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Something Special For the Holidays…

September 22, 2013

I have something suuuuper exciting to share with you today!

I have been a busy little bee working on a special Pretty/Hungry project to roll out for the holidays… and today I can finally give you a sneak peek.

A Pretty/Hungry Year- 2014 Calendar featuring recipes and photos by Carissa Casey: Author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog

A Pretty/Hungry Year-  2014 Wall Calendar Featuring Recipes & Photos by Carissa Casey: Author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog

This calendar is a special collection of some of my favorite Pretty/Hungry recipes, hand-selected and photographed by yours truly. 🙂  Each month features a scrumptious seasonal dish and full color photo.  I like to think of this as a mini-cookbook of sorts, with the fun added function of being a calendar!   Two wonderfully useful items in one!

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I happen to love calendars, because I’m a bit of a planning nut (in case you didn’t already know that.)  I’m fanatical about keeping my appointments and activities logged on a calendar… it keeps me sane.  And what a perfect Christmas gift, since just about everyone needs a fresh calendar every New Year!  That’s why I’ve been busting my booty to complete the calendar in time for the upcoming Holiday Season.  In my family alone, I can think of 10 people who could use a calendar for Christmas.  Spoiler alert, Dad!  Now you know at least one of your gifts this year.

But a calendar that doubles as recipe inspiration??  That’s just downright NEAT.

I had so much fun choosing these recipes and photographing them for this calendar.  I know you’ll enjoy them!  There’ll be soup in the winter, strawberries in the summer, and even potatoes for St. Patty’s in March!

There are a few recipes on the calendar you may have seen here on the blog before, but I’ve also made sure to include some never-before-posted recipes for an added bonus.  What fun!

A Pretty/Hungry Year- 2014 Recipe Calendar Featuring Recipes & Photos by Carissa Casey: Author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog

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The calendars will be shipped in November so that you have plenty of time to wrap them if you’re buying them as gifts, but feel free to place your order starting today!  The cost is $12.50 each + shipping.  There are two ways to order the Pretty/Hungry 2014 recipe calendar.  Just use either of the methods listed below:

1)      Use this link and purchase your calendar(s) through Etsy!

*If you live locally (or anywhere we’ll cross paths before the holidays… Little Rock, Missouri, Memphis, Searcy, etc.) let me know!  I can give you a coupon code for free shipping, and you can pick up your order in person and save on shipping!

OR

2)      E-mail me your order at ccprettyhungry@gmail.com!

*Let me know how many calendars you need and I’ll send you mailing info for your payment.  Easy-peasy!  Same shipping rules apply for this option, meaning you can pay a few bucks for me to ship your order to you, OR you can plan to meet up with me sometime before Christmas and pay NO shipping.

A Pretty/Hungry Year- 2014 Wall Calendar Featuring Recipes & Photos by Carissa Casey: Author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog

I hope you enjoy this calendar and the recipes inside as much as I have enjoyed designing them for you!  Each dish has my complete seal of approval and 100% guarantee of deliciousness. 🙂  Oh, and just for fun, here’s the letter that gets sent out with each calendar.  Lots of Love!

A Pretty/Hungry Year - 2014 Recipe Calendar featuring recipes & photos by Carissa Casey: Author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog

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   Hello and Happy Holidays to you!

I’m Carissa Casey, author of the Pretty/Hungry Blog, and artful cooking is one of my greatest passions.  I love the creative process of taking flavor, texture, color, and line and creating an edible masterpiece.

In a world of perfectly plastic fondant cakes and grocery store produce waxed to a sparkling sheen… we seem to have forgotten that we do not have to sacrifice the way our food tastes to achieve beautiful presentation.  In fact, I believe we can make food that is not only elegant and tasty, but affordable and healthy too!  I am on a mission to share that awesome news with the world.

Each of these recipes is crafted with love and designed to delight both your eyes and your taste buds!  Nothing adds joy to a celebration quite like the food around which we gather.  I hope that by bringing these recipes into your home this year and sharing them with the ones you love, you too will be filled with joy.

For full step-by-step tutorials of these recipes and many more, visit www.prettyhungrygirl.wordpress.com.

Happy Creating,

Carissa

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What Drives Me                                                            Feeding Your Baby: Part 1

Conquering my food demons ~ From the Pretty/Hungry BlogFeeding Your Baby: Part 1- Pretty/Hungry Blog

What Drives Me

September 19, 2013

It’s time for me to be transparent with you guys, lest you should mistakenly think that food and I have always been the best of pals.

Quite the contrary, there have been some dark days in my life when it comes to my relationship with food.

I started college as a happy 18-year-old and blissfully set about making new friends, spreading my wings, and oh yeah, gaining the fabled “freshman fifteen” like so many before me.  I had already formed some bad eating habits in high school (like my regular practice of downing 4 bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch after an evening shift working at the Belgian Waffle & Pancake House… where, by the way, we were allowed to have as much free toast and as many free soft drinks as we wanted.  You can imagine how great that was for my waistline!)  Anyway, me and my complete lack of self-control thought the Harding cafeteria, with its unlimited supply of Count Chocula and Chocolate Milk, was pretty much the equivalent of Disneyland.

