Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sneaky Spaghetti

Spaghetti can be sneak in so many ways, that is why it has become a staple meal for epicutie Little Joy. I do understand from other moms that tomato sauce can make some sour faces at first since it is acidic, however as we always say on this blog persevere, persevere, persevere. Also, I do not make my own sauces here; part of what I love about sneaky spaghetti is it is fast yet delicious.

I will describe the basic way I make spaghetti, then offer some sneaky additives to make your spaghetti even more nutrient packed!

Ingredients for basic spaghetti:
  • Ground Turkey or Beef, optional (ground turkey seems to be packaged in 1.2-1.5 lb packages, so when I make my monthly turkey loaf batch--which calls for only 1 lb ground turkey--I reserve a bit of what I do not need for that recipe to use for this)
  • Natural/Organic Spaghetti Sauce (I like the garden vegetable varieties)
  • Cooked Whole Wheat Pasta (I recommend ditalini or elbow to make it an easy finger food OR starter food on a fork)
  • Olive Oil
Steps for basic spaghetti:
  • Boil water and add desired amount of pasta along with a dash of olive oil. Cook according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, brown meat and drain fat (if any).
  • Add sauce to meat and heat on low simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Drain pasta.
  • Mix pasta with sauce.
  • Serve warm as a finger food or this is a great food to allow your little one to use on a fork.
  • Thinner Sauces/Hide the Meat: Little Joy did not always like meat, so I try to find ways to hide it. After cooking your sauce as mentioned above, place the mixture in a food chopper and puree until the meat is finely cut up. Add a bit of water as you puree it too to make the sauce a little thinner for beginners. Serve as directed above.
  • Butternut Squash: After cooking your sauce, place in a food chopper and add roasted butternut squash chunks or puree (here is a link to apple butternut squash bake just omit the apples from the recipe and you have your basic butternut squash). Add however much you want. Puree until sauce reaches your desired consistency; serve as directed above!
  • Lentils: Add some extra iron, protein and fiber by sneaking some lentils in your epicutie's spaghetti! After cooking your sauce as mentioned above, toss in some cooked lentils (lentils cooking tips here; I prefer red lentils). Add whatever amount you want and no need to puree because cooked lentils are soft. Serve as directed above.
  • Mixed Veggies: When you begin to simmer your sauce add some frozen mixed veggies. Add whatever proportions you think. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are soft. Serve as directed above.
  • Dairy: I am always looking to ways to add a bit of extra dairy to each meal since Little Joy is not a huge drinker. Sprinkle your epictutie's favorite type of cheese atop the spaghetti just before serving' your little one is SURE to love it!
  • Spice it up: Spice up your sauces with herbs such as basil, oregano, garlic and parsley.
  • Meatballs: Try adding our Meatballs for the Whole Family just before serving. Mash up the meatballs in a size appropriate for you child's age.

Yeild: Depends on the amount of noodles you prepare:

Storage: In the fridge for 3-5 days depending on how fresh your ingredients were. I have not attempted to freeze it yet.

Timing: Depending on the variation you choose maybe 9-10 months. For thinner spaghetti sauces and puree'd meat, 8 months is fine. For the mixed veggie variation, closer to 10 months if your little one does not have many teeth. They need to be able to chew the veggies in there. As always, watch your little one anytime they are trying a new food for allergies and struggles in chewing

Difficulty: 2 out of 5; even if you choose one of the variations, this is an easy meal!

Epicutie Rating: Yummy in the Tummy--see right side of page for descriptions
No matter how you serve Little Joy spaghetti, she is IN LOVE....and makes a mess.

Meatballs for the Whole Family

I wrote a post several weeks ago for Baby Meatballs from my "Super Baby Food" book. I like that receipie because it is easy and fast, but I wanted to try something on Little Joy that we (her parents) would also give high ratings on! As I make my two week "menu" for what we will eat for dinner, I usually ask my husband for any special requests. He asked for spaghetti with meatballs. I have never made them before I thought "whew, the seem hard". NOT THE CASE! When we sampled these meatballs, I KNEW Little Joy would give it a Yummy In the Tummy, and that she did. This recipe comes from Rachel Ray on (I have only tested the meatballs so far, but plan to try the sauce soon).

