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Make Your Own Baby Food

When we tighten our household budget belts with babies in the house, it can be tricky to find areas of savings. When my son grew out of diapers, it felt like we had gotten a raise! No more large packs of diapers each week, constant supplies of wipes or liners for the Diaper Genie. I suppose I could have used cloth diapers to save on the disposables, and perhaps I will go that route if we welcome another addition to the family.

One area where it’s easier to see real savings is in baby’s food. Most doctors agree that at about 4 to 6 months of age, it is good timing to start giving baby some “solid” foods. There are so many options in stores now from traditional to organic to allergy-free, and thank goodness for that. But all those little jars can add up quickly! Making homemade baby purees is so simple, takes very little time (especially if you do it in batches and freeze it) and costs so much less than buying pre-made baby food.

I have gathered several informative links to give you some options if you want to explore this topic. For me what worked best was a combination of store-bought and homemade baby food purees, and my son seemed to like them both equally. If you become a real pro at making the purees, you may be inspired to start your own baby food business, a la Shazi Visram from Happy Baby Food!

Is it time to start baby on solids? Here’s what HealthyChildren.org suggests.

Looking for recipe ideas for baby food purees? The High Chair Times blog on Parents.com is chock full.

You can use your home blender to make purees, or you can get a tool kit like the Baby Bullet, which includes storage containers and a freshness plan.

Don’t forget that some foods are not as good for baby as others. Baby Center has a few ideas on the foods you should skip in baby’s first years.

Don’t forget to use the 4-Day Allergy Rule when introducing new foods! Only introduce one new food at  a time, and give it to baby for 4 days in a row to check for allergy symptoms. After that, you are safe to introduce a new food. If you start several foods at once, you may not know which one baby is allergic to. Send pics of your beautiful purees!

Recipe of the Day: Baked Apples Your Way

Ahhh. The first day of Fall. It’s my favorite season for so many reasons: I love the chill in the air, the changing colors and all of the activities that the season brings, like football, hay rides, corn mazes, big pots of hearty stew and nightly hot chocolate.

I have a business, a husband and a kindergartner to care for, as well as all the usual commitments to family, community, charity, etc., so like you, I am always looking for shorter and faster ways to the finish line. At my house, we love dessert, and I relish a free afternoon spent baking a new recipe. But for those times when time is tight, and we just want a little comfort food, I fall back on old, reliable recipes.

For Fall, baked apples are a big hit with my family. I have tried them so many ways that I can really whip them up with whatever we have in the pantry. I love that about this recipe; it’s kind of hit or miss with ingredients, and it’s hard to mess up. I am going to give you several options of what to include, and you can pick and choose based on what you have on hand. The beauty here is that it whips up in about 15 minutes, then bakes for about an hour, so you really don’t have a big time commitment. And the house filling with the autumnal aromas of apples, cinnamon and roasted nuts is a bonus!

Baked Apples Your Way

Ingredients:
4 baking apples (I use Honey Crisp, but use your favorite)
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter or substitute (I use Earth Balance)
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 Cup water

Optional ingredients (some or all of these are great):
4 Tbsp oats
2 Tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tbsp chopped raisins or currants
3/4 cup white wine (as a substitute for the water)

Mix ingredients of your choice in a small bowl. Core each apple, making a well big enough to hold 1/4 of the filling mixture in each apple. Place apples in an 8×8 baking dish (I use glass), and pour water or wine into the bottom of the dish. Fill each apple evenly with the mixture, mounding it on top if there is extra. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the size of the apples. (Check it after 45 minutes for tenderness.) Serve with low fat frozen yogurt or ice cream, if your gang approves.

I am making this dessert tonight for a treat after my son’s T-ball game. If I get them out of the oven right before we leave, they may still be a little warm when we get home to enjoy them. Wish you were here!

Volunteering with No Time to Spare

I know what you’re thinking. How in the world am I supposed to do everything on my list each day, take care of a family and myself AND still donate some of my “free time” to a worthy cause? If you are up for it, I have some ideas.

I am thinking about volunteering today as I prepare to be a dog biscuit baker tomorrow at a local non-profit called the Bark “N Howl Bakery. http://www.barknhowlbakery.com/ The organization called Career Frontiers of Northeast Florida has an effort that employs adults with intellectual disabilities in a bakery specializing in dog biscuits. The bakers also sell the biscuits in the community, and I have the opportunity to help tomorrow. Being a baker is a passion of mine, though tomorrow will be my first attempt at dog treats. Fingers are crossed!

My son started Kindergarten this year, so I have between about 9:00 and 2:30 to get everything done that I need to concentrate on. That includes running my business, having meetings, attending Chamber of Commerce and other industry events and, if it’s going to happen, squeezing in an occasional lunch with a girl friend. With this limited time frame, it can be tough to carve out time to volunteer, and the evenings and weekends are equally as scheduled. (As I’m sure yours are.)

But volunteering has its rewards, and I always remember the times when someone has volunteered to help me. I think of it as a responsibility of mine, just like those listed above. Of course, charity begins at home, and we must be sure that our families and ourselves are cared for first. That is important to note because if you are volunteering to make another child’s life better, but your kids never see you (or you are exhausted from being over committed), it’s not exactly an accomplished goal.

Assuming that you have caught up on your sleep, things are going smoothly and you have some energy to give to the world, consider doing one of these charitable endeavors, which can be done with baby or toddler in tow, if needed:

* Volunteer to watch a friend’s baby, allowing her a couple hours of quiet time. You can stay home (where you would be anyway), your child can enjoy the play mate, and your friend will relish the freedom with no baby sitter bill. Time is so valuable. This is a small effort that has a huge pay off for the recipient.

* Offer to do busy work for your favorite non-profit during down time at home. Perhaps your church could use some help organizing paperwork for an upcoming event. Or a non-profit needs some phone calls made for the next fundraiser. If you have 15 minutes a day, you can make a dent in the work load, save the agency precious dollars, and feel great that you gave of your time and talents- all without leaving your home.

* Throw an extra casserole or entree in the oven when you make dinner, and give the gift of nourishment to another busy person. Is your neighbor going through an illness? Is there a Mom at your child’s preschool who is overwhelmed? Or is someone from your book club moving or adjusting to a lifestyle change? Think of how special they would feel if you showed up with a lasagna “just because.”

To me, “volunteering” or “charity” come in many forms, and any time I can make someone’s life a little brighter, I consider that a bonus for me. I have certainly been the recipient of acts of kindness, and I love finding ways to “donate” of myself, even when time and resources seem too tight. I hope you’ll pay a kindness to someone today – especially to yourself. You deserve it.

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