I developed a nice little moon face any 2-year-old would be proud of and went on my merry way.  It wasn’t til the end of that school year that I started to feel a little uncomfortable, realizing that many of my favorite outfits didn’t fit me so well anymore.  Sure, I’d noticed the progression and made minuscule efforts to correct the problem.  But you can’t stop a freight train with a fly swatter.  The real wake-up call came when Facebook hit the big-time (my freshman year!) and pictures of me started popping up more often than I was used to seeing them.  I was officially NOT HAPPY with the girl looking back at me from those photos.

So the following year I got serious and decided to lose the weight, and BOY did I!  I won’t go into the details of the rituals and rules I created for myself, but I’ll tell you that as I grew thinner and thinner, the lies in my head grew louder and stronger.  Attention from others (especially about my physical appearance) began to mean more to me than it had in the past.  Questions from concerned friends became a twisted sort of reward to my warped brain.  My relationships with friends (and with the Lord) slowly dwindled into non-existence, since it was impossible to invest in them when I had so much meal-planning, calorie-counting, and exercising to do.  (Besides, more often than not, they were getting together to eat and I didn’t want all the questions about why I wasn’t joining in!  I was very secretive about the way I was restricting myself, wanting others to believe my trim figure came effortlessly.  Oh, vanity is such a destroyer!)

You can imagine that very quickly my life began to feel like a prison.  I had created a cage of rules and restrictions and forced myself to live within them.  My desperate response to the caged feeling was to completely rebel against my diet rules and go in the opposite direction.  I tried to keep this tendency in check (“just cheat once a month” or “on holidays” etc) but I was out of control.  Addicted to the feeling of being thin and the perceived superiority it gave me, yet addicted to the “forbidden fruit” that was all food.

It was a combination of factors that led to the healing of my mind, and eventually the changes in my behavior.  Seeing a counselor at my school, marrying my husband, and lots of unconditional love and earnest prayers from those dear to me.  And though each of these things had remarkable effects on my damaged thought processes, it seemed the same food demons would rear their ugly heads every time life threw me a curve ball over the next few years.  The struggle became especially intense again when I started teaching high school Spanish.  I loved my students dearly, but felt an enormous amount of anxiety being up in front of a classroom every day.  Along came food to be my comfort once again, though the ensuing guilt from over-doing it was ever present.  This was not freedom.  Yet.  But thankfully, the truth had taken root in my heart.  And it was slowly edging out the lies.  And even on days where my behavior didn’t line up with my new convictions, I knew enough not to give up.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I feel like it explains why this little food blog has become such a passion of mine!

I stand here, in September of 2013, on the other side of that ferocious food battle.  And I stand here, victorious.  I stand here, free!

I’ve come to a point where I can joyfully say that food is no longer a source of struggle for me.  No longer a source of anxiety.  No longer a threat.  No longer a security blanket.  No longer a compulsion.  No longer a cage.

Food today is a source of joy.  A symbol of celebration.  A gift I can give others.  A reason for fellowship.  An outlet for creativity.  A blessing!

And what drives me to write this blog, to make appetizing photos, to share my recipes, and to reach new people… is the realization that after all those dark days, there is a place of delicious freedom.  I truly believe you CAN “have it all” when it comes to food!  You can make pretty food without it tasting bad.  You can eat tasty food without it being expensive.  You can eat sweets and not get fat.  And I’m on a mission to share that AWESOME news with the world!

I’m certain I’m not the only one who has experienced this struggle.  And I hope that if you are reading this post today from a place of hurt, frustration, or failure… you will use these words as gentle encouragement directed right at you.  Where you are right now is not where you will be forever.  Overcoming a difficult demon is never without its share of work, time, and toil… but you are well-equipped by the One who made you to live this life and live it abundantly.

I’d love to hear from you if you have a comment or a similar experience to share!  Uplifting words for the battle-weary who might be reading are also welcome in the comments section.  Join my mission and help me take food back out of the camp of the Enemy, and return it to the way God intended it.  As a gift for celebration, creativity, and fellowship.

Lots of Love,

Carissa

Pumpkin Lasagna

September 18, 2013

Call me a pessimist… call me a stick-in-the-mud… call me “not one of the cool kids.”  I can take it!  And I probably deserve it for what I’m about to say.

I’m already tired of all the pumpkin hype.

I realize it’s only mid-September, but already my Pinterest feed has blown up with pumpkin!  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin face masks, pumpkin coffee creamer…  Don’t get me wrong, I reeeeally like pumpkin.  But in my coffee?  No thanks.  In my chocolate chip cookies?  I’ll pass.

I love dishes that feature pumpkin and bring out its delicate nutty sweetness.  But gosh dernit, if a food ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it by adding pumpkin!

I’ll end my rant with a simple plea… don’t be a pumpkin pimp this Holiday season.  Use it judiciously and thoughtfully where it makes sense.  🙂

Here’s a great example!  This lasagna is surprisingly delightful.  And finally a dish where pumpkin plays a starring savory role instead of sweet!

