Friday, January 8, 2016

Top Vegetable Oatmeal Recipes for Breakfast

I don't know about you, but my number one anxiety with regards to daycare (with quality naps coming in at a close second!) is that I won't be controlling what and often my 1 year old eats for the time that he's there. Which means providing him with a very filling and nutritional breakfast is a top priority.

I've been sneaking vegetables into his oatmeal for a long time with great success, so I thought I'd share some of our favorite flavor combinations. I often share breakfast with him, and as an added bonus, I personally find that oatmeal increases milk production!

Basic Recipe

I don't usually follow the recipes as indicated in the links below. I personally always use almond milk, omit any form of sugar and omit nuts and seeds depending on the size since they are possible choking hazards. Better yet, I lazily make it all on the stove top so I only have one pot to clean. I alternate between using rolled oats and steel cut oats. I find the consistency of oats which aren't instant or baby cereal makes it easier for little hands to grasp and pick up chunks to eat. I'm not personally worried about the iron supplementation lacking from the oatmeal I opt for, because I always make a point of providing a large variety of other vegan iron sources such as lentils, beans and leafy greens. I've also recently started including some recipes that use natural cocoa powder, even though it contains some caffeine, since it also contains a high percentage of iron.

Here are the three easy ways I cook oatmeal with vegetables:
  1. I grate them in the food processor or by hand, then fry them with the spices in coconut oil (or any oil) before adding the oatmeal and almond milk and cooking according to package directions.
  2. I cut them into chunks, steam them in the covered pot with the spices and a bit of water, then puree (using an immersion blender) prior to adding and cooking in the oatmeal in the same pot.
  3. I add pre-made puree to the pot after cooking the oats with almond milk and spices.


I store just enough in the refrigerator to last me 3-4 mornings. The rest I freeze in mason jars in amounts that are good for 2-3 breakfasts in a row. I then thaw them overnight and warm up a portion in the microwave for serving.

Top Vegetables to Sneak into Oatmeal

1. Carrot

This is our favorite go to easy breakfast. I often grate a large amount of carrot in the food processor and store it in the refrigerator to toss into all sorts of recipes. When I need a quick breakfast, I soften it in coconut oil with grated fresh ginger, cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg and cloves.

My inspiration for this came from Oh She Glows's Heavenly Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal.

2. Zucchini

Like with carrot, I always keep grated zucchini on hand for pasta sauces and chili. Zucchini has very little flavor of its own, so its perfect to mix into oatmeal with interesting spices. I tend to make it with cinnamon and nutmeg, as inspired by this Zucchini Oatmeal with Blackberry Syrup recipe. If you search online for oatmeal recipes using zucchini, you'll find a surprising amount, including a few with chocolate that you may want to save for yourself.

3. Pumpkin

I love this as an option because pureed pumpkin with no added sugar or salt is readily available in every supermarket. As you've probably already guessed, it makes for wonderful Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. I love that this recipe suggests adding in blueberries. Just make sure they are itty bitty or cut them in half. We buy tiny organic frozen blueberries that are a big hit. If my son is unhappy for any reason, I just thaw and serve. Happiness guaranteed!

If your son loves curry and spices as mine does, you might want to try a different variation, Curried Pumpkin Basil Oats.

4. Sweet Potato

This is one of my personal favorites. I either use previously roasted sweet potatoes or steam and puree them before adding in the oatmeal to cook. This recipe by the minimalist baker is simply delicious! 

5. Mushroom

Completely unexpected, but Wyatt loves mushrooms. I can fry them in coconut oil and serve them straight, but served in oatmeal, a recipe such as Oatmeal with Sauteed Mushrooms, Onion, and Thyme is a great way to sneak in some additional leafy greens.

6. Spinach

Leafy greens are a challenge to get into a one year old's diet, so any way to sneak them in (see the above mushroom recipe as well!) is awesome. This Green Monster recipe cleverly disguises spinach in a tasty green oatmeal bowl perfectly suited to breakfast.

