Sunday, July 8, 2012

Zucchini Brownies

A dear sweet lady brought us a meal not long after my youngest baby was born.  It included a fabulous dessert of Zucchini Brownies!  I promptly asked for the recipe and have made them several times!  I made them again last night and took pictures of each step of the process...but, my camera died, so all I have is one pic of the finished product that I took on my phone.  :(

I tried to use the best ingredients I could find, like fresh raw milk, fresh made butter from said milk, homemade organic applesauce I canned this fall, Equal Exchange baking cocoa, Bob's Red Mills Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, Aluminum Free Baking Soda, Frontier Organic Evaporated Cane Juice in place of the white sugar, pure Mexican Vanilla, zucchini that we grew in our garden this summer and pureed and had frozen in 2 cup portions, etc.  I had a beautiful picture taken of all of the ingredients set up on my kitchen table!  But my camera juju lately hasn't been so great so no pic for now. 

I hope to eventually get around to adding more recipes and try to link them together.  Like for the applesauce I used, the butter, things like that.

Anyway, without further ado, the recipe!  Let me know if you try these


  • 1/2 cup applesauce *
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar **
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour ***
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup butter 
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions - 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour (I use cocoa powder) a 9x13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the apple sauce, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini and walnuts. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched. To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and butter (mine was soft not melted); set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.

The only things I did differently in the directions was that instead of mixing in the walnuts, I laid them on top of my brownie batter once it was poured, and I didn't measure them.  I love walnuts in my brownies!  Also, I added about an extra 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to the icing.  It seemed thin and even after adding the sugar, it was still thinner than I really like it.  I think I'll add more next time.  Finally, my cook time was also closer to 35 minutes.  At 25 minutes the toothpick wasn't clean coming out so I added another 10 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these!  We sure do!

*Applesauce is used as a replacement for oil* You can do this with any baked goods recipe to try to make it a bit healthier.

**I used Evaporated Cane Juice in place of white sugar** I don't think it's as sweet as regular white sugar, but team it with the applesauce in place of oil and you have a nice sweet dessert that you can feel good about!

*** Note about whole wheat pastry flour *** I often use WW Pastry flour as a replacement to all purpose flour in recipes.  It's ground finer and comes from soft wheat rather than hard wheat.  That makes the flour a bit less wheat flavored (it IS still wheat flavored though! Just not so much.), but still healthier than white flour and an excellent substitute in baked goods without changing the denseness and consistency.  In my opinion.  :)

Santa Fe Soup

I was first introduced to Santa Fe Soup about 5 years ago.(Some also call it Chicken Tortilla Soup)  It has since become a staple on our dinner menu!  We all love it, it cans well, it freezes well, and I think it makes a wonderfully healthy meal for new moms too! It's packed full of good stuff like lots of iron and protein, you can make it as fattening or as lean as you'd like.  You could even leave out the chicken and it would still be delicious as a vegetarian soup!  AND it is just an all around feel good, yummy, gotta have it kind of soup!

Santa Fe Soup

1 15 oz. can of black beans
1 15 oz. can of pinto beans
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans
1 medium onion- chopped
2 chicken breasts - cooked and cubed *
1 can of tomatoes with peppers
2 cans of corn
2 packets of ranch dressing mix **
2 packets of taco seasoning  **

Toss together your chicken with the seasoning mixes, add chopped onion, beans, tomatoes, corn, etc.  Don't drain anything, just pour everything together and stir.  Simmer for about 2 hours.

You can eat it straight like that for a nice chicken chili, or top of crushed corn tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sour cream!  DE-LIC-IOUS!!

* - I often just use left over chicken from a roasted chicken
** - I use 2 heaping tablespoons of Frontier's Bulk Taco Seasoning and Ranch Dressing mix in place of the packets.  This saves money and MSG!

Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins

We picked approximately 11 pounds of fresh raspberries this past spring.  Many of which are in my freezeer and in desperate need of use.  So today, I pulled out a package and went to work on some raspberry cream cheese muffins.  I originally got the recipe from and have changed it just a tad.

