sweet as honey garden party

my sister is expecting her first baby on December 17th.  I of course wanted to throw her the best baby shower this side of the Mississippi.  She asked for a garden party, classic summer BBQ style and I went from there.  I threw in the bumblebee aspect because her husband’s parents happen to be bee keepers.  I’ve always thought that was cool and when they found out it was a girl, it was set in stone.  The Queen Bee MUST have a party.  Here are some photos of the day:

 

The shower was more geared to a family gathering than it was girls playing games about babies.  My husband slow smoked a pork shoulder for 7 hours for the entree of BBQ pork sandwiches with a homemade sauce.  The rest of the menu was classic BBQ.  Corn on the cob, watermelon, fruits and veggies, classic potato salad and chips.  Chocolate bumblebee cake and chocolate mint pudding cups for dessert, as well as an ice cream cake.  Honey sticks were the party favor, simple and sweet.  Hopefully just like the new baby 🙂

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plant whisperer.

well, after much research and watching my mom fight cancer, i decided to attempt to eat as healthy as possible.  most people would think our diet is a tad extreme, but it works for us, we feel great, and my mom’s still alive after battling one of the worst kinds of breast cancer possible.  i think, i believe, food has a lot to do with that.  as she says, you can take chemo once a week, radiation (i could never spell that and don’t care to learn how, it’s a word i hope to not type often) once a day, but you EAT three times a day.  you can self medicate three times daily.  or you can poison yourself three times a day depending on your habits.  my habits used to be poisonous.  i really really like sugar.  anyway…..

so we shop at the local farmers market, and basically ONLY at the farmer’s market.  in an attempt to save money (and the gardening spread in better homes and garden always looks so pretty) i decided to plant my own container garden.  i wanted to plant items we used the most.  spinach, red leaf lettuce (okay we don’t really use that too much, that was a better homes and garden moment) tomatoes, and strawberries. 

lincoln was very excited when i went about planting everything, very excited.  we had never played with dirt before.  and i was digging.  and there were green things.  it was all new and exciting.  it got better when i explained that we would ‘bite’ these things.  he was very happy. 

the strawberries died within a week.  the spinach and lettuce didn’t look too good.  my mom suggested moving them out of the hot afternoon sun and let only the morning light hit them.  BAM! instant improvement.  the tomatoes looked good.  lincoln would watch me as i watered them every morning.  whenever i would stop he would thoughtfully call out, “oh mowr, mowr!”  as if he were a plant whisperer and knew, knew they were still thirsty. 

the spinach was suddenly three feet tall.  BUT, it had some kind of bug and eventually it got the best of it.  the damn red leaf lettuce is still doing great, looks great too so i can’t complain.  and the tomato plant, well, that’s been interesting.  apparently you can’t put two plants in a little flower pot.  some things you learn the hard way.  so today, i attempted a tomato transplant in order to save not only the plant but the last living thing i hoped to eat from my garden.

it was a big day.  this was different than planting day.  today i was elbow deep in dirt, dumping pots over, tying plants to sticks (or bats as lincoln saw it).  lincoln was restlessly pacing around me as i worked, mumbling to himself.  he could barely contain his excitement.  he would reach in and grab some dirt.  i was busy trying to save our future salsas and sandwiches.  suddenly everything looks okay.  (key word, looks. we’ll see how it ends up)  i start watering the newly transplanted plants.  lincoln is watching me.  directing me where to dump the water.  softly saying, “oh!” when he sees me pour.  suddenly my companion is gone and i turn around and i notice a pile of dirt on the quilt stella is playing.  the same quilt matt’s grandmother bought us for christmas one year.  he had constructed a pile of dirt and had proceeded to ‘water’ it.  with his juicy cup that he would refill from his water table.  less than an inch of water at a time. 

i moved stella so she didn’t become part of lincoln’s garden and then directed his watering skills toward the wilty lettuce (the heat wave over the weekend hadn’t done them any favors).  he seemed very excited to have a task and purpose.  a goal.  not to mention that he had “permission” from his ma to continue on with his “work”. 

he kept watering them, even long after stella and i went inside to finish cooking dinner, still using the juicy cup, still going one inch at a time.

pasta and chick pea soup.

in an attempt to save money, make sure i use ingredients in my fridge, and streamline lunches and dinners, i dusted off my old ‘soup’ cookbook.  i have decided to make pot of soup every monday and spread it through out the week for lunches and dinners, not a totally creative idea, but whatever. we’ll see how it works.  i started with pasta and chick pea soup. and let’s just say it was loved by the whole family, stella included.

i am NEVER precise on ingredients and rarely measure myself, so here’s a ‘guide’. 

