Cooking Together

So I’m adventuring into cooking again. It seems that creating is the key… whether cooking, writing, or making cosmetics; I’m happiest when I’m creative. And tonight I got to do that with my daughter, how cool is that? Tonight we made lasagna (which, while it sounds simple, this working mom hasn’t made lasagna in about a year). Although a few years ago, when she was a baby the lasagna had homemade sauce as well, I’m cooking with baby steps; after all, I am still working two jobs & being the full time single mommy. So, excuses aside– it’s time to cook! Here’s the recipe I improvised tonight:

“Lasagna With Hidden Veggies”

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh organic baby spinach (trying using the ‘baby’ variety because it’s less bitter & organic because spinach is a high pesticide product when bought conventionally & fresh because it contains the highest quantity of vitamins & nutrients)

1 lb part skim ricotta cheese (part skim because mama’s gaining weight, haha)

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (reserve a little for topping the lasagna)

1 jar tomato marinara sauce

1 egg

1 box lasagna noodles

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

(Protein option for us carnivores: 1 lb beef or turkey. Vegetarian: 1 block of tofu)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. For us meat eaters, brown the meat in a skillet on the stove; drain grease into empty jar to discard safely (did you know that kitchen grease down your drain clogs your drain & puts dangerous oil particles into our water system?) & set aside.

3. Blend spinach with tomato sauce.

4. Mix cooked meat into the tomato/spinach sauce.

5. In a separate bowl, mix together: 1 egg, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, & shredded mozzarella. (If you’re using the tofu meatless option, mix the tofu into this mixture for color coordination.)

6. Layer lasagna: First put lasagna noodles in bottom of pan. Then put the cheese mixture on top. Then put the sauce mixture on top of that. Then the noodles again, etc until the pan is filled. Ideally the last layer is sauce & sprinkle with remaining shredded mozzarella)

7. Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before cutting into & serving. Enjoy!!

Let me know how it turned out! Were your kids or hubbie surprised or oblivious to the veggies? (that’s what I was after!) 

Tips to Save Time, Money & Mother Earth From Your Kitchen

  • Grow your own food. Gardening is suprisingly easy, especially if you start from plants instead of seeds but of course buying seeds is much more cost-effective. For example, one organic zucchini plant cost me $4 but one package of about 50 heritage, organic, Zucchini seeds from a small supplier cost me only $2. Gardening is a fun activity to do with kids too. When my daughter was an infant I wore her in a front sling when I was in the garden, & when she started wanting to help more I gave her a little plastic shovel & she mixed the soil up beside me.
  • Not only can you make your own food but for those with little ones… make delicious fresh organic baby food for pennies. Pureeing baby food & packaging it in freezer trays for later is also a fun activity to do with bigger children.
  • If you can’t or prefer not to harvest your own do your gest to buy local & in season. You will save money, support your local farms & economy, & neighbors. You will also save on the emissionsthat the trucks give off bringing their lot from california or mexico to your super market.
  • When you need fresh produce & local is not available, buy organic! Organic is not only better for your health but better for the environment, saving the soil, the water supply, & the wildlife, just to name a few 😉
  • Make large batches of food with fresh ingredients or fully cooked dinners & freeze excess in BPA free freezer trays.
  • Note, if you freeze baby food & you find your baby doesn’t like that particular vegetable, don’t worry, adding those pureed veggies to tomatoe sauce, melted cheesees, & mashed potatoes works great for adding whole foods & vitamins to meals in a sneaky way.

Whole Foods vs Laboratory Sources for Vitamins

Whole Foods vs Laboratory Sources for Vitamins

Eatting healthy can be intimidating and over whemling, like a ridiculous science… some days it feels like I’m sitting in school again, with equations swimming in my head like, 2 T of spinach contains 1,800 I.U. of Vitamin A, & my baby needs about 1,500… So okay, that’s good… Now what about if I give her kale later? What if she doesn’t like spinach? What if I give her sweet potatoes… okay that’s 3,610 of Vitamin A…

If you are interested in getting the specific I.U. breakdowns of foods there are many sources for this. One great source is a book I used when making my daughter’s food as a baby & as she grows into a little girl: Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. (Overall a great book, but it is by no means perfect though as I don’t agree with some of the adivce given in the book about feeding times, portion sizes, & some of her thrifty advice.) When I read this I tried to do it perfectly, but then I realized that learning the vitamin content of food allowed me to make my own recipes that provided excellent balanced nutrition. I learned that I didn’t have to count I.U.s or daily percent values, I just kept in mind which foods were high in what or contained what, and cooked!

Now, I say this from experience though: remember, if you do take into account the exact amount of each vitamin from each morsle of food the stress it causes you is not good for you or your baby (even after you’re pregnant that sentence works because when we’re stressed we have less patience, less happiness, and less affection to give to our baby).

If you are breastfeeding, which is the best thing you can do for your baby & your toddler, you can rest assured that she is getting nearly everything she needs nutrition wise. Our bodies work together, mother’s and child‘s, to give her the vitamins you’ve taken in so when you add up that she’s had her exact amount of vitamin A, K, B6…etc… you haven’t taken into account her breast milk portions. And how do we keep track of that? Well, we just can’t. And it’s a good thing too, because if we could we just might and then our heads just might explode, haha. =)

So the best advice I can give is to read what foods are good sources of each vitamin and give your baby more of these healthy sources. Additionally, you can follow the recipes I’ll be periodically posting up here on the site which give you nutritional information at the end of each, listing what vitamins are in the meal and coming from what sources. It is a good idea to be aware of what vitamins are in what you’re giving her to be sure that she gets her conrocopia of vitamins and not just Bs and As every day for example (or none if everything’s canned or processed).

While giving a baby vitamins is a good healthy decision, it must be done responsibly. Don’t be tempted to give up, feed her whatever is in the fridge, and just give her prescription vitamins. For instance, giving a baby vitamin drops and feeding her mac n cheese & crackers all day is not doing the best for your baby. If you feed your baby a variety of vegetables, whole grains, natural & super nutritious additives & dairy products you are likely not to need vitamins at all. Please be careful if you do choose to give your baby vitamins, as vitamin toxicity is just as dangerous as vitamin deficiency. Vitamin toxicity is nearly impossible through eating the foods that contain these vitamins but can & does occur from vitamin supplements. Of course, vitamin deficiency is dangerous, which is why we need to feed our babies & children nutritious food to protect their developing bodies. Good luck in your endeavors: Now, to the mixing bowl! Or if it’s baby’s breastfeeding time, to the rocking chair!