2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed)
2 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cream cheese (softened)
1/3 cup butter (softened)
3 eggs (1 whole + 2 whites)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or regular)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese and butter until well blended and smooth.  Add sugar, beat until fluffy.  Add vanilla and eggs, beat.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  mix well.  Add to wet mixture and combine well.  Gently fold in berries and nuts.  Fill cupcake cups with 1/4 cup of mixture.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.  Makes 24

YUMMY!  These also freeze well!  I made a double batch during my last pregnancy and pulled them out for the kids for breakfast during the post partum period when it was hard for me to find my hands free long enough to fix anything. MMMMMMMM MMMMMMM MMMMM :)

Homemade Yogurt

I've been experimenting with homemade yogurt lately.  It first started with a counter top version in which all you have to do is add 1 Tablespoon of yogurt to 1 cup of milk, cover and let sit for 24 hours then chill and that's it. 

I THOUGHT making the kind that has to be warmed would be impossible since I didn't have a yogurt maker, and my crockpot didn't have temp settings on it.  I tried to make yogurt in my crockpot about 6 months ago and it never thickened, so I just thought I couldn't do it, in spite of all those recipes out there saying you could.  My crockpot just didn't work for it and instead of buying a different crockpot, it'd probably be about the same price to just buy a yogurt maker, which I didn't really want to do.

My husband bought me a Nuwave for Christmas.  It dehydrates, cooks, bakes, all kinds of stuff.  I got the idea a week or so ago to try to dehydrate some of my countertop yogurt when a friend out of state was asking about how I made yogurt and I was thinking that I wished I could send her some starter.  I remembered that when I ordered my starter from a website, it looked like some dried yogurt flakes.  And I thought, "I wonder".  So I decided that I'd use my Nuwave to dehydrate some of the yogurt and see if it worked.  While I had that going, I then realized that this machine would also stay at approximately the right temperature to incubate yogurt.  "Hmmmm.....I wonder".  I thought again.  :)

So I pulled out my Yogourmet yogurt starter that had been sitting in my refrigerator for months from my previous failed attempt at making yogurt in the crockpot.  Mixed it up and stuck it in the Nuwave.  It made wonderfully thick and creamy yogurt that my son devoured saying "It tastes just like the store stuff!"

Ok, so that worked.  The countertop yogurt that I dehydrated also reactivated back into yogurt as well.  I was on a roll here!  So, lets try some of the other ideas I've seen now that I had the basic idea of yogurt making.  I had seen recipes using heating pads, letting the yogurt sit in the oven with just the light on, using a cooler.   Wait, what?  Using a cooler?  That's interesting.  Let's try that one!  After I read through some info, I did it off the top of my head just because I thought I understood well enough to not follow their every direction.  Plus, I can't remember what website I got that info from, so I had to kind of wing it.

When making the warmed (or cooked) yogurt, basically this is what you're doing:

1)  Heating the milk to prepare it to cultivate
2)  Cooling the milk so it doesn't kill the yogurt bacteria when you add them
3)  Maintaining a temperature that will allow the yogurt bacteria to replicate
4)  Cooling the yogurt to stop the bacteria from continuing to replicate

Those are your four basic steps.  There are (apparently) tons of different ways you can get the outcome of each of those steps. Particularly step #3.  Most importantly though is that your milk and yogurt culture needs to stay between 108-112 degrees for at least 4 hours.  I've seen directions that went all the way up to 8 hours.  It depends on the type of yogurt you're using, and what flavor you like best.  The amount of time you incubate it, will affect the flavor. 

If you start from a dehydrated yogurt culture like what can be ordered on Cultures for Health, or the Yogourmet starter you can buy in the stores, then follow those directions to get your first batch and THEN use that to start your other batches.  (Which is what I did)  However, you CAN just get an individual cup of plain yogurt from the store and use that right away making yogurt without needing to start a 'starter' batch.

