’s a fruit and a sweet root vegetable, so, of course he loved it.

Overall, the so smooth menu items were blended, smoothly. If the texture is too thick, you can easily thin it down with water or breastmilk. You can also easily mix in other menu options or your own foods for more vitamins and taste options. A Little Lumpy is only slightly chunkier/coarser than the so smooth options. It’s a great way to advance baby to the next level of eating textures.

Good for Baby

Check out Jack’s Harvest website. It includes menu options to help you plan a week’s worth of baby meals. The spice rack includes the names of spices used in the foods and a wealth of information on how they are beneficial to baby.

The best thing about Jack’s Harvest is what you won’t find in the food. The website includes a list of yucky stuff that they DON’T add such as preservatives, colors, sugar, starches, and fillers. If you’re concerned about baby’s potential allergies, rest assured that Jack’s Harvest menu options do not include the most common allergy-inducing foods. Jack’s Flavors are free of gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts, and soy.

Great for Parents on the Go

While we spent a week in Virginia, I brought a couple bags of Jack’s Harvest in an insulated cooler. I was able to thaw out a serving in a jar at room temperature or in the cooler in order to feed Calvin while we were on the road. We kept the bags in a freezer throughout the week, and placed a cup in a larger bowl of hot water to thaw. I’ve used this same technique when we’re at restaurants with Calvin. It’s so easy to bring along servings and to prepare them for mealtimes.

Some of Jack’s Flavors have recently been retired, but there are two fabulous new for the summer: Papplesauce with a dash of cinnamon and butternut squash-ed apples with a smidge of sage. For those who want to sample several flavors and textures, pick up Jack’s Packs which have a variety of Jack’s Flavors in up to 6 bags preselected for you based on texture.

Comparative Cost Analysis

As much as I’m a fan of healthy and organic food for Calvin, this review wouldn’t be complete without a frugal mom’s practical cost analysis. I compared the cost of Jack’s Harvest $6 per bag or $0.50 per ounce to what it costs me to prepare organic baby food at home. Organic fruits, vegetables, and spices vary based on season and selection, but for the purpose of this comparison, I evaluated avocados and sweet potatoes. I could make my own from scratch for as little as $0.15 per ounce (depending on the sized of the sweet potatoes) to as much as $0.33 per ounce for avocados.

My homemade costs don’t include the cost of organic spices (I don’t have those), gasoline to travel to the nearest store with organic produce (40 minute drive time round-trip), and the time it takes to peel, mash, bake, blend, pour, freeze, and seal. Also, the price for Jack’s Harvest doesn’t include the cost of shipping. You can type in your zip code to determine the cost to ship frozen items, dry ice, and an insulated bag to you. It costs $17 in shipping to send items to northeastern Pennsylvania. So, it makes economic sense to purchase items in bulk when buying from Jack’s Harvest.

Altogether, Jack’s Harvest is a little more expensive than preparing homemade baby food in your own kitchen, but it’s just as fresh and healthy, and it’s prepared with love by moms for your precious one. Jack’s Harvest is a great option for parents who are too busy to make baby food from scratch, yet they want the quality to be the same. It’s a fantastic option for parents on the go, and for those who are conscientious about other baby foods that have ingredients that aren’t beneficial to baby. I thought Jack’s Harvest items were actually better prepared than anything I had made from scratch thus far. The consistency was smoother and the clever addition of the right spices to augment certain menu options made baby food taste delectably gourmet.

GLAD: Fresh, organic, and tasty food for baby in fantastic combinations with beneficial spices to aid in digestion and increase baby’s taste palate. It’s shipped fast to your front door.

SAD: I wish it was available at my local market.

3 Ways to try Jack’s Harvest or win a FREE bag of Jack’s Harvest goodness

  1. There are three local events in the Atlanta, Georgia coming up soon. This Saturday, May 31st – Jack’s Harvest is having a Launch Party at Nuts ‘n Berries in Atlanta. Get your taste on!
  2. Refer a friend. Check out Jack’s Harvest new referral program and get a free bag (your flavor choice) with your subsequent order.
  3. Traveling with Baby’s readers have access to an exclusive coupon for a free bag of yummy bunny carrots.

Coupon Code “DRDOLLY” entitles you to a FREE bag of Yummy Bunny Carrots with your first order (offer good until July 1, 2008)

Coconut Constipation Cure

It’s quite common for babies digestive systems to get a little backed up when they go from solely ingesting mama’s pure, sweet, breastmilk to taking in some solid foods. However, since we’re not feeding our son foods that can often lead to constipation like cereals and bananas, we recognize that his body is still adapting and will soon figure it out.

Lately, we’re only alternating between avocados and sweet potatoes. But, since he’s had some discomfort passing bowel movements and a little constipation, we decided he needed some help in a natural form. I’m not about to give my son an enema which could lead to long term health problems with gut development and digestion. So, we opted to try pure and beneficial coconut juice. Instead of buying canned or boxed juice that often is hard to find, expensive, and often has added ingredients, we opted to use a raw coconut.

We learned how to husk a coconut here. Steve just happened to have an ice pick on hand and he was able to collect the coconut juice and peel the buttery rich and yummy meat from the shell.

According to Kate’s Global Kitchen, coconut juice (also known as coconut water) is used to nourish and grow newborn babies. The amazing coconut has many health benefits which you can read about on the Coconut Research Center’s website.

I mixed a little coconut juice with Calvin’s daily serving of avocado. During and after the meal, he sipped the remainder of the coconut juice from a bamboo cup, and he loved it. I can’t always get him to drink 4 oz. of water during a meal, but I had no problem getting him to finish up the coconut juice. Coconut juice has natural electrolytes which most closely resemble those that we have in our bodies. Forget sports drinks for post workout replenishing, next time drink some coconut juice. Of course, the effort of opening up the coconut may make you work up a sweat!

So, about 12 hours later, Calvin was able to pass the rest of the waste that had collected in his digestive system . . . ALL of it. Additionally, a friend of ours is an LPN who works at a pediatric clinic. He sees a LOT of babies and small children. He’s seen positive results for constipation when parents mix 1/4 teaspoon of prune juice with 4 oz. of breastmilk or formula.

Prune juice is definitely easier to acquire, but I love all the amazing benefits of the coconut. You can also read more about the benefits of cooking with coconut oil in The Coconut Oil MiracleWholesome Baby Foods offers insight on using coconut in baby foods.

Posts Soon to Post

A couple nights ago, I was awake in the wee hours of the morning (imagine that?!) and I started thinking about different topics I wanted to write about.  I’ve had post ideas before, but somehow the daily requisites of mommydom prevent me from ever actualizing those writings.  But, I’ll jot them down now as more of an outline from which I hope to refer in the near future . . . because to me, this is exciting stuff.

  • Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding and prematurely introducing solid foods and the correlation with adult onset food allergies, obesity, and other trends in health problems.  This is more of a hypothesis rather than the basis for an article (thus far), but at least I’d be interested in writing about the psychology and cultural trends of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding over the past 4 generations of moms
  • Traveling with a baby: what’s a safety concern and what’s really unnecessary worry because it won’t matter anyway when the metal hits the tarmac.
  • Baby foods: do they really put secret flour-based fillers in those manufactured baby foods?  If you make your own food at home, do you really need to add oils and vitamins to the foods?  How can you be sure your baby is getting the best and recommended nutrition?
  • My birth story.  It’s 5 months past due, but I thought now might be a great time to share it, especially since Mother’s Day is coming soon.

So, stay tuned as I tease out these ideas in my mind, do some research and fact-finding, and I’ll tell it like it is.

Peace in the Middle East.