Smelt

All online smelt recipes seem to involve breading or deep-frying the smelt, which is fine as a treat but not if I want to make it a quick, easy staple. So I decided to try pan-frying it, and it was delicious.

I fried some chopped garlic and chili pepper in olive oil, added the smelt, and covered the pan for a few minutes. Then I flipped the fish, added scallions, and covered the pan again. It was done very quickly, and the entire fish is edible (bones, scales, and head). I liked it but Nora didn’t, probably because of the chili pepper and because the bones and scales are still a little tough. So I’ll try the smelt in fish stew next time.

Pipeline

A very nice pipeline is developing, now that Nora is so agreeable about eating greens.

  • We cook meat or fish once or twice a week, refrigerate some leftovers, and stockpile freezer balls.
  • I make oatmeal for the entire week in one giant batch and store it in the refrigerator. We all eat from it for breakfast and lunch.
  • I soak and dehydrate walnuts as soon as we buy them, every few weeks or so.
  • I periodically steam and chop several days’ worth of greens for Nora, making freezer balls if there’s extra.
  • I plan on making a week’s worth of grains for the family at a time, now that we have the Instant Pot. We can rotate varieties as I learn how to prepare them (right now it’s rice and millet).
  • I plan on adding large pots of legume dishes to the mix, once I work out how to soak and prepare them. Legumes, like grains, are easy to cook in bulk.

The following are all refrigerator and freezer staples that Nora eats regularly:

  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • fresh fruit
  • avocado
  • bread

So for any given meal, Nora always has a protein, a grain, green veggies, fruit, and some finger foods. These are always on hand either in the refrigerator or as frozen freezer balls.

She joins us for family dinners and weekend meals when we can cook something relatively quick, and gets fed her own dinner first when we can’t.

Pork Meatloaf

I’m very impressed. My mom made pork meatloaf last week using Mark Bittman’s recipe (below), with 2lb pork, a giant onion instead of a small one, a giant carrot instead of a small one, and some extra greens. For spices, she used 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp cumin, salt, and pepper. She sauteed the vegetables very briefly.

It tasted like baozi filling and was nice and soft. Nora and her cousins all loved it. The quality of the pork, which she got from a meat market near my house, probably made a huge difference.

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Ferment Oatmeal with Miso

From the comments section here: a recipe for fermenting oatmeal using miso.

http://www.southrivermiso.com/store/pg/18-Porridge-Grain-Milk.html

South River Porridge

1 cup rolled oats
2 cups water
2 teaspoons light miso (see note below)

Cook oatmeal in the evening 5-10 min., or until water is absorbed. (Do not use salt in the cooking.) Let oatmeal cool down to body temperature and then stir miso thoroughly into the warm cereal. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature (about 70°). Reheat in the morning (without boiling) and serve.

Without imparting a noticeable taste of its own, the enzymatic power of the miso will liquefy the cereal, unlocking its essential nutrition, creating a wholesome sweet taste as it ferments overnight.

Other whole, rolled, cracked, or ground, cereal grains may be used, although cooking times will vary as necessary. Many pre-industrialized peoples fermented their grains to gain the most energy and nutritional strength from them.

Note: For this recipe it is necessary to use an unpasteurized light miso, rich in amylase enzymes. Choose South River Chick Pea, Sweet Tasting Brown Rice, Azuki Bean, or Sweet White Miso.

Creamy Oat Milk

Follow the same recipe above using 3 cups of water to 1 cup rolled oats. In the morning use a blender to transform the liquid porridge into a smooth milk. Strain if desired, heat and serve. Delicious with a touch of ginger!

Brown Rice

Brown rice confuses me. On the one hand, may sources say to do what I did with the millet, which is a 7-hour soak in warm water with 2 tbsp of something acidic.

On the other hand, the best method is supposed to be the one where you reserve a portion of the soaking liquid each time, and use it for soaking the next time. After several iterations, the phytates are nearly gone.

The original source is here. The comments section had very useful information.

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-way-to-soak-brown-rice.html

The blog source quoting it is here.

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/01/phytic-acid-in-rice-reduced-96-with-accelerated-fermentation/

Here is a slightly different method that involves using a quart of reserved water, and whey. It sounds like a hassle, but the author describes the difference in taste in the brown rice, which to me is one reason to make it worth trying.

http://thenourishingcook.com/soaked-brown-rice/

According to the comments section of the first link, whey doesn’t contain any phytase, so it’s not directly responsible for breaking down the phytates. But the acidic medium does help.

Finally, here is info on germinating and sprouting brown rice.

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/03/31/germinated-brown-rice-has-the-u-n-finally-heard-nourishing-traditions-wisdom/

Veggies, Fiber, Sleep Quality, and a Healthy Immune System

I love Paleo Mom. She’s a scientist who never fails to substantiate her claims and make research accessible to the masses. In the blog post below, she talks about new research that suggests that eating more fiber improves sleep quality.

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2016/02/new-science-suggests-fiber-improves-sleep-quality.html

And here, she talks about why veggies are important for gut health and a healthy immune system.

http://www.thepaleomom.com/2013/12/veggiephobia.html

Much as my blog is about incorporating fat, seafood, and offal into Nora’s diet, my first love is still veggies.

One Weird Trick to Get Babies to Eat Veggies

steamed arugula with chicken stew

It’s pretty amazing. On the first page of Google hits for “how to get babies to eat veggies,” there’s a lot of advice to do the following (none of which worked for me):

  • Just keep exposing the baby to veggies repeatedly.
  • Mix the veggies with fruit or sneak it into baked goods.
  • Feed the veggies first when the baby is hungrier.
  • Set a good example yourself.