Ok, so here goes:

You'll need:

4 glass quart sized canning jars
4 canning rings and lids
1 canning funnel (optional)
1 stainless steel spoon
A large pot
8 tablespoons of plain yogurt
1 gallon of whole milk  (2%, 1%, skim can all be used, but it will result in thinner yogurt)
a cooler
a thermometer
A gallon or two of Hot water

You'll want to sterilize your equipment.  So just bring a large pan of water to boil and throw in your quart jars, your lids (I reused some old canning lids.  I just needed them to work as a lid and not to SEAL like when canning, so I just reused some), rings, funnel (if you want to use one) and a spoon.  Sterilizing IS important.  After all, yogurt is bacteria.  If the wrong bacteria is introduced and allowed to cultivate, you could get sick.

Ok, so you've boiled everything up and it's ready to go.

Bring 4 quarts (plus a small amount of extra to account for any evaporation that might take place) to boil.  Some instructions said to use a double boiler, or one pan inside of the other to prevent scalding the milk.  I tried doing one stainless steel pot inside of another larger stainless steel pot with water in between and I honestly didn't see a difference.  I actually prefer to just dirty one pot rather than two, plus the skin that stuck to the stainless steel pan was WAY more difficult to scrub off than using my nonstick pot.  I DID learn to just not scrape the bottom of the pan when heating the milk because a layer of milk does stick and I didn't want to scrape that off the bottom and stir into my milk.  It will also create a thin skin on top and I just gently skim that off as well.

Warmed milk
The yuck at the bottom of the pan

So, now you've brought your milk to boil at 185 degrees.  Turn it off, remove from heat and cool.  Either you can let it sit there until it cools, or you can sit the pan into some cold water to help it cool faster. 

Milk cooling in a sink of cold water
Cool to approximately 110 degrees
Add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt to each sterilized, cooled quart jar.

Now, pour your cooled milk into the jars with the plain yogurt.

Stir GENTLY the milk and yogurt together.  Add your lids and rings and tighten, then sit inside the cooler.  Pour HOT water into the cooler.  It should be approximately 115-120 degrees.   I added 2 gallons of hot water.  It doesn't need to COVER the jars though.

Close the lid and KEEP it closed for at least 4 hours.  Put your cooler someplace free of drafts and it's not going to get bumped and moved around.  After the time is up, take it out and chill for several hours.

Sweeten and flavor as much as you'd like.  Add fruit, granola, make smoothies, or eat plain!

When you want to make more, just use some of your own finished yogurt to redo the process!

See!  Pretty simple right!?  I always thought there was just too many steps when looking at people's instructions and it seemed so daunting.  Once I figured out there were just 4 basic steps, it seemed so much easier to me.  I hope it helps you as well and that you give it a shot!

******Added notes, Greek yogurt only needs to be heated 160 degrees initially, then cooled to the recommended 110 degrees.  Let it cultivate at that temperature for 5-8 hours.  I've had good luck with the 7 hour mark with it.  (all the way up to 12 hours!  As I've forgotten about it before and went to bed.  Still good!)   Then, the magical thing that makes it "greek" is that it's strained.  Simply put a cheese cloth or flour sack towel in a colander and allow the whey to drip into a bowl underneath.  What's left is "greek" yogurt.  You can use the whey for other recipes as well.

Restaurant Worthy BBQ Beef Sandwiches

This is seriously something I'd pay money for at a restaurant!  It is DE-LIC-IOUS! 

I got the recipe from  Also, this makes a lot more than just 4 servings!  We had 8 sandwiches last night and enough leftover to freeze for another meal.

Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: on LOW 8 hours (4 hours on high)
pounds beef brisket

freshly ground pepper
cup brown sugar
6-ounce can tomato paste
red onion , chopped (save the other half for slices)
cup ketchup
tablespoons cider vinegar
tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
tablespoons molasses
cup water
teaspoon chili powder
teaspoon yellow mustard
teaspoon coarse salt, to taste
hoagie rolls
dill pickle slices

per serving: 440 calories; 30 grams protein; 10 grams total fat; 3 grams fiber; 4 grams saturated fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 39 mgs cholesterol; 963 mgs sodium; 9 weight watcher points

[1] Trim all visible fat from the brisket and place it on a cutting board and rub with pepper. Place brown sugar, tomato paste, chopped red onion, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, molasses, water, chili powder, mustard and salt in a slow cooker and stir well. Add meat and cook on low heat for 8 hours on LOW. (or 4 hours on HIGH)

[2] Remove meat from cooker and shred with 2 forks. Return shredded meat to the slow cooker; stir well to coat with sauce. Spoon meat onto rolls and top with pickle slices. 