Serve this for the whole family by tossing with your favorite spaghetti sauce!!!

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs, a couple of handfuls
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper (I omit salt from most of my recipes particularly those Little Joy will be eating)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Beat eggs slightly in medium-large bowl.
  3. Mix in beef and Worcestershire, bread crumbs, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Roll meat into 1 1/2 inch medium-sized meatballs (or whatever size your prefer really) and place on nonstick cookie sheet or a cookie sheet greased with extra-virgin olive oil.
  5. Bake balls 10 to 12 minutes, until no longer pink.
Yield: 32 medium meatballs

Serve: Serve mashed up or cut into pieces appropriate for the age of your child. You can serve them alone along with some veggies OR mash/cut up and toss with some spaghetti (recipe review coming soon for spaghetti).

Timing: Beef is better left until 10 months. These should turn out fairly soft so if your little one can grind with his teeth some, then they should be ready to sample this food! As always, just watch your little one the first time they try a new food to ensure they are not having trouble swallowing/managing the food.

Storage: Freezer for about a month; fridge for a couple of days.

Miscellaneous: Little Joy has had these plain AND in spaghetti...either way she loved it.

Difficulty: 2 out of 5...easy, easy!!!

Epicutie Rating: Yummy In the Tummy (see right side of page for descriptions) Little Joy gobbles this up no matter how you serve it up!!!


Step 3: Meat mixture before forming into balls

Step 4: Shape into balls. I cooked mine on a silpat (here is one similar to mine)--I love using this anytime I bake!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Beef Stew

I started writing this post on April 5 and just remembered about it!

When I made this according to the recipe on, my Epictutie Little Joy did NOT like it AT ALL. Perplexed by her very sour review, I tried it I did not like it at all either. It was just too bland, esp the potatoes. After freezing this giant batch, I was frustrated because I did not want it to go to waste. After several weeks, it hit me---SPICE IT UP!!!! So I thawed/heated some, added a dash of garlic powder and basil...SUCCESS!!!

  • 1/2 cup cubed cooked beef (or ground beef; I would use ground beef if your baby does not have as many teeth to grind with)
  • 1 peeled potato
  • ¼ cup shelled fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 peeled carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/4 cup uncooked pasta (try ditalini as it's small and makes for great finger food.)
  • 4 cups of water
  • Dash of garlic powder and basil leaves or other seasonings you think would be yummy; I would add these to each individual serving rather than the whole batch

  1. Wash vegetables thoroughly
  2. Chop veggies very fine.
  3. Simmer the veggies in water for 20 minutes or until softened
  4. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes longer or until very soft. Drain but save the water as a beef stock for other uses.
  5. Mash or puree the mix until it is of a consistency adequate for your baby.
  6. Serve Warm and add seasonings.
Yield: Sorry, I dont remember exactly but I would say about 10 servings for a 10-12 month old.

Storage: Freeze one serving size in a sandwich bag and place all the individual servings in a freezer bag for 2 months or so.

Difficulty: 3 out of 5; lots of chopping to do which always makes the difficulty higher since I am usually occupying Little Joy at the same time. Overall not too hard though, just lots to chop.

Epicutie Rating: (see right side of page for descriptions)
BEFORE adding seasonings: Sour Puss
AFTER adding seasonings: Yummy in the Tummy

All ingredients chopped and ready to add water to simmer

Simmering veggies and beef

Just before serving (without seasonings, hehe)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Baby Sign Language, Does It Work? Little Joy's Journey

Let me begin by answering the question posed in this blog title: a resounding YES, YES, YES!!! I must warn you, this post is long however it is broken up into parts so that you can read it in pieces.

Before Little Joy was even born, I knew we wanted to try baby signing with her. I was a deaf education major my first year in college and although I decided to change my major, I still had a passion and appreciation for sign language. I had little knowledge on how to approach teaching sign language to a baby or even what signs to do, but I was determined to do it!!

