Baby Food Making Tools

When I had Baby J, I was determined that I would be not feeding him Cerelac or some other crap you buy in your local grocery that passes as food (especially not after all the food product scares from China). And the ‘organic’ stuff that are available are too expensive to get, and only viable for emergencies.

So I decided to make my own. At first I was tempted to get those baby food devices and realized they were expensive and given the issues with Customs here, if I had ordered my Baby Cook from Amazon, I’d have expected to cost me double. I also lived in a tiny 36.5 sqm apartment and space is premium. So no baby food maker devices for me. Thankfully though, you don’t really need one.

Baby Food Tools!
Didn’t add the knife and cutting board, that goes without saying

When you look at most baby food recipes, you realize the tools you need them are either things you already own or can easily borrow from your parents (or eventually buy later). It’s not fancy, but it does the job and in the end that’s what matters. Also, baby food makers are notoriously hard to clean, unless you own a dishwasher. In fact, the hardest clean in this whole set is the ice cube tray (or the ziplock bags if you plan to reuse then, which I recommend).

Sauce pot & Steamer

Most baby food recipes usually involve steaming. And since you’re not cooking for adults, you’re not expected to use up the same amount of food in cooking for baby. Hence, sauce pan and steamer. In my case, I’m using a Chef’n Steamer I bought from Howards in Greenbelt a few years back (Howards is gone, but you could try looking at True Value). When I’m not steaming baby food, we steam some of our veggies in it. It’s very handy and easy to clean.

Osterizer Blender
Baby hates the sound of the blender

When I shopped for a blender for my new apartment, I knew I was getting an Osterizer. I also knew I was getting *this* particular model of Osterizer. This is the blender of my youth: of summers of having Avocado Milk Shakes and Melon shakes. When my stick blender died due to motor failure, this beauty made my cream soups. It is also so easy to clean. One tip to follow, is that when you clean your blender, make sure to do it right after you’re done transferring the food out. Don’t let the food sit, get cold and be near impossible to clean without getting a scraper. And if it gets too grimy, just bust out the bottle cleaner brush to scrape off the grime.

Now why blender? Because this is the tool you use when you need to puree baby food. You could use the stick blender, it has a small blender option for baby food. Or a mini food processor like the Cuisinart Mini Prep. A 14-cup food processor is way too big for the job and won’t give a smooth puree. Another option to use is a Magic Bullet if you already own one, or one of those blender smoothies maker. Those can work too.

Baby Food Storage!

Before I get to discuss storing your baby food, I want to mention the small spatula. If you’re blitzing your baby food in a fine puree, you may want to consider in buying a spatula, particularly a small slender corner spatula made of flexible silicon. You will need this because you are going to be doing a lot of scrapping and you don’t want to use metal or wood on your blender. Using metal means you’ll end up damaging the blades of your blender, plus a scraper is excellent in evening the tops of ice cube trays.

Now why, ice cube trays. When you store baby food, it’s easier to be able to just grab an ice cube sized food to reheat and serve than say a 4 ounce cup. Also it makes it easier to serve your baby different flavored purees during meal times. I was told that a baby with a lot of exposure to different flavors and food, will be less of a picky eater when they’re older.

You can see I’ve got a lot of different ice cube trays. The white trays were from Daiso (Japan Home). So it’s fairly cheap. If you’re feeling whimsical, like I did when my baby first explored solid food, I packed his food in jewel shaped ice trays. They made for pretty instagram ready photos.

When Baby J got older, he needed to eat more food. But sadly my freezer cabinet isn’t big enough to hold his food alongside ours (even gave up the ice cream space for his meals). My bro-in-law sent me a Tovolo Ice tray as a gift, and it was exactly what I needed.

Tovolo Ice Tray

Now what makes this little tray special is the fact they make the perfect cube ice, each cube is 1 ounce. Which makes estimating the size of baby J’s meals much easier. Right now, with Baby J at 1 year old, he’s eating at roughly 3-4 ounces, or roughly 3-4 cubes a meal.

The other benefit of this particular tray is the perfect cube shape. That means you can stack them up like little blocks in your fridge if you want to take advantage of every bit of space in there. It certainly made storing his purees a lot of easier when you know you can play Tetris with his food.

There are also 4 ounce cups I use for food that don’t freeze well in ice cube trays, food like pasta, congee, and even bolognaise sauce for baby. The Glad Quart Freezer bags are for storing your frozen cubed purees.