Banana Nut French Toast Bake

I woke up this morning and just had this idea on my heart of wanting to try something different, yet quick and easy for breakfast.  I've made blueberry french toast bakes before, and strawberry, but not banana.  Shawn has been on a banana nut kick lately and I made some really yummy muffins last week so I thought I'd try to whip up some banana nut french toast this morning.  Admittedly, I didn't actually measure anything, but I'll make a fairly decent guess on amounts for the recipe below. 

6-7 slices of whole wheat bread
8 ounces of cream cheese (I used homemade - so basically just plain yogurt that's been drained)
4 eggs
2 bananas
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of crushed walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut bread slices into cubes and put half into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan.  Dollop on small spoonfuls of cream cheese.  Top with remaining bread.  Peel 2 ripe bananas and put into a bowl.  Mash them up really well with a fork.  Add the eggs and milk and mix together really well.  Pour over the bread and cream cheese.  Use your fork to gently push any floating bread pieces down into the egg/banana mixture until everything is wet.  Top with walnuts.  Cover and bake 40 minutes.  Remove cover and bake another 20 minutes.  This should NOT be jiggly in the middle.  If it is, bake a bit longer.

Top with your favorite maple syrup.

This was a huge hit this morning!  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

"Greek" Beef Pitas

"Greek" Beef Pita's

Recipe adapted from a recipe.

I put the Greek part in quotes because truly, the only thing that makes this even remotely Greekish is the Feta cheese.

1 pound of ground beef (shoot for Grass fed please!)
2 Tablespoons of dried Oregano
dash of salt and pepper

Pita pockets or tortilla wraps
Feta Cheese
Red Onion
Ranch dressing
Truly, any toppings you think sounds good!

Add the Oregano, salt and pepper to the ground beef and roll into small meatballs, then flatten between your hands.  Why?  Well....why not?  LOL  Fry those til brown on both sides.

That's all there is to the cooking part of this meal.  You can warm up your pita pockets or tortilla's if you'd like.  Top the meat with as much or as little as you like.  I like to load up on fresh raw veggies, so mine is topped with lots.  The tortilla's were easier for the kids to hold onto, so we did both.  Plus, the kids LOVE Feta!  And it's nice that they can choose the toppings, the amount, and make these themselves.  Always a hit in our house!

I also served this with a fresh garden salad made up of chopped romaine lettuce, shredded carrot, chopped broccoli, tomato, cucumber, and sunflower seeds.  Cheese, croutons and dressing if desired.

This packed a nice healthy mostly raw food dinner and it was quick and easy.  Lots of the veggies could be crossed from salad to toppings easily and used in both for less waste and leftovers.

Lunch was cup up strawberries and bananas topped with homemade vanilla yogurt.  Our other snacks were kiwi, oranges, apples and pears.

Samantha wanted me to add a pic of the fruit salad she made all by herself:

Sam's fruit salad: grapes, orange, apple, strawberries, and kiwi

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

This recipe SO does not go with the flow of most everything else we eat.  But, it's a favorite I will probably never stop making.  I've loved peanut fudge for as long as I can remember.  In fact, I actually have a memory of being about 5 years old and my mom made some peanut butter fudge and left me and my 2 older brothers in the kitchen while she got dressed for church.  My brothers thought it would be funny to let me eat as much as I could.  I ate about 1/4 of the pan.  My mom was not amused.

I could seriously probably eat an entire pan of peanut butter fudge if I wasn't afraid of getting sick.  IF it's soft and yummy.  I don't like hard crumbly fudge.  I'm pretty picky about my fudge, in fact.  This recipe started out as one I got from a cookbook about 15 years ago and I've altered it so much that it looks practically nothing like the original.  I guess that's what we are supposed to do, isn't it?  Change a recipe bit by bit until it's perfectly the way we love it?  Well, this is mine for peanut butter fudge.  I normally am not all about brand names, but in this case, I've tried many many many different versions and varieties and this is truly the best combination of flavors and moistness for this recipe.