Many people we told about trying baby sign language made me feel very discouraged about our venture, I almost abandoned it. I even read a few articles that discouraged it. Luckily, my fellow Little Tummy Yummies author was also an advocate, so I did not feel alone and forged ahead! Here were some of the things I heard:
  • There are no benefits (or they did not take the time to research possible benefits)
  • They simply did not understand the point
  • Why not wait until they are verbal?
  • It will discourage your baby's verbal development
  • You cannot teach a baby to sign
  • I have had one person tell me I was silly to try it!?!?!?
I am writing this blog today to share our wonderful experience with sign language; it has been nothing but a true blessing. Using my personal experience with my family of three--soon the be four (I am not doing a scientific study here), below is what I will discuss in this article. I gleaned some of this information from "Teach Your Baby to Sign" by Monica Beyer.
  1. Discuss myths about baby sign language
  2. Benefits to teaching baby sign languages
  3. My personal approach to teach baby sign language
Baby Sign Language:

I would like to reiterate, this is not scientific, this is just my family's personal experience with baby signing as we taught Little Joy. Some of the myths we busted in our adventure of baby sign language so far are listed below.
  • Signing delays speech: FALSE! From the outside looking in, I can see how one may believe this as true. Someone thinks "sign language" = "no speaking"; this is absolutely not the case. Part of teaching sign language is encouraging the spoken word along with the sign. For example, as we taught Little Joy the sign "milk", we always, without exception, said "MILK" as we did the sign. She is hearing AND seeing the word. If signing were taught in luie of speaking, it may delay speech but speech was part of our approach to baby signing. And guess what? Little Joy is one of the most articulate 13 month olds. I know I am partial but you know it is true when child care workers, doctors and parents of older children tell you that. By Little Joy's first birthday she could say: button, out, purple, up, down, dog, duck, Addy, Dada, Me (that is what she calls Mommy), baby, bottle, cheese, bean, pea...and many more.
  • Baby's cannot sign/baby's cannot sign before they are verbal: FALSE! I can only say that this is simply not true, Little Joy was signing as young as 7 months, so that busts this myth. Besides, all babies communicate with their hands---reaching for an object they want, pushing something away they do not want, etc. Sign language just gives purpose to the hand motions and is communicated in a way WE understand.
  • There are no benefits: FALSE! I have an entire section devoted to the benefits we have experienced, but a huge one is your baby is able to communicate wants/needs without the need to whine/cry. For example, Little Joy points at an object and signs "please" when she wants it vs pointing and crying to get my attention.
Baby Sign Language:

There are many, many benefits to teaching baby sign language, but these are just a few we experienced on our journey.
  • Promotes early communication: Most children do not begin to say their first words other than the "mamama" and "dadada" babble until at least 12-14 months. Babies who learn sign language are able to communicate on a very basic level early. For us, Little Joy began consistently signing her first sign, finished, at 8 months. She signed "milk" and "finished" without great consistency at about 7 months. After she mastered her first one with consistency, her signing took off and by 12 months old she could pick up a new sign in just a few days. Had we not done sign language, at 12 (almost 13 months) I still do not think she would have an effective way to say she was finished with something. By one year she could sign: milk, more, please, snake, eat, thank you, play, finished, bye, bath, potty, change your diaper, sleep and maybe a few more I cannot remember. With that many signs she can tell us what she needs without the need for fussing which brings us to the next point.
  • Communication vs. whining/crying: Clearly if a child can communicate their needs there is less frustration which means less fussing (which means a happy mommy). I will give you one practical example of this: when your little one wants a toy that is out of reach how do they communicate that need to you? Well my answer before Little Joy learned the "please" sign was, she grunted and fussed or even cried to let me know. Now? She points at the object and signs "please" until I get her the desired toy (this does NOT mean she gets anything she wants either). She has even come to find me and pointed to the room signing please, I follow and she goes to the object and signs "please" again :) Remember, fussing and crying is a normal part of any baby, pre-toddler and toddler's day so please understand we still have crying and fussing and tantrums. What I noticed was as she signed more efficiently (or even spoke) the fussing dramatically decreased. Now most of our fussing is tired or teething or diaper changing related, she hates diaper changes.
  • Enhances all non-verbal communication: Only recently did I notice that Little Joy has begun to attempt to express her self in other non verbal and non sign language ways. I notice that when she is trying to communicate she uses her hands to point and reach and even makes up her own signs before restoring to crying. Random observation.
  • Fun and easy: A huge benefit is teaching sign language to your baby is it's fun, easy and exciting (especially when they sign back!!). Signs are simple for us to learn and thus easy to teach and use throughout our day. In a section below I will discuss my approach, but in a nutshell it is as simple as starting with five signs and signing them at every opportunity and soon enough----your little one will respond, it is that easy!!!!
  • Fills the gap: Sign Language fills the gap between a child has the cognitive ability to communicate (the process of thought) but not the physical ability (muscles required to form words).
  • CAN promote early speech: Again I cannot back this up with a 500 person double blind study, but I can tell you that Little Joy's speech seems to be slightly more developed than her peers. I am NOT trying to say she is smarter or better or ANYTHING else. I am going by observations and what her doctor and other moms say. I believe Little Joy has spoken earlier because when we sign, it forces us to use the same word every time we sign it. She was able to say dog and hat clear as day at about 9-10 months but I believe it is because every time we signed it we said "dog" not "puppy", "dog", "doggie", etc. interchangeably. This was not on purpose, it was an accident. It is as if you cannot say an interchangeable word with a consistent sign. I hope that makes sense. I have lost count of the number of words Little Joy can say; some are not perfect I will be the first to admit. She can say upwards of a dozen to 15 or more words at barely 13 months. Let me reiterate, I think the early speech is related to the parents using consistent words and finding reasons to USE those words vs some giftedness she has. Consistency and Intent is all I believe it is.
Baby Sign Language:
Personal Teaching Approach