Looking for other great inspiration to turn oatmeal into a household favorite? Take a peak at The Oatmeal Artist, a blog dedicated to diverse and creative recipes made with oatmeal. You can also head on over to my Vegetable Oatmeal Pinterest Board for these and other great nutritious oatmeal recipes.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sleeveless Bibs for Baby Led Weaning

We've tried a lot of bibs and bib combinations for our voracious eater and have yet to find the perfect bib. It's summer, so sleeveless bibs are working just fine for now, though I expect to try some more sleeved bibs in the future! Here are the features I've found to be very desirable:
A pocket that baby can learn to scoop dropped food from
  • Easy to rinse and quick to dry so the bib can be used for multiple meals before getting a good wash
  • Dishwasher and/or washing machine safe
  • Doesn't stain so it still looks cute after washing
  • Enough coverage to protect the neck of baby's onesie and baby's pant legs as well so that we don't have to strip him down to his diaper each time
  • Soft and comfortable, no hard awkward plastic that gets between baby and the high chair!

Oxo Tot Roll-Up Bib

I seriously love the silicone part of this bib. It rinses clean beautifully so I find that of all bibs, I can reuse this one the most before needing to toss it in the wash. Though its a structured bib with a pocket, its still soft enough to be comfortable for baby and not interface with leaning against the high chair's tray. The fabric part sometimes gets stained, but so far its always come out in the wash.

This is definitely my favourite bib thus far, unfortunately, I really only ever use it when baby is naked. Even tied tightly around the neck, food sneaks onto a onesie below. And no matter how you tie it, its just too small to protect the sides of a onesie and pants, even for my super skinny 15lbs 7 month old.

Goo-Goo Baby Perfect Pocket Bib

I have tried both the size large and size small with my skinny little man, and I would recommend skipping the small and going straight to the size large. It still fits pretty snuggly around his relatively small neck but it has extra coverage for his legs which I really like.

The pocket is good for catching crumbs, but not helpful for scooping food out to ensure it doesn't go to waste. No matter how hard I try, even scooping it out with a spoon, I find bits left when I unsnap it to clean. And wyatt definitely hasn't figured out how to save food from the pocket yet though he has with the Oxo Tot Roll-Up Bib.

Its very easy to rinse under water to reuse for the day before tossing in the wash, but doesn't dry as quickly as silicone does. In any case, I get at least 3-4 meals of use before I toss it in the laundry if I rinse it after every meal.

I've also been washing these in mesh bags in our regular laundry and they stay very nice, however stains seem to really set in. We have one with a white background and there are some orange spaghetti stains that just won't come out. (Though I fully admit I haven't perfected my wash routine to get rid of food stains!)

And baby's onesie? Still gets stained around the neck and sometimes on the hips, but not nearly as much as with the Oxo Tot bib.

Kushies Taffeta Waterproof Ribneck Bib

The best part of this bib is the neck. The white fabric has proven to be the best at protecting his onesie around the neck. The pocket, however, is pretty useless. It catches some pieces but its not nearly as wide as the other two. And because it doesn't have the brilliant snaps like the Goo-Goo baby one, it's a lot more difficult to empty of food bits after a meal. 

This bib is more difficult to rinse, so I find that I only get one or two uses out of it before tossing it in the wash. Also, because the neck is white, well, its no longer white.

The Verdict?

While I continue my search for the perfect bib, I'm alternating between stripping baby down to his diaper and double or triple bibbing him.

If I really care about what he's wearing, I used a three bib combo. Laugh, but it works: a Tommee Tippee Milk Feeding Bib, with the size Large Goo-Goo Baby Perfect Pocket Bib on top and left unsnapped to protect his pants, and finally the Oxo Tot Roll-Up Bib to catch food bits and make them easily scoop-able for small hands and for me to put them back on his tray.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Baby Led Weaning: Our Journey from Fun to Devouring Food

When we first started Baby Led Weaning, some days we offered food and others we didn't. If we were sitting at the table, we'd sit him in his high chair and offer him a spoon to play with or a big piece of food as you can see in my 5.5m posts.