4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup of whole milk
1 - 16.3 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter (Skippy is my preferred for this fudge)
1 - 7 ounce jar of Jet Puff marshmallow fluff
1 - 10-12 ounce package of Reese's peanut butter chips
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

In a large pan with lightly greased sides and bottom add your milk and sugar and stir.  Turn on heat to medium high.  Stir occasionally.  Bring to a boil and let boil for 8 minutes stirring every so often.  In the meantime, lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.  When the boil time is up, remove from heat, add all remaining ingredients and stir vigorously until well blended.  I add the peanut butter chips first so they mostly melt, but they do leave the occasional lump in the fudge and I love that!  Anyway, I add the chips first, then the fluff, then the peanut butter, then the vanilla.  It doesn't HAVE to be in that order!  I'm just sharing what I do.  :)  Once it is well incorporated, pour into your waiting pan and let cool.

Lick the pan and spoon while you wait.  Or let the kids do it!  If your kids are anything like mine they will probably be standing at your feet like little birds begging for a nibble anyway and it's a great way to get them out of your hair for a minute.  I hand them the pan and they run to the table with it and they clean that thing til it almost shines!  In the meantime I stand there salivating while I stare at the pan of warm gooey fudge and sometimes just can't wait til it cools before I grab a spoon and dig a bite out.  It is just so delish!  Enjoy!

Simply Awesome Asparagus

A couple of years ago I had never eaten asparagus before!  Can you believe it!?  I've since tried to figure out my favorite way to fix it.  I like my veggies just barely cooked and still kind of crunchy.  I also believe this to be healthier than cooking til soft with most all vegetables.  Raw is possibly even best.

For asparagus, I like to flash cook it.  Snap off the ends of clean asparagus, line them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, drizzle with a tablespoon or two of liquid (or warmed if it's cold and will natural liquefy above 76 degrees)  coconut oil and roll the asparagus around in it so it's fully coated, sprinkle with garlic powder and wee bit of salt and pop in a preheated oven on broil for 5 minutes.  Perfect every time!

Sleeping Safely

I talk a lot about how I LOVE sleeping with my baby!  I very often hear people talk about how unsafe it is, or how they are afraid they are going to roll over on the baby.

Here is a list of things to do to SAFELY sleep with your baby!

Notice this list is mostly about preventing suffocation risks.  Not SIDS!  They are often confused but are in fact two completely seperate things.  

  • Don't swaddle the baby!  This prevents the baby from being able to use their hands defensively if needed!
  • Breastfeed!  Mothers that formula feed do not have the same sleep awareness nor sleep cycle regulation with their baby as breastfeeding mothers do.  Also, formula fed babies don't wake up as easily to stimulation if something is wrong. 
  • Skip the pacifier.  They were invented as a replacement for nursing.  The baby arousing often to nurse is a GOOD thing and is a natural prevention from sleeping too deeply, which is associated with SIDS.
  • Don't sleep in the same bed with someone that is under the influence of drugs or alcohol whether street or prescription if it can impair alertness.
  • Don't sleep with anyone who smokes, whether they smoke in bed or not.  Second and even third hand smoke is still toxic.
  • Don't sleep with anyone who is too exhausted or sick to arouse to normal consciousness quickly.
  • Don't sleep with your baby on a soft, saggy mattress, waterbed, couch, recliner or armchair.
  • Don't use heavy blankets that could suffocate the baby.  Light layers are fine.  
  • Make sure that the blankets aren't covering the baby's head when you cover yourself up.  
  • Don't use pillows for the baby.  Nestled into your arm is a perfect spot for your baby!
  • Make sure sheets are snug fitting and not loose causing an entanglement issue.
  • Keep pets and older children off the bed or away from the baby by having them sleep on the other side of you or another adult.
  • Make sure there are no spaces or gaps between the mattress and frame or the bed and wall to prevent entrapment.
  • Don't leave your baby alone.
  • Don't overdress the baby.  Only dress them as warm as you yourself would need to be dressed.
Sleeping with your baby has many benefits!  Research has proven that being close to mom can help prevent baby sleep apnea, regulate body temperature, and that baby's sleep better with less crying and stress.  The "cuddle curl" actually acts as a protection to the baby as you curl your body around them.  