Here is a run down on how I implemented our baby sign language:
  1. Selected 5 signs to use. I chose 5 signs that would excite her or would be relevant everyday to her. We started with milk, finished, dog, bath and change your diaper. Milk because she nursed 4 times a day then so we had lots of opportunities to reinforce it. Finished because it was easy to indicate finished by ending an activity or eating or anything. Dog because our precious little toy poodle is her favorite playmate and it excites her to see her anytime! Bath because it was a constant in her routine and fun (I admit we slacked on this one as we are just now really teaching it to her). Change your diaper because well we all know that occurs often!
  2. Used the five signs consistently and tried to find a reason to sign them. Every time we had an opportunity to sign the word we did it. That meant every time she drank milk or got a diaper change we did our best to always sign it. We would also find an excuse to sign as well; dog was a great one to randomly reinforce.
  3. Started (consistently) at 5 months. You can begin at anytime your baby is considered pre-verbal. We chose to begin at about 5 months because we were beginning solids so opportunities for signs like finished and more abounded. More and eat were not in our original list, but it soon was added! At 5 months, we used signs every chance we had.
  4. How do you teach the sign? In my approach there were two ways to sign (remember there was ALWAYS a verbal cue to accompany every sign) 1) by demonstrating it; that is just doing the sign as I say the word. Keep in mind the sign has to be relevant, I should not sign dog for no reason; there should be a dog (picture or real) around so they understand what the sign MEANS. 2) By doing the sign for them. For more complicated signs or just to reinforce, I would take Little Joy's hands and do the sign for her as I said the word. This was particularly helpful with the "abstract" signs such as thank you, please and finished. In the end it is, repetition, repetition, repetition.
  5. Results: This will vary so widely, so I wont even comment other will come. Keep in mind, the earlier you start the longer it might be until you see results. If you start at 11 months vs 5 months, you are likely to see results much faster.
  6. Sign Explosion: Once Little Joy mastered a couple of signs she realized she was able communicate and that is when her ability and desire to sign took off. I would say the explosion happened around 10-11 months for her. At about 12 months, it only takes signing something a few times before she starts to pick up on it.
  7. Start with concrete then move to the abstract: After the initial five signs are consistent, add several more concrete signs before moving on to abstract. Abstract signs would be please, thank you, yes, etc. Abstract is a bit harder to not only teach but for them to really understand the meaning. Abstract are things they do not experience directly.
  8. Keep on Keeping on: Just keep on signing every chance you have and add to the sign vocabulary at the pace your child seems comfortable with.