A few sites suggest mixing veggies with something other than fruit or carbs. These suggestions include chicken or beef stock, cheese, yogurt, and meat. One site even suggests adding salt or roasting with olive oil. These are all good suggestions.

But no one mentions the “F” word at all. It’s as if everyone is scared to talk about fat.

Nora will not eat plain veggies, but she happily eats bitter, strong-flavored veggies such as steamed arugula, kale, and cabbage if I chop the greens finely and add some full-fat plain yogurt, avocado, egg, meat, or fish (the ratio varies betwen 50-50 and 80-20 in favor of veggies). The fats don’t disguise the strong-flavored veggies the way added sugar or salt does. Rather, they enhance the flavors and make them taste good.

Also, vitamins in vegetables are much better absorbed when ingested with some fat. This is pretty mainstream nutritional information, but it never seems to make it into baby food cookbooks or guides.

I find it extremely sad that Americans are so afraid of fat, they try to make a virtue out of feeding babies fat-free vegetable purees. What on earth is the purpose of this convention? What adult eats veggies without a little bit of fat? Salad dressing and stir-fries are what make veggies taste good. The notion that babies are somehow a blank slate and will learn to enjoy fat-free purees if that’s all they’re exposed to seems ridiculous to me. They’ve tasted breast milk or formula; they know what fat is and they know that it tastes good.

I can believe that Nora developed a taste for bitter greens by being exposed in utero and via breastmilk, but I have a hard time believing that Nora’s preference for fat is remotely unique to her or me. It just strikes me as being too useful a survival instinct. I suspect that Americans’ preference for feeding cereal and fruit to babies as first foods creates a (diabetes-inducing) loop where sugar and carbs beget a craving for more sugar and carbs, pushing much-needed fat and protein off the table.

So. Want the baby to eat more veggies? Lay off the sugar and bring on the fat.

(Note: I’ve never been one to calculate percentages of macronutrients, but Ellyn Satter says in Child of Mine that as much as 40% of a baby or toddler’s diet should come from fat, and that the American average of 30% to 33% is too low. Paleo Mom suggests that 40% is a sensible upper limit for most adults as well.)

Blender-Free Baby Food

I know every baby’s different, but I’m coming to think that pureeing baby food in a blender is a waste of time. If we had to do it again, I think I’d start with fork-mashed egg yolks, sweet potato, squash, banana, avocado, and yogurt, well-mixed with water or milk to make it sufficiently runny at first. Coupled with Baby-Led Weaning and allowing the baby to handle sticklike objects herself (toast, citrus wedges, spinach and lettuce leaves, cooked carrots), that’s plenty of variety in the beginning. We’d also add the occasional adult meals that call for a blender, such as hummus, leek-and-potato soup, and homemade applesauce. And we’d mash some nut butter into the mix, now that allergy research says it’s better to introduce allergens early.

Once the baby’s mastered the naturally mushy foods, we could steam spinach and chop it into any of the above items. Same with fish and well-cooked meat from chicken, beef, or lamb stew. These are all nice and soft and can be well-minced, even though they’re not liquids. Adult porridges such as oatmeal could come next.

My 23snaps.com record says that at seven and a half months, Nora was feeding herself quartered strawberries and being spoon-fed steel-cut oatmeal, fork-mashed black cod, and fork-mashed and minced chicken and matzo ball soup. Granted, we were focused on ramping up the textures as quickly as Nora could handle, but the timeline is not as aggressive as it appears. Ellyn Satter, a mainstream nutritional authority, recommends feeding gradually thickened cereal until the baby can handle fork-mashed vegetables, thus skipping the baby food purees entirely. Starting cereal at six months and introducing fork-mashed vegetables at seven months would not be remotely out of the ordinary in her book, though she emphasizes repeated that it’s important to watch for signs of developmental readiness in individual babies rather than watching the calendar.

Avoiding the blender solves several problems:

  1. It saves a lot of hassle.
  2. It allows the parent to make very small quantities of baby food, in order to see if the baby will actually eat it before going through the trouble of freezing extra.
  3. Creating baby-sized portions of family meals rather than cooking food just for the baby makes it easier to avoid getting precious about the food the baby rejects. The adult can just eat the leftovers and clean up what’s thrown onto the floor.
  4. The baby never gets stuck on purees to the point of refusing to eat anything that’s not pureed.

Both Ellyn Satter and the Baby-Led Weaning books say that purees are remnants of the days when babies were routinely given solids at two or three months old. I can easily believe this. There are a lot more options for a six-month old who can sit up and grab things.

In the end, I guess I’m firmly in the Baby-Led Weaning camp even though we mostly spoon-feed Nora these days. Life is just so much easier when the baby eats what the family eats. We do put special effort into making sure the kitchen is stocked with staples Nora can eat every day (eggs, yogurt, avocado, fresh fruit), and we do rely on freezer balls a lot for days when we don’t cook or the family meal isn’t appropriate for a baby (like salad), but there is nothing Nora eats that we wouldn’t happily eat ourselves.

Also, our pediatrician greenlit serving family meals that contain salt right from the get-go. I think the notion that babies shouldn’t eat salt, while well-intentioned, throws yet another unnecessary hurdle in front of home cooking. We are not salt fiends, but we do cook with salt, and Nora has been none the worse for wear.

For a family that cooks real food at least once or twice a week, has a freezer, and is willing to adapt recipes a little to make sure there are some baby-friendly options in the rotation, baby food in jars is a complete waste of money and baby food recipe books are a complete waste of time.