SIDS is more common in babies who sleep alone and without waking during the night.  Even Dr. Richard Ferber has altered his position on "crying it out" at night in light of new research that suggests so.  Encouraging your baby to sleep for long stretches at night is also a risk to your milk supply.  Co-sleeping is a wonderful way for everyone in the family to get that much needed sleep.  Just do it safely!

Patience and I sleeping soundly in the "cuddle curl" position.

My Thoughts on Starting Solids and Why

I know I'm in the minority.  My baby is 6 1/2 months old and I've not fed her a single spoon of baby food.  Nor do I plan to.  Let's face it.  This is my 4th kid.  I KNOW what comes out the other end when you start "solids".  (Which by the way, who coined this term to call watered down stuff spooned to baby's solids?  If an adult ate that it would be considered a liquid diet.  LOL)  Plus, I also have first hand experience that feeding babies is a messy job and one I'm just not too excited to jump into!  Sticking to just breastfeeding for right now is truly just the easiest and most convenient thing for me to do.

Aside from that, I do have a few other reasons for holding off.  I'll touch on them in a bit.  What we probably WILL do however, is to let her eat whatever she can pick up and put in her mouth all by herself.  More than likely, that will be something prepared fresh from our own organic garden that we are having for dinner as well.

Two weeks ago I started letting her sit in the highchair at the table with us at dinner time and let her play with toys and occasionally try to pick up a piece of food to lick and play with.  She has yet to actually chew or swallow anything though.  Prior to that she sat in my lap as we all ate dinner together.  She would sometimes nurse, sometimes play with anything she could reach.  Yes, I've had food dumped into my lap!  :)

It seems that there is a lot of really BAD information out there about starting solids with babies.  In a nutshell, breast milk is THE perfect food for your baby and it CAN provide ALL of his/her nutritional needs for the first year.  The first year!  The ENTIRE first year, even.  If no food ever touches your baby's lips until after their first birthday but they are breastfed on demand, I assure you, all will be ok!  According, a highly regarded resource for breastfeeding moms, babies should still be getting the majority (around 75%) of their calories from breastmilk at 12 months and that many babies will even still be exclusively or almost exclusively breatfed at 12 months. (emphasis mine)

Don't get me wrong!  I'm not saying you SHOULD wait til a year to give foods!  What I AM saying is 1)  it's best to wait the minimal 6 months, and 2) don't fret if your baby isn't really into foods under a year. It's ok to start foods before then and current research says to start introducing foods around 6 months.  Not 4 months!  Not 4-6 months, not 6 weeks.  No rice cereal in a bottle at night!  Your aunt and grandma are feeding you bad advice if they say so.  Just smile and nod and then keep on doing what you know is right.  Even still, at 6 months to a year, solids are really more for experimenting with different tastes and textures than any actual nutrition being derived from them.

Where did all of this bad advice come from anyway?  Well, basically, it all started with the introduction of formula and the decrease of breastfeeding.  In the 'old days' there were no baby food manufacturers or formula companies  It was common practice to breastfeed until the baby was old enough to eat what mom and dad and the rest of the family were having.  Granted, they didn't start off eating a handful of raw nuts or meat off the bone, but they most certainly did not have anyone catering to them by pureeing foods and spoon feeding them.

In the 1800's formula was considered a lifesaver for children who were misplaced and orphaned and who would have otherwise starved to death.   It was never considered as a replacement for human milk (info from here).  In the first half of the twentieth century there was a dramatic shift away from breastfeeding as formula companies emerged.  There could be lots of contributing factors.  The war taking more husbands away from the home leaving mothers to work, the great depression causing mothers to seek out jobs, etc.  who knows exactly WHY formula companies started popping up and falsely advertising themselves as an adequate replacement for breast milk.  But they did.