Savory Pumpkin Lasagna > Pretty/Hungry Blog

Paired with thyme, sage, and nutty melted Swiss cheese… this is such a cozy dish for Fall.  And as a nice bonus, it is meatless!  I have a number of vegetarian (AND meat-eating) friends who I know will LOVE this dish.  And though I’m not a vegetarian myself, I gobbled it up with gusto.  (To be honest, I literally licked my plate clean so that none of that amazing pumpkin cream sauce would go to waste.)

Savory Pumpkin Lasagna > Pretty Hungry/Blog

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Bella mushrooms add a nice heartiness to this dish to make it filling and packed with protein.  I truly hope you give in to your adventurous side and try it soon. 🙂

Oh, and real quick… have you ever tried making your own pumpkin puree?  I realize that making ingredients is another class of cooking entirely and not everyone is up for it.  But if you think you might be, I highly recommend it (if only to avoid throwing away all those pumpkins you buy for your porch!)  You do need a large and very sharp knife, but it is well worthwhile to use your Fall pumpkins to make a bunch of pumpkin puree and freeze it.  I’m always astonished by the price of canned pumpkin.  (And NOT in a good way.)

Of course, canned pumpkin puree will work just fine for this lasagna.  Here’s the recipe:

3-IMG_2139-FG  Pumpkin Lasagna

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

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½ lb baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp salt, divided

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)

½ C. half-and-half

½ tsp. dried sage

½ tsp. thyme

¼ tsp. pepper

Lasagna noodles (enough to fill your pan in three layers, boiled til “half-done”, or alternatively you can purchase “No-boil” noodles)

1 ½ C. ricotta cheese

1 ½ C. grated Swiss cheese

1 C. grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion , & 1/2 teaspoon salt in the olive oil until tender.  Add in the garlic powder during the last minute of cooking.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, half-and-half, sage, thyme, pepper and remaining salt.

Preheat the oven to 375, and spray an 11”x7” glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread 1/2 Cup of the pumpkin sauce in the dish. Top with enough noodles to cover the pan.  Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with 1/3 of mushroom mixture, 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the Swiss, and 1/3 of the Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times beginning with noodles.  Sprinkle a few thyme leaves over the top layer of cheese.

Cover and bake for 35-40 minutes, uncovering during the last 10 minutes of baking. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

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You might also enjoy…

Roasted Tomato Soup                                               Red Pepper Cornmeal Souffle

Roasted Tomato Soup > Pretty/Hungry Blog

Red Pepper Cornmeal Souffle > Pretty/Hungry Blog

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Chicken

September 16, 2013

Ahhh… this weekend Arkansas finally gave us a glimpse of Fall.  Beautiful, crisp, perfect Fall!  This weekend has convinced me that it will be Fall when we get to Heaven.

I actually wore pants to church today and my baby wore tights and long sleeves.  We’re in a major rush to say Adios! to summer.

One last yummy summer chicken recipe before we usher in the Fall > The Pretty/Hungry Blog

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But I have a sneaking suspicion that Arkansas has a few more 100-degree days in store for us before we officially bid summer farewell.  And so, before your Blog and Pinterest feeds start blowing up with Pumpkin-Palooza 2013 (who am I kidding? They already have, haven’t they?)… let’s get a few more good recipes tucked into our arsenal to get us through the hot weather.

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I’m just gonna say it.  This may be the best chicken I’ve ever made.  The glaze is un-buh-lievable!   And not only is it darn tasty, it may very likely be the EASIEST chicken I’ve ever made too.  And I can’t lay claim to too many easy recipes (cuz’ I’m a sucker for the complicated ones.)  So this is one to pounce on, guys & gals!

Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Chicken (Easy slow-cooker recipe)>> The Pretty/Hungry Blog~

The reason it is so handy for a hot day is because you make it in the crock-pot and avoid heating up your whole house from having the oven on!  I love crock-pot recipes for summertime, for that reason alone!

Oh, and did I mention that this brown sugar balsamic glaze is one of the most mouth-wateringly delicious things I’ve ever tried?  Because it is.  And I now intend to use it on beef, pork, chicken, and whatever else my grocery budget will allow me to get my hands on.

Here’s how you make it!

You need roughly 5 lbs of chicken.  (I like bone-in because it keeps the meat moist during slow-cooking.  It also tends to be cheaper.)

Toss the chicken into your crock-pot and sprinkle it with a mixture of ¾ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, ½ tsp. ground sage, & 2 cloves minced garlic.  Then pour in 1 Cup of chicken broth, set the heat to “High” and walk away!  (Oh, put the lid on too. Of course.)

Slow-Cooker Balsamic Brown Sugar Glazed Chicken >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

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After 2 hours your chicken will be fully cooked.  (If you’re going to leave it in the crockpot longer than 3 hours, I suggest using the “Medium” heat setting instead of “High.)

Now for the so-simple yet so-mind-blowing glaze.  Grab a small saucepan and whisk together ½ C brown sugar, 1 T cornstarch, ¼ C. balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, ½ C. drippings from the crock pot, a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce, and ½ tsp. salt.

Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Chicken >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Heat this over a medium burner, stirring frequently, and let it bubble and thicken for about 4 minutes.

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Chicken > Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Then just transfer your chicken to an oven-safe dish (remove bones and skin if there is any) and smother it with this majesty.

Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Chicken >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

By the way, those bones you just removed?  Be sure you toss them back into the crock pot with a few carrots, celery, and onion pieces.  Cover with water, turn the heat back on high for a few more hours (or all night!) and you’ll have some awesome homemade broth to use later in the week!  What can you do with homemade broth? Try this and this!

Crock Pot Chicken Broth >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Now… you can serve the chicken as-is (just slow-cooked and glazed with this delicious sauce.)

But I think it is worth a few extra minutes to stick the sauced-up chicken under the broiler in your oven and let it caramelize a bit.  In fact, I caramelized, brushed on more glazed, caramelized again, and then repeated it a third time!  YUM, so good!

Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Chicken (Made in the slow-cooker!) >> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

You won’t leave a speck in the pan, I’ll bet.  (But if you do, I envy you for having these as leftovers!)

Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Chicken (Made in the slow-cooker!)  >>Pretty/Hungry Blog~

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy, Guys!

Here is the printable recipe.

Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Chicken Breasts

-3 large bone-in chicken breasts

-¾ tsp. salt

-½ tsp. pepper

-½ tsp. ground sage

-2 cloves minced garlic

*Rub seasonings onto chicken and place chicken in slow-cooker.  Then pour in:

-1 C. chicken broth

*Cook on high for 2+ hours (Medium if cooking longer than 3 hours.)  Transfer chicken from slow-cooker to an oven-safe dish.  Whisk glaze ingredients in a small, separate, saucepan:

-½ C brown sugar

-1 T cornstarch

-¼ C. balsamic vinegar

-1 tsp. Worcestershire

-½ C. drippings from crock pot

-1 tsp. habanero sauce (or other hot sauce of your choice)

-½ tsp. salt

*Heat glaze over medium burner, stirring frequently, until glaze is bubbly and thick (about 4 minutes.)  Brush onto chicken and caramelize under the broiler for a few minutes at a time, brushing with more glaze in between broilings.

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You may also enjoy…

1 Roast Beef… Three Meals!                                             Vicki’s Chicken Spaghetti

Beef Pot Pie >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

Chicken Spaghetti >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

Feeding Your Baby: Part 3 (10-14 Months)

September 14, 2013

If you are new to the Pretty/Hungry Blog, catch Parts 1 & 2 of this “Feeding Your Baby” series here and here!

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Oh the 10-14 months stage!  This fun time of life happens to be the stage Elsa and I are in right now.  And truly it is a fun time.  For her.  (For her neat-freak, control-freak mommy… it is an exercise in holding back so that she can spread her wings.  But I think it’s all a part of God’s plan to mature us both.  Funny how that works.)

Feeding Your Baby: Part 3>> Pretty/Hungry Blog~

At your baby’s 9-month doctor appointment, you will likely be told that it is time for your baby to begin eating small bites of soft foods instead of just purees.  And also that it is time for them to practice picking up their food with their fingers.  I will wholeheartedly agree with that advice!  What I do recommend, however, is that you get a little more creative about the “pick-up” foods you offer.

Fruits are (naturally) the first thing many moms turn to, because they’re already so handy and bite-sized… not to mention most babies gobble them up like candy.  Oh wait, they ARE candy!  Yep, that’s right.  Ever the party-pooper, I am still recommending that you steer clear of offering fruit at every meal.  Again, my reason for this is that you are trying to instill in your baby a taste for all flavors: savory, sour, spicy, and sweet alike.  And if history has taught us anything, it is that with young children… sweet (once introduced) is the flavor that quickly trumps all others.

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So what DO I offer my baby?

-All of the 7-9 month foods are still great!  (Cottage cheese & yogurt, avocado, veggies cooked in broth, keep em coming!  And you can start offering these in chunks instead of in pureed form.  However, I do not recommend trying them as “pick-up” foods.  Watching a baby trying to chase slippery avocado chunks around her tray is downright maddening!)

Feeding Your baby: Part 3 (10-14 Months) >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

Cooked carrots, on the other hand, are perfect!

-Whole eggs can be offered at this time.  And if you scramble them and cut them into bite-sized chunks, they make a very appropriate “pick-up” food.

-Breakfast sausage- Always a hit with our girl, this morning staple is perfect for picking up, and contains the all-important two nutrients: fat & protein.

-Meatloaf- This has turned out to be surprisingly successful baby food in our house!  I feel good offering it because I know it contains plenty of good protein and fat… and Elsa gobbles it up with ease because it tastes good and is nice and soft.  Win win!  Another meat I like to offer is chicken.  I find it is a little easier for her to eat than, say, steak.  Ha!

-Occasional fruits- Be sure that you cut fruits into manageable bites.  Whole grapes are not appropriate because they are a choking hazard… quartered grapes are great!  As your baby progresses and improves in his/her ability to eat food in chunks, you can offer larger pieces.  Always make sure baby is supervised in case he/she does choke… but generally you’ll notice that babies have a very strong gag reflex.  This is by design.  They often gag up bites that are too large long before they are in danger of choking on them.