Cleaning all of this stuff may seem daunting but it’s not any more different had I used a Baby Cook. The knife and cutting board will have to be washed, the device have to be cleaned, but it’s hard to hand wash it since dish washers don’t exist here. As my husband wisely noticed, whenever something says they can take away a step in cooking, it just adds one more step in cleaning.

After six months of making my son’s food, I’ve come to appreciate my set-up: it’s economical and it got the job done. For moms out there, what are your tools for the baby food making trade? If you got suggestions, feel free to leave a comment or a link.

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Cohen Recipe: Roast Chicken

I’ve been doing Cohen for a while, and I’ve picked up a few cooking recipes to make this diet tolerable. One of them is this dish that was adapted from a recipe I previously picked off a cooking magazine somewhere.  The fun part is that all ingredients used in the original recipe are all allowed within the Cohen diet, it’s merely a matter of portions as the original recipe calls for a lot of chili powder for that kick–it’s also why I omitted the “spicy” from the recipe name.

Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Skinless chicken breast fillet (protein allowance)
  • salt and pepper (spice allowance)
  • chili powder (spice allowance)
  • 1 tsp low fat mayonnaise

 

Procedure:

  1. Pre-heat your oven or air-fryer (I used a Philips Air Fryer and had mine pre-heated at 180º C for 5 min)
  2. Butterfly the chicken breast, this is useful to ensure even cooking
  3. Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper and chili powder on both sides
  4. Coat the chicken breast with mayonnaise (1 tsp is enough to coat both sides)
  5. Put into oven or Air-fryer and cook for 5 mins per side. Make sure you don’t over cook the chicken or it will come out very dry!
  6. Serve with a salad made out of your vegetable allowance on the side. I prefer mine with plain cucumbers or garlic cauliflower rice.

I hope this helps in making your Cohen diet tolerable. Happy Cohen Dieting~!

~ ♥ ~

I’ll be following this up with my second part otaku post. Just couldn’t write anything last week due to another bad bout of the sniffles. 

Scones and Pasta Saturday

Saturday was a busy morning for me and the Hubby as per usual. It was morning punctuated with prepping the apartment for tonight’s geekery of gaming with friends and much needed grocery shopping for the week. Summer being the current season here has made doing anything outdoors impossible, at least for my husband and I.

We head out for a brunch at Serendra before we go grocery shopping and headed to this Italian restaurant that we’ve been noticing every time we pass by. Once inside, we notice Balducci’s interiors. It was dark and cool in a pleasant way and was actually far welcoming in the noon time heat. The vibe is all wine and dine classy place, with a deli at the side. The staff are attentive, and fairly knowledgeable of their menu.

We were served some complimentary warm bread with butter, liver pate and a tomato salsa type spread. It was a much step up than the usual barely warm foccacia bread with balsamic oil and vinegar dip in some places.

Our first order arrived which was an antipasti. We ordered the Insalata de Mare, a seafood salad. Unfortunately we forgot to take a picture of the dish, it was only when we were half way through with it when we realized I brought my camera with me.

Something to note about the service here is that it’s very top notch. They were attentive to the needs of the customers, the glass is made sure is always full with water, and the dishes arrived in a decent amount of time. Unlike most restaurants where they dump everything you order in your table in one go, and are now suddenly forced to scarf your soup, salad or whatever appetizer of your choice like an animal in vain hopes that your steak would still be warm by the time you’re done…which is always never the case. By now it’s grown colder than your ex’s little black heart and your meal has been turned into a cheap metaphor of broken relationships and Taylor Swift songs.

I was worried for a moment, since I have forgotten to request this from the server. But all my worries were unfounded as the staff was more than educated in serving food in sequential order (Service à la russeso each dish came out at the temperature it was meant to be served in and are therefore presented at it’s best.

My beautiful Arrabiata~♥
My beautiful Arrabiata~♥

I was having a hankering for a spicy pasta but I was disappointed to see there wasn’t any on the menu. The waiter suggested that they could have Arrabiata cooked by the kitchen (whee! Off-the-menu dish!) or choose to make some of the pasta spicier. The Arrabiata was the better choice for me.

Balducci’s take on the Arrabiata has got to be my favorite so far. The spicy is a slow burn that doesn’t overwhelm the refreshing flavor of the tomatoes, basil, garlic. This dish is served with a small dish of chili flakes on the side if I wanted it a little hotter. But for my standards, the pasta didn’t need more heat. I was far too worried of the spice burning the rest of the dish’s flavors.

The serving is fairly good for one person. It might be too much if you made the mistake of gorging on the complimentary bread or having far too much antipasti.

maccheroni
Hubby’s pasta

The Husband ordered the Marccheroni e Salsicce al Profumo Tatufo. A fairly hearty mushroom pasta dish, using truffle oil (and I think it has some truffle slivers) with Italian sausage. It’s got a strong umami flavor to it.