What happened as a result is that formula was/is no where near as nutritious as mother's own breast milk and it caused malnutrition in babies after just a few weeks.  Doctors then decided additional supplementation was needed.  The solution was early solids.  Highly processed cereals and pureed foods given to tiny babies before they could chew in hopes of bridging a gap for the deficiencies.  Solids were started as early as 6 weeks old!

Formula companies have come a long way since those days.  They have added many necessary vitamins and minerals and are able to provide better nutrition than a hundred years ago, but they still do not even come close to comparing to the nutritious perfection of breast milk. Not my words!  But those of   Dr. Sears' Comparison ~ and Nutrient By Nutrient  As long as you are breastfeeding, your baby is getting plenty of nutrition!

What do the experts say about starting solids?

The World Health Organization says "Infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.  Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."

UNICEF says "Exclusive breastfeeding is the perfect way to provide the best food for the baby's first six months of life......adequate complementary feeding from 6 months to two years of age is particularly important for growth and development"

The American Academy of Pediatrics says "Introduction of complementary feedings before six months of age generally does not increase total caloric intake or rate of growth and only substitutes foods that the lack the protective components of human is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months and for as long thereafter as is mutually desired"

The Canadian Paediatric Society "Recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life for healthy term infants.  Breast milk is the optimal food for infants, and breastfeeding may continue for up to two years and beyond."

Now, if you know me personally, you know that I don't really give much of a hoot about what the AAP or WHO, etc. recommends, really.  My point in sharing the above statements is to show you that ALL of the major health advisers agree that NOTHING other than breast milk is necessary in the first 6 months and that by giving additional foods, supplements, or solids actually takes away from the baby getting the best and most nutritious 'food' possible.  Which is your breast milk. 

Some of the common things I hear from people who do start feeding before 6 months and what I think is really going on with the baby are:

But my baby wants to eat!  She's grabbing my plate!

Your baby wants to play!  Not eat! :) All she really wants to do is mimic what she sees you doing.  You could put a block in front of her and she'll grab it and try to stick it in her mouth.  A piece of paper, a pen, a wrapper, a fork, you name it, all she really wants to do to ANYTHING is to grab it and stick it in her mouth.  Not because she wants to eat it, but because it's her way of exploring her surroundings.  To touch it, taste it, lick it, drop it.  It's all part of the process.  WebMD writes that a normal development for babies aged 4-6 months is to: "Reach out for and grab objects (watch out for your hair), and manipulate toys and other objects with her hands".  Therefore, reaching for what you have means they are on par developmentally.  Not exactly that they want your food to eat as much as to maybe play with and discover whatever they can get their hands on!

She just stares at me while I eat and follows my every move with her eyes!

Of course!  What you are doing is fascinating to her!  She's watching your every move to learn what you are doing and I bet she's really thinking how much she'd love to get her hands on that funny shiny thing you are sticking in your mouth and see what it tastes like.  She sees you sticking it in your mouth several times a day.  It's gotta be something good!

My baby isn't sleeping well and solids will help keep them full longer.

The research says the exact opposite.  In fact, babies sleep less at night due to upset tummies and indigestion caused by starting solids or adding formula too early.  Babies are born with a sterile gut.  Adding anything other than breast milk changes the PH balance and lowers immunity allowing the wrong kinds of bacteria to grow before the baby is ready or able to digest additional foods.  See Solids for Sleep for more information.  In fact, sleeping through the night is not "normal" until 2-3 years old.  Seehereherehere and here for more info.

She wants to nurse all the time.  I don't think my milk is enough.

Well, it's typical for them to go through another growth spurt somewhere around 5-6 months.  The main thing is to make sure that YOU are getting adequate nutrition and rest so that you can keep up with the demand and your body can supply. If supply has not been an issue thus far, it's unlikely that you can't keep supply for your baby's demand at this point.  Another thought is that I've also noticed that around this time, my baby starts wanting more in depth interaction with me.  She's starting to get bored and I need to actually be intentional about entertaining her or else I end up nursing because she's fussy and I think she's hungry.  Some of my babies have been very easy, laid back, and are simply along for the ride each day while others seem to need me to be more purposeful in involving them in what I'm doing.