-Occasional plain Cheerios-  I try not to rely on these too heavily… and to make sure to pair them with a serving of yogurt.  But grain-status aside, they are a simple, low-sugar snack for baby to munch on in small quantities while you get the other food prepared.  Sometimes you just need a little time-filler, know what I’m sayin?

-Water- A sippy cup of water offered between meals will help keep your baby well-hydrated, which is important for helping him/her digest all these solid foods you are introducing.  Good hydration will make for much easier bowel movements as your baby’s intake of solids increases.

-After Age 1… Whole Milk, Honey, and Peanut Butter.  These three foods get to enter the scene after age one, what fun!  Peanut butter is a great thing to add, considering it perfectly pairs your baby’s two most important nutrients!  And now that your baby is old enough to get an EpiPen if needed, go for it!  Honey is ok now too.  Just be sure you are not using “raw” honey.  And whole milk can be offered now too (although breastmilk is still awesome, and if you’re still making it, keep up the good work and keep filling that baby with the good stuff!)  Do not switch to low-fat milk or dairy until well after your child’s 2nd birthday.

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Foods I don’t recommend at this age:

-Cheese in large doses- You don’t want to deal with a constipated baby.

-Grains in large doses- Wait until your baby develops the enzymes they need to process carbohydrates effectively.  Most agree this happens around the 18-24 month mark.  And if you do offer grains, pair them with a probiotic like yogurt or Kefir.

-Added sugar-  Added sugar is not a helpful nutrient.  Your baby does not benefit from junk food.  Baby’s tummies are tiny, so why fill them up with cookies, candy, ice cream, and other nonsense that won’t nourish them?  Some people think that makes me a huge stick-in-the-mud, but I say it makes me a healthy mommy who’s trying to raise a healthy family.  I’m certainly not going to use obese and dying-of-heart-disease America as my standard for what is best for my children.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 3 (10-14 months) >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

This full-fat, plain (un-sweetened) yogurt is mixed with a touch of applesauce and cinnamon, and my baby loves it!

-Lunchmeat-  While it is a convenient protein to turn to, lunchmeat often contains sulfates, additives, preservatives, and sometimes even bacteria due to extended shelf-time.  If you can prepare your own meats for your baby, do.  If lunchmeat is all you have, by all means feed it to him/her in moderation.  (Heating it til steaming in the microwave first is a good idea.  But make sure you let it cool!)  But do I recommend it as your baby’s main source of meat?  No.

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A Note about Portions, Autonomy, and Messiness:

I believe in letting a baby eat until he/she is full.  I can usually tell that my own daughter is full when she starts playing more than eating.  (Also, we have learned the sign for “All done,” which is very useful.)

Around 11 months of age, I began letting my daughter experiment with holding her own spoon.  She LOVES feeding herself “pick-up” foods and the spoon was no different… she loves it too!  At times it is a real exercise for me in holding back.  I want to take the spoon from her and keep this meal train moving!  But babies need freedom to learn, experiment, play, and yes, even get messy.  This will be a recurring theme throughout her life, I know.  “Don’t do the math problems for her… let her figure it out.”  “Don’t set the table for her.  Let her do it, even if it’s not the way you would.”  It is very important for children to be given responsibilities that align with their developmental abilities.  Give them chores, give them tasks, and between 10-14 months of age, let them feed themselves!  If you’re anything like me, it may require you to duct tape your hands behind your back… but you are giving your baby the gift of independence.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 3 (10-14 Months)  >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

That said, if it’s been 30 minutes and your baby has eaten all of two bites, feel free to say, “Ok, lesson dismissed for today,” and shovel the rest of the food in her mouth.  Enough is enough.  🙂

And lastly, on the topic of messiness: I have a good friend to thank for this helpful info.  At first, I was guilty of standing next to my baby with a wet washcloth… ready to wipe away any stray drip the moment it happened.  I didn’t dare let her handle bananas, or attempt to eat her yogurt without my help.  I didn’t want to deal with the clean-up!  But my friend Abby, who is a registered Speech Pathologist, explained to me that with babies, “Messier is Better.”  Babies need exposure to different food textures in order to understand and accept what they are eating.  Allowing them to feel, smell, and experience their food before placing it in their mouth is extremely helpful to them!  In fact, classically “picky” children who struggle with extreme dislike for most common foods are often responding adversely to the food’s texture.  Abby tells me that the #1 solution to the “picky-eater” problem is to let a child play and get messy with their food before ever pressuring them to eat it.  And if you can bypass the picky-ness problem early by allowing your kid to get a little messy from the get-go, so much the better.  Thanks for the advice, Abby!  You’ve converted me (and hopefully others) to embrace the mess.  Developmentally speaking, food-play is totally normal and they WILL grow out of it as you teach and train them over the next few years.

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I’d love to hear some of your favorite baby feeding ideas and tips in the comments!  And if these posts have been helpful, then please let me know!  I can continue to share my findings on the topic of “Kid-Food” as my girl grows.  It is a topic that endlessly interests me, but I want to make sure it interests you as well before I write future posts.