Fun Story: We were having dinner the other night and my husband was telling me something very important. Little Joy was getting antsy from being in her high chair for an hour at this point and I knew if she drank some milk it would take her mind off getting down, at least until my husband had finished sharing with me. In all signs I said "drink your milk please". She instantly smiled and drank. It was awesome. I do not recommend always replacing your words with signs, but it was appropriate it here :)

Well, that is my journey in signing. I have enjoyed every single moment and cannot wait to sign with our baby #2 due on October!!! Please, please ask questions, make comments...anything. I want to know about your experiences too!

Leftover Legume Loaf

Not going to lie, reading this receipe from "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron I thought "ew". Then I reminded myself, that there are many foods I like and others hate and vice versa, so I decided to give it a whirl especially considering it is a nutrition packed lil loaf! Leftover lentils in my fridge from the last time I made Bananas and Lentils compelled me to make this as well!

As I have mentioned in several previous posts, lentils are a fabulous source of fiber, protein, iron and many other nutrients. Check out wholesomebabyfood.coms nutritional information on legumes/lentils/beans.

This was the first time I have prepared anything for Little Joy with Wheat Germ and I was excited a) to finally find it in my grocery store and b) to finally get to use some!!! Wheat Germ is fabulously is a great source of iron, folic acid, protein and more. Again I encourage you to Check out wholesomebabyfood.coms nutritional information on Wheat Germ and Wheat and Baby Food.

Allergy Alert: Wheat is a common allergen so be careful as you introduce anything containing wheat. Some publications recommend waiting to introduce wheat until 12 months, others 8-9 months and even others...earlier. As always, when in doubt always consult with your pediatrician.

  • 1 cup cooked legumes/lentils (I used red lentils; for information on cooking lentils check out this "How-To" cook lentils site)
  • 1 cup wheat germ, ground nuts or whole grain bread crumbs (I used wheat germ)
  • 1 cup liquid such as milk, soy milk or tomato juice with no salt (I used milk, I may try tomato juice next time I make this)
  • Seasonings: parsley, powdered or minced garlic, onions and other seasonings (I used two dashes garlic powder, about 2 tablespoons diced onion, dash of basil, tiny bit of thyme....basically I made it up as I went along)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients throughly
  3. Place mixture into a loaf pan (I greased mine with a tiny bit of olive oil)
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until firm
  5. Serve warm as finger food
Yield: One loaf; see photos

Storage: Refrigerated for 3-5 days and frozen for up to 1-2 months. Let me remind you, this is not scientific--just how I plan to store my "supply"/

Difficulty: 2 out of 5, this is super fast and easy especially if you are using left over cooked lentils from another recipe.

Epicutie Rating: Yummy in the Tummy--See right side of page for descriptions
I was shocked but Little Joy LOVED this nutrient packed Goes to show I should not underestimate her "sophisticated pallet" (as my mother calls it). I hope she continues to like it, this will be a go to for me since I always have left over lentils!

Step 3: Place Mixture in pan

After baking

First bite...I just knew she would not like it...

Washing it down...

But going back for more....This epicutie loved it!

I am a warrior!

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About the Authors

This blog was started by two Babywise pen pals to document our adventures in high chair manners, making our own baby food and doing our bests to raise happy, healthy, thriving little ones!

Epicutie #1

Epicutie #1

Little Joy at 2 years, Sept 2012

Epicutie #2

Epicutie #2
Little Frances

Epicutie #3

Epicutie #3
Little Asher at 11 months, Sept 2012

Epicutie #4

Epicutie #4
Little Elizabeth, July 2013
  • Yummy in the Tummy: Epicutie thoroughly enjoyed each bite
  • Somewhat yummy: Epicutie seemed to somewhat enjoy the food at first, but seemed to like it less with subsequent bites
  • Not so sure I like it...yet: Epicutie somewhat rejected the first bites, but seemed intrigued. The next exposure may be better!
  • Confused: Epicutie rejected the first bites, perhaps due to texture or strong flavor.
  • Sour Puss: Epicutie gave a sour face indicating she did not like the food. However--if at first you do not succeed, try, try again!

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