Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Garden Update - Time to Grow

There's no question that our garden is thriving - well, parts of it, at least. Turns out that I should have read a little bit more carefully about row spacing when I decided to grow cucumbers. I spaced the hills three feet apart, but I didn't give them six feet horizontally until the next crop. I gave them about two. Which means they're now alternating between strangling the lettuce, my green beans, and Greg's beautiful lawn that finally came in. Whoops.

I couldn't help but feel a little discouraged and disgusted with myself for not planning things better when I realized that they were spiraling out of control because I hadn't given them nearly enough space. One of my first thoughts was "Grampa never would have planted them like this."

Grampa Bridges, my great-grandfather, was an amazing vegetable grower. I think of him often when I'm out picking green beans or lettuce. I miss the giant sunflowers he grew next to the fence in his thriving backyard, and the tee-pee with flowering scarlet runner beans growing all the way up to the top. It was the perfect place for great-grandchildren to explore at family gatherings.

But then I realized something. By the time I was wandering through Grampa Bridge's garden in awe, he was not just a grandfather, but a GREAT grandfather. I have years and years of learning and making mistakes before I make an impression like Grampa did!

And that realization made me smile, not just about gardening, but about a lot of things. I grew up in the footsteps of some truly amazing people, whose skills I regard with awed admiration. Who else grows flowers like Grammie Ruth? Vegetables like Grampa Bridges? Has the patience and personality of my great-grandmother Mimi? The truly, truly good heart of Gram? The knitting and baking skills of my mother? Woodworking and sailing saavy like Dad?

But now I realize the trick - they weren't born that way. They worked towards becoming the wonderful people they are and who I will always remember. And they had time to do it. It'll be at least five years before Will starts really remembering my cooking, gardening, knitting, and sewing. I can have those crooked curtains fixed, and my cucumbers in a better location by then, I'm sure of it.

People always say you should never stop learning, cliche cliche, blah blah blah. But now I realize that these coming years are a true opportunity to become the person I want my children to remember me as. And then I'll have even more time to become the grandmother I want to be. It's kind of exciting.

So it's ok that my cucumbers are trying to take over the world, and I feel like laughing whenever I look at my overcrowded garden. (Didn't want to thin things out appropriately because those plants just looked so little and innocent... how can you choose which ones live? I'd rather eat crooked carrots. This year.)

I'll figure it out. I've got time.

Myself, top, with sister Elizabeth and relative Alex peeking out of Grampa's scarlet runner bean tee-pee.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Meat Dishes for Will - More Homemade Babyfood

Thank goodness Will has finally taken to eating solid foods, and with great enthusiasm! But this new three meals a day routine means I have to devote greater energy to providing him with variety and nutrition.

My pediatrician encouraged me starting at the nine month visit to give Will small, well cooked portions of anything we were eating with the exception of shellfish, peanut butter and honey. In theory, this sounds great - I'd love to feed him little pieces of steamed green beans and cooked chicken. But the reality is that I'm often eating leftovers or sandwiches for lunch, having dinner with Greg after Will goes to bed, and in the summer, we eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables, salads, and other things that aren't very baby friendly.

So while he and I can happily split a hummus sandwich or share our morning oatmeal, I still need to have plenty of baby food on hand so he can have something to go with his typically carb-loaded finger foods.

The organic jarred food I buy is great and convenient and preservative free, but there are only so many kinds, especially now that Will should have chunkier meals with some texture. He should also be eating more meat at this age than just vegetables, in order to get the fat, iron and protein babies require to grow at the rate they need to. (Healthy eating for adults and healthy eating for babies are two different things, which I realized mostly after reading three different baby books reminding me that full-fat dairy products and butter are beneficial for babies, while high fiber actually isn't.)

Long story shorter, here's two baby food recipes I made up for Will to stock my freezer.

Ground Beef with Sweet Potato and Onions

1/2 pound grass fed ground beef
1 T unsalted butter or olive oil
1/4 organic onion
3 medium sized or 2 large organic sweet potatoes

Roast the sweet potatos at 400 degrees until soft, approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. Remove from oven, slice lengthwise, and allow to cool. Melt the butter in a medium skillet on medium heat. Dice the onion very finely and cook in the melted butter over medium heat until softened and transluscent, about ten minutes. Add the ground beef and break it up into tiny pieces while it cooks. I use a potato masher, which works great. Cook beef until well browned and thoroughly cooked, then remove from heat. Slip the skins off the sweet potatos and puree with a hand blender or in a food processor, adding enough filtered water to achieve a thick but smooth consistency. Stir in the ground beef and onion mixture. Refrigerate and use one portion, and freeze the rest for up to one month. Makes 4-5 cups, which I turned into 17 quarter cup sized servings.

Note: It might be better to have your butcher grind a cut of beef for you on site; some packaged ground beef is actually cured with ammonia, which is not something I want to feed my baby.

Chunky Chicken Soup with Rice

4 organic carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil or unsalted butter
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 chicken breast halves, cut into tiny pieces
3 cups water or reduced sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup white rice

Heat the oil or butter in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and celery and sautee until softened, about ten minutes. Add the 3 cups of water or reduced sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cut up chicken and the rice and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until white rice is soft and chicken is cooked through. The vegetables should also be very soft, but if they're a large dice you may want to increase cooking time to 45 minutes. If desired, pulse with a hand blender to reach a smoother consistency.

Will was very receptive to the sweet potato with beef and onions especially!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Home from vacation!

Home this week from a ten day vacation in Maine spent visiting with family!

We went to the beach, visited family, and even let Will try his first bite of iced cream while Aunt E snapped photos.

Hope you had a good fourth!