1 onion, carrots, celery, can of chick peas, can of cannellini beans, pureed tomatoes (i used 3 smaller sized ones), 1/2 cup water (i used half a coffe cup because my measuring cups were outside in the dirt, or lincoln’s garden as he calls it) vegetable stock (i used a liter box of organic veggie stock from trader joes.) rosemary sprigs, 2 cups dried big pasta shells , sea salt and fresh ground pepper. and olive oil.

in a large pot i put some olive oil (roughly 3-4 tablespoons) and then added the chopped onion, carrots (i used a TON-wanted to finish a bag) skipped the celery because we didn’t have any, and the chopped garlic.  cook over low heat for about 7 minutes.  add the beans, mix and cook another 5 min, add the water and the tomatoes.  add about half the stock, rosemary sprig salt and ground pepper to taste.  bring to boil then cover and simmer for an hour.  pour in the remaining stock, add the pasta and simmer 7-8 minutes.  it’s best if the pasta is cooked al dente.  sprinkle shaved parm cheese on top and another rosemary sprig for garnish. 

super easy, super super healthy.  i call it a hubby recipe because of it’s heart healthy qualities.  almost every ingredient does something to help the heart or lower blood pressure.  first off, beans.  beans are low in fat and high in protein (and fiber). they are a great alternative to animal based proteins.  and if you have a toddler who refuses to eat meat, this is a great meal.  beans virtually whisk cholesterol out of your system.  beans also have high levels of isoflavones which ease symptoms of menopause, prevent some forms of cancer, reduce heart disease, and improve bone and prostate health.  i have already blogged about the great qualites of onions, garlic, and tomatoes.  this soup is stock full of health, tastes great, and so far is kid friendly.  let’s see how he does with the leftovers. 

i serve it with a chunk of walnut sourdough bread.

farmer’s market garlic cheese sandwich

this recipe is a variation from one i found in a recent better homes and garden.  very healthy and so delicious i crave it weekly and usually make it for mine and lincoln’s lunch on mondays.

i start with a fresh bread from the farmer’s market, i try to find one that is whole wheat and has walnuts baked into it.  i try to get walnuts into anything i can for the added omega 3’s.  slice off a couple pieces of bread and layer a cheese onto each half.  i used a garlic goat cheese also from the farmers market.  once you’ve tasted it you can’t stop thinking about it.  however, it’s $24 a lb so lincoln usuall gets colby cheese from trader joes 🙂 

once both bread halves are set up i pop them into the oven on broil, that way the cheese melts into the bread with having to use butter or oil or frying of any kind.  as soon as the cheese is melty, and maybe slightly burnt on the edges, pull it out.  i then add a few sliced tomatoes to both halves and pop it back into the broiler so that the tomatoes melt into the cheese and don’t slide off the sandwich when you try to eat it.  take it out and pile on the toppings.  i usually add spinach, avocado, and red onion.  simple.  ready in minutes and it’s the only cheese sandwich i have gotten lincoln to eat.

one of the reasons i splurge on the garlic goat cheese (besides the addictive taste) is the fact that there is garlic in it.  garlic (one of mine and matt’s favorite spices) is incredibly good for you.  it boosts heart helping qualities, boosts the immune system, and is a known antiseptic.  Onions share a lot of these traits so you are getting a double whammy with this sandwich.  garlic contains sulfur compounds which prevent clotting and promote smooth blood flow and recent research shows that garlic has several compounds that prevent cellular changes in the body that can end up leading to cancer.  and if that’s isn’t enough, it also repells mosquitoes.  i tested that personally while living in thailand, all you have to do is eat it.

*food info from the book “the healing food” by dr James A Duke  buy it and keep it in your kitchen!!

eggs with spinach and tomatoes.

back to food.  i think i will be going back and forth between daily life and food updates. 

lincoln hasn’t been eating much lately, he goes in spurts and it seemed like he was in an “off”  spurt.  he is also teething, had a fever, and it’s been in the 90’s.  heat always takes away my appetite. 

however, this morning when i opened the fridge he pointed to the eggs so i decided since i had extra time today i would make him some. 

i started with simple scrambled eggs, three eggs, a dash of organic whole milk, some cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt.  i then chopped up a small tomato and a handful of fresh spinach.  once the eggs looked like basic scrambled eggs i threw in the tomatoes and spinach, flipped it all a bit until the spinach looked soft.  i then sprinkled in a cheese blend (romano/parm/asiago) from trader joes. 

it was delicious, lincoln appeared to have a slight aversion to the spinach (he kept picking out the leaves, but that’s not going to stop me from putting them in.  someday he will eat them, and at least seeing it won’t ever freak him out)  he was eating the tomatoes until half way through, then he suddenly stopped that as well.  toddlers.  you never know. 

thankfully eggs is his favorite meal and very easy to ‘add’ healthy ingredients too.  a great source of protein for am anti-meat toddler as well. 

now for the fun stuff:

eggs are high in protein and it’s recommended to include proteins of some sort in every snack and meal because proteins keep you full longer, along with all their other great qualities.

tomatoes are high in beta-carotenes and lycopenes, a carotenoid that protects your skin.  these antioxidants actually naturally protect the plant from the sunlight and that proctection extends to you when you eat them.  the lycopene settles onto the outer layer of your skin where the antioxidants then start repairing cell damage caused by the sun.  many fruits and veggies contain either beta-carotenes or lycopenes, but tomatoes contain BOTH.   tomatoes benefit doesn’t end there, they are known to prevent prostate cancer, lower heart disease, and lower blood pressure and strengthen heart muscle. 