At first, the goal was to offer foods that were easy to hold but difficult to bite chunks off of, since he didn't yet know how to chew and swallow. We tried a few things, but the best were fruit and vegetables with some juice that could be sucked out of them: raw cucumber, celery, watermelon, orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime and steamed asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower to name a few. We also gave our son bones with most of the meat and cartilage removed to suck on.

He then discovered how to bite big chunks off from these foods, which was terrifying because we were offering hard foods and stringy foods that were most definitely choking hazards for starting out! So I then offered roasted vegetables in stick form, that were soft enough to mash between two fingers. These were easy to hold and a great way to learn how to chew. At first he would take bites and spit back out pretty much anything that went into his mouth, but I was less worried watching him because the food was so soft.

One day, at 6 months and one week old and after 2 to 3 weeks of playing and gradually improving his grasp, it just clicked. He ate ten sweet potato "fries" in a row and I went off to roast every fruit and vegetable in sight! We also steamed cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus, and he was able to eat the tops but the bases are very stringy and difficult to mash without teeth and molars (I subsequently learned in my infant CPR class that these are actually choking hazards because of the stringiness, so to offer them with caution). I also offered other soft foods: blueberry halves, and one and a half inch long pieces of shredded chicken but he had trouble picking them up and also moving them around his mouth to swallow. We tried scrambled eggs on his tray and he had no problem eating them, though he ended up with hives and is actually allergic to eggs.

That's when I started experimenting more. Once it was clear he could take bites, chew and swallow, I started looking into recipes for muffins, pancakes and meatballs. I came up with my own allergen-free recipe for sweet potato banana oatmeal muffins which he loves.

I then started offering more of the foods we were eating at the table: chili, pasta sauce, sweet potato curry, lentil dahl and as a result he learned how to scoop up food using his hands in a very very messy way that he clearly finds very satisfying.

I kept offering different shapes of foods to see what he was most able to grasp and move around his mouth successfully, including small pieces that he couldn't really pick up. At 6 months, 3 weeks, he mastered the pincer grip which I expected to happen much later, like 8 months. Blueberry halves? No problem!

The transition was gradual, but as he started to be able to eat anything around 6 months 3 weeks, I now offer most of our own healthy meals. As a result he started to demand eating more often then just when it was convenient. At 6 months 4 weeks, a week shy of 7 months, he decided food must be offered minimum three times a day and must be delicious and full of sauce. The more spices (cinnamon, ginger, curry, cumin, cilantro to name a few) and flavour the better! I don't exaggerate when I say that I currently need to feed him three times a day or he gets angry. He wants food all of the time! It's been a slow progression with days where he clearly made huge leaps in his abilities, but where we're at now is nowhere short of amazing.

I'm certain there will be a time where the newness of it wears off and I'll have to coerce him to eat more, but in the meantime, I'm offering him food every opportunity I get!

What about allergies?

The current recommendations are to introduce all foods at 6 months except honey, for which you need to wait until one year to prevent infant botulism. If you're concerned about allergies, you can introduce foods, especially the ones known to be high allergens, one at a time. See Eat Right Ontario for their recommendations.

I didn't follow a three or four day rule, but I have been careful when introducing eggs, dairy and nuts. Eggs I introduced on a weekend when my significant other was home, which turned out to be a good thing because my son is allergic (turns out his grandfather was allergic as a child as well). Dairy I have waited because he has issues when I eat yogurt and drink milk, but not with cheese, so I've given him tiny bits of cheese but will introduce the rest progressively, with cooked dairy first. Nuts, I'm being careful with because my cousin is anaphylactic to peanuts. I plan to introduce them the next weekend we're all home.


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