The husband really loves it, and I don’t really blame him. The balance of the flavors is pretty amazing. I was half expecting for the truffle oil to overwhelm everything.

If my Arrabiata was a bright summer’s day in the gardens, this dish is a cool walk through the woods in a lovely afternoon.

I know, I sound corny but I’m no professional gourmand and this was the best I could give as a mental image for the two pastas we’ve tried. My verdict in the ends it that I would not mind ordering this dish for myself next time I visit.

We didn’t stay for dessert though. Opting to try Chez Karine for a change but unfortunately, all blood was at the tummy so I’ve forgotten to take photos….again (I’m also lazy and not really a big fan of photography).

Insalata de Mare was at Php 380
Spaghetti Arrabiata at Php 370
Marccheroni e Salsicce al Profumo Tatufo at Php 480
Balducci is located in Serendra, The Fort

~ ❤ ~

scones part 2
Scones on my second try!

Update on the Scones!

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we were expecting guests arriving for our weekly table-top gaming meets. I was planning to show off my newly acquired baking skills. This time though, the scones came out much better than the first time. I made sure to only use enough of the milk and egg mixture on the dough and didn’t over knead it.

The husband liked this batch better, it was lighter and more crumbly like the scones we’ve had. The other boys were also happy with the scones and made short work of my lemon curd as well (and nutella jar, the two actually went well together too), and I’m more than happy to see that I 1/4 of the mixture is all that’s left.

After all, empty plates is a best compliment a chef or a baker can have. 😀

I can probably tuck away this recipe for future use. I’m a big fan of entertaining and this is perfect for serving for an afternoon tea with guests or something you and a kid can do too.

Baking Exercise: Lemon Curd & Scones

I am a big fan of scones with lemon curd. I’ve discovered this love for such a simple tea snack fairly recently. A visit to the da.u.de Tea Lounge at the Fort has cemented my love for it (their food and teas are delish).

Unfortunately my wallet disagrees. For a simple dessert, the cost of eating just *one* scone with lemon curd and clotted cream is at a whopping Php 185 last I ate there. That cost for me, doesn’t justify the dessert. For one thing, scones are fairly easy to make. In fact it’s so easy, a beginner at baking can do this in an hour. The ingredients also, are not expensive and can be bought at your local grocery.

Neither are the Lemon Curd and the Clotted Cream are expensive nor very hard to make either.

So as much as I enjoy da.u.de’s Scones, I can’t go there often. Not with all the expenses that piled up the past year. But I’m not the type to starve myself of a treat as simple as this and I do enjoy baking and cooking to some extent. So why not try to make this dessert myself, right?

And that’s what I did.

I started with the Lemon Curd. It wasn’t hard, I found one at allrecipes. Actually I found two types: one you can do over the stove, and the other on the microwave (talk about lazy cooking).

I decided to be industrious and do the Lemon Curd recipe that uses over the stove.

Cook’s note: The recipe requires the use of a double boiler, but really…you don’t need this. You can substitute using a sauce pan, and a metal or glass mixing bowl that can fit over it. Just make sure–and this is very very important–that the simmering water does NOT touch the bottom of the bowl. Also using this technique, you can melt butter and chocolate. 🙂

This is important, since double boilers are a little bit expensive for something that does only one thing. That and I live in a studio unit condominium, so it’s without saying that my kitchen is tighter than a virgin in a convent. It doesn’t leave room for a lot of space, and it can get really hot especially when an oven is involved.

In before 4 hours of refrigeration
In before 4 hours of refrigeration

The result after 4 hours in the fridge (as per instructions) this is what came out. It was sweeter than what I’m used to, but not bad for a first time. In the future, it might be best to not use overripe lemons (as the lemons have been sitting in my fridge for two weeks).

You will come out with a lot of lemon curd though, even with the recipe. It’s great to use if you have biscuits or plan to make tartlets or sweet turnovers/empandas instead of savory. You can even use them on cake, as evidenced to this lovely recipe of a Lemon Layer Cake from Yummy.

And if you’re the type to enjoy sharing your gift of love from the kitchen, all you need to get are those tiny jam jars and give them away as presents. Heaven knows, I’ve tried looking for ready-to-eat lemon curd from every other deli and imported section in a grocer for the past few months only to always come out empty handed (and irritable when the veritable staff looks at me like I’m talking about something alien sounding–looking at you Santis).