Well, it's just rice cereal.  It's not a big deal.

Actually, it IS a big deal!  Rice cereal has been bleached and stripped of pretty much any nutritional qualities and it has about the same benefits of feeding your child a spoonful of straight sugar.  Add to that, that your child's gut is not ready or able to digest grains of any kind until almost 1 year old when their gut closes.  What many people (including doctors) think babies should eat as a first food is just flat out wrong.  It comes from years of misinformation being passed down the line.  Rice cereal is essentially junk food for babies.

More info is available at -  Say no to rice cereal!  as well as info about the importance of delaying solids to allow the gut to close and allergy prevention here.

The doctor said my baby needs iron fortified cereal.

Your doctor is most likely wrong.  Sorry.  MOST healthy, full term, breastfed babies do not need any kind of iron supplements at all. The BEST source of iron for your baby, is your breast milk.   Babies are born with plenty of iron stored up for at least the first 6 months.  Current research suggests that baby's iron stores should last between 6-12 months.  Depending on the baby.  Furthermore, iron from breast milk is more readily absorbed and usable than any other form of iron.    If you want to make sure your baby's iron levels are fine, then make sure you eat a diet rich in iron so it's passed to your baby through your milk.  I have a lot more I could say but am trying to keep each section short.  SeeKellymom for more information.

So then when SHOULD I start solids?  And what do I feed her?

Sometime AFTER 6 months.  Not before.  If your baby is tired of playing with the spoons and forks while you eat and is able to pick up food, put it in her mouth, chew it up and swallow it, then she's good to go!  Share with her whatever you are having that is soft foods.  No need for special baby foods, pureed foods, or cereals.  The more natural and healthy the better! La Leche League International suggest this progression for feeding your baby solid foods after 6 months of age:

  • Ripe banana, avocado, yam, or sweet potato (sweet like breastmilk)
  • Meats
  • Whole-grain breads and cereals (rather than baby cereals)
    [wheat and corn are usually delayed until baby is 9-12 months old]
  • Fresh fruits
    [citrus fruits are usually delayed until baby is 9-12 months old]
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy products after 9 months
    [cow's milk is usually delayed until baby is 12-18 months old]

I'm not 100% on board with those recommendations as I don't think grains and meats should be introduced before vegetables.  But that's just my opinion.  I have no research backing me up on that.  There are actually almost as many different recommendations of what to introduce and when as there are foods to try.  The important thing is to not worry too much if your baby doesn't seem very interested in eating .  It's not uncommon for a baby to have only breast milk until 9 months or later.  There is truly nothing wrong with that!  Your baby knows what she needs and how to get it!  Often times, following the baby's lead has proven essential to preventing food allergies as well!  The earlier you start solids, the more risk you are taking at the baby developing a food allergy.  It's possible that your baby's gut knows better than us what it needs after all!  Please seeKellymom for more information on food allergies and what to watch for.

So, having all of this research and info in my brain, I can't ignore it and start feeding pureed baby foods before 6 months.  I just can't.  I'm a researcher by nature.  Rarely do I make a decision without researching it to DEATH.  :)  You should have seen the stuff I read about birth and breastfeeding before THOSE decisions were ever made!  LOL

For now, my little missy seems quite happy playing with her spoons and forks and the occasional piece of food during dinnertime. Being an experienced mom does have it's perks!  I've been there done that and the novelty has worn off.  I know she'll want to start eating sooner rather than later and along with it comes more dirty laundry, stinkier diapers, and lots more baths and dirty floors.  :)  I'm happy waiting until I can't put her off any longer!

I hope that by reading this, you too will know there is freedom in this decision as well!  That you don't HAVE to go along with what everyone else does or even what you've done in the past!  I've changed in this area with each additional child.  Who knows, a couple more kids and I may be sending them out to the garden to graze when they're ready for real foods!  LOL  I'm teasing!  A tiny bit.  :)