Bye for now!

Carissa

Feeding Your Baby: Part 2 (7-9 months)

September 14, 2013

Hello again!

I hope you found the previous installment of this Feeding Your Baby series helpful. (If you’d like to read it, find it here!)  Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement from the mom community that you’re doing the right thing.  I feel that the pressure to rush your baby’s feeding timeline can be intense at times in our Western culture.  We think that science can somehow manufacture baby food superior to that manufactured by God.  Let’s just slow down a little and accept that the baby-nectar of the ages is good enough for our own little ones, and that there is absolutely no need to rush them out of it.  🙂

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

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Anyway, moving on to the 7-9 months stage.

At this stage, though it is by no means mandatory, it is perfectly fine to begin introducing gentle solids into your baby’s diet.  If you are blessed enough to be a breastfeeding mother who has hung in there to the 7-month mark, well done!  Keep offering the breast before any other food, as it offers the highest concentration of nutrients for your growing baby and continues to support his/her immune system.

At this age, solids can be treated as more of an exploration/experiment than as your baby’s main source of nutrition.

(By the way, these feeding methods come primarily from The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Childcare.  I do not necessarily advocate all of their child-rearing methods, but their nutrition info is spot-on.  I also really like this article, by the Healthy Home Economist, for its wise and accurate suggestions on which foods to introduce to your baby and when.)

Feeding Your Baby: Part 2 >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

What should I feed my baby?

First, let me encourage you by saying that your baby is very used to a boring diet.  He/she has had milk or formula for every meal of their life up til this point and has been perfectly satisfied by it.  Now that you are introducing solids, there is no need to feel pressure to offer your baby something different for every meal or even every DAY!  (In fact, introducing one or two new foods per week is a very smart thing to do, as it allows you to easily identify the source of any adverse reactions your baby might have.)

Your ideal “first foods” to try are soft, pureed foods that are high in protein and fat.  These two nutrients are the most readily-usable in your baby’s developing body and brain.  As we discussed in Part 1 of this Feeding Your Baby series, rice cereal (arguably the most popular first food in our country) offers your baby little to no nutrition other than basic calories.  It is actually very difficult for your baby to break down carbohydrates (other than lactose) during their first year, so rice cereal is not an ideal early food.  Neither are grains of other sorts, for the same reason.  Also, it is worthwhile to note that whole grains are especially hard on your baby’s tummy and should be avoided until well into their first (or even second) year.  And even then, if you do feed them to your baby, they need to be soaked in a probiotic such as yogurt or Kefir to aide in the digestion process.

Here are some “first foods” I highly recommend:

1. Soft boiled egg yolk.  (No whites just yet.  The albumen is hard on baby’s digestion.)

2. Mashed avocado

3. Full-Fat cottage cheese

4. Full-Fat yogurt- Unsweetened is best.  You’d be surprised by how most babies will eat unsweetened yogurt (something adults would throw a fit about!)  However, if you need to, you can sweeten it with a bit of applesauce or fruit juice.

5. Pureed vegetables mixed with a good amount of healthy fat (such as butter, olive oil, or rendered animal fat from sausage, beef, or chicken.)  – I always add cooked onion and garlic to these because they tend to knock out any bitterness that might be present.  *Oh, and here’s my favorite kitchen tool for veggie pureeing.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 2  >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

Special Note-  I have found it is much more budget-friendly to make my own vegetable purees at home using frozen spinach, frozen brocolli, frozen cauliflower and the like.  It couldn’t be simpler!  Just boil them in homemade broth with some chopped onion and garlic until soft, then blend.  (Low-sodium store-bought broth is also fine.)  My baby enjoys her pureed veggies with a scoop of full-fat cottage cheese to make them extra creamy.

Another tip that is very budget-friendly: Whenever I make bacon or sausage at breakfast-time, I reserve the drippings from the pan in ice cube trays and keep them in the freezer.  This fat is great to have on hand for adding to pureed veggies… it tastes great, it is good for baby, and it’s almost free!

Feeding Your Baby: Part 2 (7-9 Months) >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

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What I DON’T recommend at this age:

1. Infant Cereals.  (See above.)

2. Fruit, Starchy Vegetables, and sweetened yogurt-  Yes, I know fruit is healthy.  But I have found it is best to get your baby accustomed to savory flavors before introducing them to sweet.  Very commonly, babies will develop a preference for fruits, sweet potatoes, etc. because they like the sweetness.  Often, they will end up rejecting the healthful savory vegetables you offer (like green beans, spinach, mashed cauliflower, pureed broccoli, and the like) because they’d prefer bananas, sweet potatoes, or sweet yogurt instead.  By holding off on all sweets, you stand a much better chance of your baby not being picky about eating their vegetables throughout their childhood and adult life.

3. Low-Fat anything-  Even the pureed veggies your baby eats should contain added fat.  Babies need fat.  They need it.  It’s critical to the development of their brain and all other vital organs.  So often I hear moms complain that their babies are in the 5th percentile of weight, and I ask what they eat and the answer is, “Oh he/she loves oatmeal… and strawberries… and bananas… and those little slurp-able fruit packets.”   Where is the fat??  Your baby is not benefiting from an all-fruit diet.