My scones look flat…and biscuit-looking…

But having lemon curds alone is fairly lonely, and figured I might as well pair it with some Scones, also pilfered from the allrecipes website (this place is really useful. I think I got my previous cinnamon and butter cookies from this website a few years ago and it was very well received).

The scones came out…well a bit more flat than I would remember it. Scones tended to be crumbly, and I fear it’s because I used too much of the milk and egg mixture. You only need the dough moist and not a lot of kneading. Other than that, the recipe is fairly straight-forward and simple.

The Scones aren’t too sweet by itself, just sweet enough that paired with the lemon curd doesn’t make your teeth twinge at the sweetness. I actually liked it and the husband, seem to approve of it as well.

Practice a few more times and I’ll probably nail it. Hopefully.

Stuff I need to learn next is how well and how long do they keep. As there are only my husband and I at home, there was a lot of left overs. According to some recipes, the lemon curd can keep for a week in the fridge. For the scones, I will freeze both baked and unbaked versions, and see which is the better option.

This little experiment made me realize that I do miss baking. It’s been quite a long time since I last baked (due to a never replaced oven, at least until I moved out and bought a tiny convection oven) and I’ll admit part of procrastinating was the mountain of dish washing that had to be done after particularly when baking is involved. If it weren’t for the husband’s voluntary duties of dish washing, I highly doubt I’d be this eager to experiment in the kitchen (it’s bad enough that it’s small, cramped and uncomfortably hot to cook in it, so the additional chore isn’t exactly encouraging).

This won’t be the end of my future kitchen experiments, I think. I look forward to a lot of experimenting and learning, and I hope to be able to chronicle my journey here. Hey, it’s a good enough excuse to blog. 🙂

Cohen Recipe: Chicken Lettuce Cups

I may have mentioned it before that I had been on the Cohen diet prior to my wedding. Well I sort-of had to go back to it. Last long weekend-vacation has left me with some undesirable weight gain (I can’t help it! My in-laws are fantastic cooks! And we have Chinese duck liver sausage! Do you have any idea how deliciously unhealthy it is? Well it is!)

The origin of this dish is Chinese, and I often seen it served at home or in a restaurant as an appetizer. The original recipe uses hoisin, a sweet tasting sauce, some vinegar and water chestnuts. Unfortunately, Cohen has not approved the use of Water Chestnuts and hoisin in our diet. Actually Cohen restricts a lot of things so most of our food ends up tasting bland or down right horrid.

Cohen Chicken Lettuce Cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 packet Splenda
  • garlic (vegetable allowance)
  • tomato (vegetable allowance)
  • onion (vegetable allowance)
  • bell pepper (vegetable allowance)
  • zucchini (vegetable allowance)
  • lettuce (vegetable allowance)
  • salt and pepper (spice allowance)
  • ground chicken breast (protein allowance)

Procedure:

  1. Season the ground chicken with salt and pepper.
  2. Chop all the vegetables finely, set aside.
  3. Prepare a skillet, heat it to medium. Once hot enough spray it with olive oil.
  4. Saute the seasoned ground chicken until no longer pink, add the vegetables and saute until caramelized.
  5. Add one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, continue sauteing. Wait for the strong vinegary smell to burn off. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. At the last stage of sauteing, sprinkle the Splenda. Saute for 30 sec. before turning off the heat.
  7. Spoon some of the chicken mixture into waiting lettuce cups. Serve with a grilled tomato or fresh. Either way it’s still good.
  8. Enjoy~!

You can opt to add another pack of Splenda if you want it sweeter really as long you are within your Splenda allowance, and there’s no harm in mixing sugar with balsamic vinegar before you pour it into the pan (although I’ve not tried it so I’m not sure if it’ll taste any different). If you don’t have zucchini, you can try to substitute with cucumber (or add cucumber) but for that you’ll want to add it a little later once you’ve turned off the heat. The refreshing crispiness of the cucumber will add texture to your ground chicken.

Diet Milestones

It’s been a month and I just had my first weigh in from Cohen. It was a trying month admittedly, looking back at all my posts. But it’s been good. I lost 15.8lbs in my first month. That’s two cats of Eclair’s size. I lost that. In a month.

*would put up the success baby photo if I wasn’t so lazy*

It was more than just weight, I could tell I lost inches as well. Clothes that I bought two years ago I can wear now, and are even loose. People who have last seen me last 2010 are surprised to see that I look smaller.

Still I’m far and away from my target weight, but I am confident that I can make it. I’ve gotten the hang of prepping my meals. Right now I just clean my vegetables and sort them out in big bags. I don’t prep them by meal anymore as I found it easier to weight them before cooking. Except for the meat and chicken and other proteins, for that I really have to weight and put in separate containers for each meal since those things are frozen for the rest of the week.

