Beth’s Picks: Play With Your Food

My husband and I are really into getting wooden toys for Bowie. Not only are they better for the environment and safer for kids, but they are also more durable and can hold up longer. And some of the best wooden toys we have found are made by Melissa & Doug. So when it was time to get him some fun food toys (because every kid has to have play food!), we turned to them.

I got this great set of pots and pans to start. The set comes with these three pans, two lids, a potholder and some utensils. It’s a great little starter set for the beginner tyke chef.

Then we also got the four food groups set. Not that they stayed in their cute little educational four food groups packaging for very long, but it was a cute set for a great price, and one of the only wooden sets I could find in a sea of cheap plastic food sets.

Their slicing sets are adorable, kids can “cut” the fruit and veggies up into pieces, just like a grown up, and then put them back together and start again. Let the creativity begin!

We have a lot of other products from Melissa & Doug, but their food toys are hands down the best in that category that we have found. If you’re in the market for some good, solid kitchen toys, take a look in my OpenSky shop!

Lead in our Food

I ran across something on the inhabitots blog today that I found to be incredibly disturbing. 85 % of kids’ fruit drinks and snacks are tainted with lead. LEAD. Here’s the specific post. And the NPR story.

What I find the most disturbing of all the disturbing-ness here (well, aside from the fact that my son has had more than one of the items on this list recently) is that there are varieties being sold at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. I have made these my go-to stores for food now, because of their reputation for safe, wholesome, organic foods. Well, not so much I guess.

This kind of thing makes me sick. Well, not literally. Unless you count the salmonella. But I got that from a contaminated restaurant kitchen, likely from fish that came from China. That’s a whole other story. But, Stewart Parnell could have given two craps about the people that were sickened with his peanut butter. And that’s a problem for me.

Food companies and packaging manufacturers DON’T CARE ABOUT US. People can die, what do they care, as long as they make the money off of you. And if it has to be under the guise of “organic” and “all natural”, then so be it. Salmonella in the spinach? Sorry! E. coli in the meat? Oops! But, don’t expect us to actually do anything about it!

Something has got to give here, and soon. Consumers should not be afraid to eat what’s on store shelves. Worse yet, they should not be afraid to feed it to their children. I tried to do my best to get food from stores that I thought had my best interests in mind. And that was not good enough.

This country needs a food revolution. We need to wake up, and stand up, and demand that we be supplied with safely made/grown, safely packaged food with integrity. We are human beings on the other end of this food supply chain, which some food company executives seem to be forgetting. Makes one wonder: do they feed their own food to their families?

I’m livid about this. And you should be to. Lead is nothing to mess with. And they have been letting us feed it to our children. I am seriously worried now. This is the latest bottle of juice he’s been drinking from. It’s on the list:

Me and Exercising

We don’t really mix. The story is really just that I spent about 97% of my 3 decades on this planet not being required to work out. I was definitely that girl you hated because she could scarf down a McDonald’s value meal three times a week and not gain an ounce. Of course, I did gain a small amount of weight in college, the Freshman Ten or So. But then it stopped there.

Fast forward to now. I work at home, and have been careless about my computer-side treats. (Let’s just say, I haven’t quite kicked the McDonald’s habit yet. Not three times a week anymore, but really no amount is good.) And I have taken to having a glass or two of wine every night to kill the buzz in my head from my day. (Also, admittedly, not healthy at all.)

I am tipping the scales at 30 pounds heavier than before I got pregnant. No, make that 30 pounds heavier than I was 4 MONTHS POST PARTUM. That’s right, I can’t even blame having a baby for this one. I breastfed, which made me drop the baby weight like SNAP! But, SAHM life made me gain it all back like S-N-A-P….(get it, it’s lumbering along because I’m fat).

So now, I’m that 30 something who needs to work out. But, I loathe running, and even if I wanted to give it a try again, helloooo it’s really hilly here, no thanks. I like aerobics and dancing and that kind of stuff, but good luck finding time to do that with a toddler around.

Here’s the situation right now: I’m taking long walks on some mornings, the hubbs takes care of the kiddo. And I’m hopping on the Wii Fit on other mornings, which seems to keep kiddo entertained and he stays out of my hair. The goal is to lose a few pounds a week until we’re back on track. Then, I just hope I can commit so we don’t end up back in this fat place again.

A Call for Kiddo Food Ideas

Food isn’t the four-letter word it used to be in our house. (I mean, in regards to our toddler son. My husband and I LUUUURV food, in all shapes, colors, sizes and forms, mkay?) Bowie is eating a plethora of new things (including cheese tortellini and eggs!). Stuff he wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole just 2 weeks ago.

BUT, I’m out of ideas. I mean, I know what he likes to eat, and I make that for him all the time. But, I’m not sure what new foods to introduce or re-introduce. Here’s what he’s totally into right now (and please RELAX, I buy it all at Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s):

mac and cheese

chicken nuggets

edamame

rice

berries, well fruit in general

toaster pastries (fancy word for Pop Tarts)

pita bread

almond butter & jelly sammies

cereal bars

Yo Baby

crackers

pretzels

On a really good day, he’ll also eat:

pasta

scrambled eggs

Pirate’s Booty

raisins

grilled cheese

I want to expand this list. So I’m not rotating the same foods all week long. And also, what types of recipes can you make for the whole family that a toddler might also deign to eat?

Best Mac and Cheese

I made a new, very terrible macaroni and cheese recipe last night.  In honor of its colossal failure as a dish, I thought I’d post my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.  To give credit where credit is due, this is adapted from a recipe that was clipped some time ago from an issue of Everyday With Rachel Ray (say what you will about the woman, but her recipes are genius).

You’ll notice quickly that the mac and cheese sets on a bed of broccoli, which is incredible and a really great way to eat it, but I have been known on a decadent day or two to leave it out.  Also, it says serves 4, but I think it’s more like 6 or 8, so feel free to half the recipe if there’s just a few of you eating it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheddar

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite size florets (stems cubed)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1/2 cup cream (optional, you can use more milk instead)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

12 ounces cheddar, shredded or cubed

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the broccoli. Bring to a boil, add the broccoli, cook for 1 minute and drain. Rinse with cold water. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and add the broccoli in an even layer. Use the pot again to cook the macaroni. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in the flour for 1 minute.

Whisk in 1 cup of milk until it gets thick, then whisk in 1 cup more. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup of milk and ½ cup of cream and then whisk that mixture into the pot. Simmer until the mixture thickens, just a few minutes.

Lower the heat and add the cheddar and parmesan, stir until the cheese melts. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta. Spoon this mixture over the broccoli.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Orange

At Bowie’s six month check up, I was feeling pretty good about myself because I’d been making my own baby food for the previous month and he was loving it. I followed all of Dr. A’s guidelines about when to start what, and how much milk he should still be drinking.

But, once she saw him without his shirt on, she put her hand up to his chest and I instantly knew what she was looking at: he was really orange. “You’re feeding him too much orange food,” was all she said. I was devastated. Not only because I had turned my baby orange with my cooking, but also because he loved sweet potatoes, carrots and squash and now I was going to have to find something else to give him, something not orange.

We managed. We moved on to things like spinach, corn, broccoli and cauliflower. And eventually he looked less orange to me, but a month later when he was in getting the flu shot he still looked too orange for her taste.

Today I was looking through all the food I have for him in the freezer, and I saw it there. The lonely little bag of sweet potatoes I had made for him. Sometimes his nose still looks orange in pictures, but I said screw it and gave him sweet potatoes for dinner. Afterward I wiped him up thoroughly and joked that we had to “hide the evidence from daddy”. I hope the little bugger appreciated that.