spinach, well, honestly were do you start.  spinach has a multitude of benefits, it has iron, calcuim, chock full of magnesium (which is a mineral that relaxes the heart muscles and improves heart function. in fact when i was pregnant and had a high blood pressure reading i was advised to take magnesum tablets).

breakfast.

back to the food topic.  breakfast is by far the easiet meal.  babies are happiest in the mornings, anything is welcomed because simply being awake is fun.  eating something is like icing on the cake.  i always offer some kind of fresh fruit.  then like previously stated usually toast.  avocado or peanut butter toast is a staple.  the peanut butter is great protein.  today we are having oatmeal with cinnamon and flax seed sprinkled in.  i would add blueberries but lincoln is on an anit-fruit IN his food kick.  seriously, it changes daily.  the focus on the breakfast this morning is the cinnamon. 

cinnamon is one of the most potent antioxidants out there.  it has an effect on blood sugar comparable to diabetes medication.  it helps lower cholesterol.  it has been said that it combats bacteria that causes acid reflux and ulcers.  obviously lincoln doesn’t have any of these issues yet, but eating such a healthy spice can’t hurt him.  and again, food right now is mainly about developing future eating habits.  i want him to accept cinnamon instead of heapings of sugar in his cereal or oatmeal.  if he learns that sugar is needed, he will ‘need’ it.  if he learns that it is a TREAT.  then he (hopefully) will look at it as such.  another great way to sweeten oatmeal for babies is to cut up a banana and cook the oatmeal with the banana in it.  the banana gets melty and sweet, and also helps hold the oatmeal together for those messy little spoon trips.

all that being said, this morning the oatmeal was denied because of the ‘temperature’.  it was, as i was told, “oooh hot hot hot.  oh no.  hot.”  so there you go.

bite.

“children living on the greek islands of crete rarely experience allergic reactions such as asthma, so reasearchers set out to see if their mediterranean diet might be the reason.  they looked at 690 kids ages 7 to 18.  a survey revealed that 80 percent of the children ate fresh fruit and 68 percent ate fresh vegetables at least twice a day.  further study showed a close relationship between the amount of fresh, locally grown grapes, oranges, apples, nuts, and tomatoes the children ate and how free they were of symptoms of asthma and nasal alleriges.  another study suggests that expectant mothers who follow a mediterranean diet during pregnancy may give their children the gift of long term health.  researchers tracked the health of 460 children on an  island in spain from brith to 6.5 years.  those whose mothers had eaten a high-quality diet during pregnancy proved less likely to experience wheezing and allergy syptoms.”  dr. james a duke, the healing foods.

this blog is meant to be a diary of our (mine, lincoln and stella’s)  journey of childhood.  their experiences and mine.  i realized today that food occupies A LOT of that time.  in fact, eating is one of the biggest focuses in babyhood and toddlerhood.  and it should be.  how you feed the baby, and what you feed the baby determines their future eating habits and relationship with food FOREVER.  that’s a big thing.  watch the biggest loser.  or that jillian show.  people in our country have serious food issues.  and food issues begin young. 

food and babies is such a vast topic it will probably cover numerous blogs, but i realized recently that it is an obsession of mine and i found it odd that i hadn’t written about something that consumes so much of my time with the babies.  i am constantly trying to find the best, healthiest, tastiest meals for the kids.  and anyone with a toddler knows, toddlers aren’t easy when it comes to food.  lincoln’s newest thing is not eating anything that is hot.  or warm.  or luke warm.  i have started to take his food and place it in the freezer for a couple seconds before i give it to him so that he won’t turn it away.

but i am getting off subject.  back to the mediterrean.  i found that particular segment of james duke’s book interesting for a couple reasons.  mainly because matt has been (and always has) battling allergies and asthma.  i know that asthma can be genetic so naturally it is something that worries me with the kids.  i want to be able to do anything i can to prevent it, if possible.  before even reading this, fruit makes up about 60 percent of lincoln and stella’s diet.  breakfast is always some form of fresh fruit and then either toast (with peanut butter or avocado) or granola.  fruit makes another appearance at lunch and for snacks.  always fresh and seasonal.  of course, getting babies to eat fruit isn’t that hard.  veggies are tougher. 

one of my big tricks is to blend veggies and put them in sauces.  not too inventive.  i am sure every mom of a toddler has done that.  but, to be honest, i chop up spinach and add it to just about everything the whole family eats.  i add it to homemade pizza, eggs, smoothies, all pasta dishes, basically anything and everything.  that way lincoln not only eats it on a daily basis, but he gets used to it.  the taste, the texture (i usually toss the leaves in whole or roughly chopped) the sight, etc.  i want pasta to look weird if it DOESN’T have leaves in it.  eggs with spinach and avocado are boring, a basic in his mind.  those are the type of food guidelines i am trying to set.  i know that no matter what i do, they will go through the ‘only white food’ stage or ‘only cold food’ stage.  my job then is to make sure that whatever food they will eat, is the best, healthiest food available. 

another wonderful aspect to baby meals is the mess.  that’s a whole other blog in itself.