4. Potentially dangerous or allergenic foods-  The main two that fall within this description are peanut butter and honey.  Honey poses a threat for infant botulism when eaten at too young an age.  And with peanuts (or any tree nuts or nut butters for that matter) it is recommended that you wait until your infant is at least 1 year old before offering these.  After the age of one, it is considered safe to administer an EpiPen for anaphylactic shock.  (Hopefully your child will not have a dangerous peanut allergy… but if he or she does, then at least by waiting til after age one to try peanut-foods, you can safely administer an EpiPen should the need arise.)

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A Note About Portions:

Generally, I think doctors tend to freak moms out by giving them recommended portion sizes.  If at the age of 7-9 months your child is still taking 4-5 breast or bottle feedings a day, then I suggest letting them be your guide on how much solid food to give.  Some doctors will say they need a whole jar per meal in addition to liquid feedings.  (Fortunately, in our family, our little one wanted a whole jar and then some!)  But if your baby shows signs of fullness after less than that, conclude the mealtime and pull the same jar out later on.  You want to keep mealtime an enjoyable experience for your little one, so now is not the time to employ force-feeding or practice the “clean your plate” principle.

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The next installment of this series, “Feeding Your Baby: Part 3 (10-14 months)” will discuss some very fun topics!  It’s the time for your baby to learn about self-feeding, to experiment and get MESSY, and to expand their palate even further!  I hope you’ll tune in.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 (0-6 months)

September 14, 2013

Let’s talk about feeding babies.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

Don’t have a baby?  That’s ok… it is still helpful to be well-versed in baby nutrition.  Surely you know and love someone who has a baby, even if you aren’t in that life season right now.

I have had a few requests for a post (or even a category) on baby and kid approved foods.  What a great idea!  There is a lot of misinformation out there about what children should be eating.  (And a lot of outdated information for that matter.)  And while I’m not a doctor or scientist of any sort, I do love researching food and making food.  So what to feed babies is a topic I’ve done a fair bit of reading on.  Feel free to take the advice here with a grain of salt… use what works for you!  And I’ll be sure to site my sources in case you decide to delve deeper.

So today’s post will be fairly basic since it’s for babies between 0-6 months of age.

I can tell you the absolute best, most-time tested, most “backed by science” diet for your baby at this age in but one word:

Breastmilk.

🙂

Haha!  But seriously.  Your baby needs nothing more during these crucial months.

And let me give a slight disclaimer here before I move on: the last thing I want to do here is alienate non-breastfeeding mothers.  In fact, I am unable to breastfeed myself.  (I had an elective double mastectomy earlier this year due to my genetic predisposition to breast cancer.)  I made the decision that eradicating my risk of cancer was worth trading the ability to breastfeed my children.  That said, I remain an advocate for breastfeeding because there is simply NO BETTER food for your baby on this planet.  I do not suffer from “Mommy Guilt” over the breastfeeding issue, because my situation is unique.  And I believe wholeheartedly in promoting breastfeeding for others as far as it is within my power to do so.  {Stepping off of soapbox now.}

I did, however, get to experience the joy (and the pains) of nursing my baby for her first 7 months before my surgery.  Thankful to the Lord for that.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1  >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

Some interesting facts about exclusively breastfeeding well into your child’s first year include:

  • By breastfeeding you are enhancing your baby’s antibody response, promoting his/her immunity to all sorts of germs and illnesses.  In addition, you are strengthening the effectiveness of the vaccines they receive at the doctor.  By the way, nursing during the vaccination process will also offer your baby a unique level of pain relief.

  • By breastfeeding exclusively for at least 2 months, your child has a lower risk of food allergy at 3 years old.

  • By breastfeeding exclusively for at least 3 months you have given your baby a 27% reduction in the risk of asthma if you have no family history of asthma and a 40% reduction if you have a family history of asthma.

  • If you have exclusively breastfed for 3 months, your baby will have enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to other children who were fed formula or a combination of formula and breastmilk.

  • By the age of 3 months, you have also given your baby between a 19-27% reduction in incidence of childhood Type 1 Diabetes.

  • By giving nothing but your breastmilk for the first 4 months you have given your baby strong protection against ear infections and respiratory tract diseases for a whole year.

  • By breastfeeding for at least 4 months you have reduced your baby’s risk of crib death.

Oh, and this one’s my favorite…

  • Breastfeeding uses up the fat stores you laid down in pregnancy. The greatest weight loss for mom is seen in baby’s 3-6 month period.  So by hanging in there and breastfeeding exclusively beyond your child’s 3rd month, you’ve just hit the start of this uber fat-burning period!

For more amazing facts and figure, see this Timeline of a Breastfed Baby.

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The facts go on and on, and the benefits do too.  Studies have repeatedly shown that the longer you breastfeed, the better off your child will be.  Along with the diseases and conditions named above, breastfeeding is also known to prevent ear infections, respiratory tract diseases, eczema, leukemia, heart disease, and so much more!