I’ve even begun slowly easing myself back into yoga. I bought this yoga DVD a year and a half ago and now I try as a I can to do 1 hr a day. I used the beginners program, and it feels good to finally start getting that bit of exercise. Eventually I want to go back to swimming. I used to be a big swimmer in my day and I missed the sport a lot.

I just have some issues swimming in my building, my neighbors are certified douche bags–once I stepped on an inch long broken glass on the pool steps when I went swimming as early as 6am, on the day after it was previously cleaned the night before. Of course I complained but there was little that could be done. You see, there are balconies directly above the pool. So any douche bag can just chuck their trash over their balconies and into the pool below.

But I digress, it’s good to be able to become active again. My weight problems have become an issue. I’ve developed knee pain a month before I started Cohen, a first for me. I’ve also noted that I couldn’t walk as fast anymore, I tired easily. Emotionally I felt like a wreck, realizing my clothes don’t fit, that I can only buy at the “fatty” section in malls, where the clothes made for big people look really horrid. It didn’t help that alternated with eating like a bird before stress or depression would make me order some atrocious fast food to drown my sorrows in.

I was taking several medications for my hormones and cholesterol (which I think may have contributed to my mood swings), expensive stuff. And my blood sugar was borderline high. I was really scared. Cancer runs in the family, my mother had recently passed away with cancer and I just recovered from my own illness a decade back regarding a previous brain tumor.

Health wise, vanity wise I’ve got a lot of reasons to keep on going. But I’ll admit it’s been a challenge lately as we’ve gotten into the wedding preparation stage of choosing a reception–which we agreed it to be a restaurant. So I can’t taste the food <insert whimpering>, instead I’m relying on my fiance and his sister to do the tasting for me. I’m glad they’re just as picky of foods as I am so I’m rest assured they would know what to look out for.

Anyway, wish me luck and hoping to lose more weight on my second month!

Rage Diet: Surviving the 1st Week

Obligatory warning: Whining Up Ahead. Read at your own risk.

The first week hit me a little hard. I was tired, cranky, and the feeling of hunger ever present. The weekend particularly Saturday had been the worst. I was tired from the grocery shopping and the constant cleaning, chopping, weighing of vegetables and protein for my diet. The spartan meals left me cranky and down right irritable. I snarked at nearly everyone, the butcher, the cashier, the fiance, I don’t know who else. And I suppose it didn’t help that four major groceries in my area suddenly ran out of all the brands of diet crackers I am allowed to eat and are supposed to eat in the first 10 days of the Cohen diet. I was stressed to high heck while feeling like I’m constantly running on low in that entire weekend. I suppose it didn’t help that I vomited my dinner last Saturday. I have a mild OCD, and I absolutely detest handling something..slimy or fishy. Needless to say I spent the evening hurking over the porcelain god after my seafood meal.

It was decidedly an unpleasant evening. It didn’t help that the next day, Sunday the fiance and I had a luncheon with some friends to meet the priest that presided on their wedding, just to see if we’d get along. As much as I wanted to say ‘no thanks I feel like the shit and I am positively cranky about not getting crackers’ we still had to go.

Thankfully the lunch went well, though I forgot to bring my own lunch so I had to make do with what was available. Makes me wish I brought my own weighing scale but that’s a bit too hard core for me.

By Monday I was sort of feeling better, especially when I found some crispbreads/crackers that was Cohen approved. I swiped three boxes of the stuff. I know I should have swiped all of them just to spare myself the pain but I thought 3 boxes was enough. I might buy later if I can just in-case.

I feel a bit more energetic now. I’m not sure if it’s my body’s at that stage where it’s ready to start burning the reservoir fuel in my body or the coffee. Either way, it’s a welcome break from last week’s experience and I can perform my chores without wanting to sleep in the middle of it. I’m hoping this keeps up, and eventually I can slowly opt not to take the fruit and crackers allowance (it becomes optional after the ten day period).

I can also concentrate better, so now I’m re-learning Blender again. All in all, I’m glad my body’s learning to stabilize. I *still* want to eat out of course. I’m a gourmand and I looooveee food! I still go doe eyed every time we walk past my favorite restaurants or reminisce about the food I miss (ugh, I am positively craving Kagura’s Okonomiyaki and Sango burger at Little Tokyo and Mile Long Arcade). I wish my body could lose the weight faster so I can resume eating my favorite things (in moderation of course).