So if you are hanging in there with breastfeeding your infant, (especially if you are doing so despite discouragement from a culture that views nursing as something to be covered-up or embarrassed about), you deserve a gigantic pat on the back!  There are many obstacles you face, including engorgement, sore nipples, & low or overactive supply.  But you are a mighty woman who is independently supplying your child with his/her daily nourishment.  Way to freakin’ go!

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My absolute favorite book on the subject of breastfeeding is The Everything Breastfeeding Book.  I buy this book for every pregnant woman I know.  It truly does tell you everything you might possibly need to know on the subject of breastfeeding.  And it encourages you not to give up!

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >> Pretty/Hungry Blog

A few outdated bits of info you should know about:

1) Many pediatricians are still recommending that moms begin introducing rice cereal around the 5 month mark.  On the contrary, you do not need to begin spoon-feeding your baby rice or any other type of cereal during this first year.  Grains of any kind do very little to nourish your baby, since babies lack the enzymes to break down carbohydrates other than lactose.  The primary nutrients your baby needs are FAT and PROTEIN (two things breastmilk is very high in.)  So skip the cereal until your baby is much, much older.

2) “Practice using a spoon”- It is common for pediatricians to advise that you begin spoon-foods around 5-6 months.  However, your baby’s digestive system is unlikely to be sufficiently developed to cope with solids by then.   (As you will quickly see when they begin struggling with bowel movements after the introduction of solids at this early age.)  Nor are they getting “more calories” just from the addition of solids.  Breastmilk has a higher concentration of fat and other essential nutrients than any solid food.  And furthermore, adding solid foods in an attempt to increase your child’s calorie intake could decrease a mother’s previously plentiful milk supply.  Be careful about that, because milk supply, once lost, is very difficult to get back.

3) Also contrary to what some friends and peers will tell you, even though your baby may be reaching for food, it does not mean they are asking for it.  Babies are naturally curious and seek to learn about their surroundings (food or not!) by putting things in their mouths.  You know more than your baby does about the nutrition they need… so don’t worry that you are “withholding” something good from them.  You are providing them with proper nutrition for the proper time, and solid food will come soon enough.

Feeding Your Baby: Part 1 >>Pretty/Hungry Blog

4) “I can’t keep up with my baby’s demand.”-  The body is a surprisingly capable machine.  God has designed your mammary tissue and your milk supply to increase when your baby’s demand increases.  It won’t happen overnight, and you can’t always tell by pumping whether you’ve actually begun to make more milk (because it is difficult for a pump to induce the same prolactin response that your baby brings about with her little noises and her scent.)  But if your baby is growing and gaining weight,  and continues to produce dirty and wet diapers, you’re good.  Don’t give up!  Even if you sometimes feel like you’re chained to the rocking chair with a baby hanging off your boob, you are giving your baby an incredible gift.

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A note about portions:

Generally, it is best to feed your infant (whether bottle or breast) according to their demand.  And don’t mistake my meaning, I don’t mean “on demand,” as in “you need to be a 24-hour buffet ready to whip your shirt off every time your baby makes a peep.”  In fact I have seen tremendous good come from getting my daughter on a reasonably regular feeding, playing, and sleeping schedule AND we managed to avoid any seasons of “cluster nursing” by making sure each of her feedings was complete and filling.  (Aka: we woke her back up if she fell asleep after eating for two minutes.)  That said, however, I do believe there is a danger in adhering to a strict timetable of feedings and refusing to stray from it.  There are hundreds of well-documented cases in which mommies learned (too late!) that their hard-core “Babywise” feeding regimen was to blame for the loss of their milk supply before they were ready to wean.  Their babies were showing signs of needing more frequent feedings (or still needing middle-of-the-night feedings after Babywise’s magic 8-week “sleep through the night” number) but they were dead-set on keeping their 3-hour feeding schedule and eliminating night-feedings ASAP.  Sadly, this resulted in loss of milk supply.  It is hardly a surprise that blocking your baby’s demand signals will interfere with your body’s ability to meet them.

So, regarding schedules and portions, I say do your best to make sure your baby’s feedings are full feedings.  Tickle their little feet to keep them awake if you need to, so that they can eat enough to make it a few hours til the next feeding.  This will set a good rhythm for them and give you a little break in between suckle-sessions.  Rhythm is good.  A predictable schedule is good.  But, at the same time, be aware that growth spurts will happen.  Vaccinations will happen.  Sickness will happen.  The occasional need for extra feedings will arise, and that is ok.  Meet the demand without stressing about what the clock says, and watch your baby grow and thrive.

*And while we’re on the topic of Babywise, please don’t make your 8-week-old cry it out in their crib because “nap time isn’t over yet.”  That’s just mean and it breaks my heart.

Hope I didn’t lost any of you there with my obvious disdain for radical Babywisers.  (I say that to imply that there are plenty of non-radical Babywisers out there who are doing an excellent job.  I salute you for your good judgement!)

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In “Feeding Your Baby: Part 2 (7-9 months)” we will discuss the fun of introducing solids.  And more Baby-Feeding-Myths de-bunked!

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