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It happens nearly every year. The spring brings rain upon rain and you begin to take for granted the nights filled with pounding on a tin roof. And then it inches ever closer to June and you don’t quite know, when the rain stops, when it will come again.

Last Friday the rain came. It soaked us fully and completely as we hiked over dirt roads impassable by car. We were soaked through by the time we got home, weary from the walk, but arms-out grateful to experience it fully as we did. The ground soaked it up in no time, the ponds filled for gardens and goats, the tanks filled for us. It’s been 10-20 degrees cooler ever since and they’re forecasting rain this whole week.

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I’ve been away from home in the afternoons lately. Getting home to a baby needing feeding and a hot family during the dinner hour proved challenging, if only for the fact that nothing sounded good to anyone in that 100 degree weather. Except, of course, cold goat milk… and watermelon… and whatever salad Mama makes us eat before we get to those goodies.

This kidney bean and greens salad got us through a few of those nights this past month.

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P.S. This is what happens when you threaten to eat Annabelle’s portion of the watermelon.

Cold Kidney Bean and Greens Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 cans organic kidney beans (approximately 4.5 cups cooked beans)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 packed cups salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugala, etc.)
  • salt to taste

Directions

Combine beans, carrot, onion, garlic, oil, lemon, and chili in a large bowl. Gently stir in salad greens and season with salt to taste.

Serve with watermelon and fresh goat milk or at your next picnic.

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I distinctly remember a battle over a spoonful of cauliflower that went down nearly ten years ago. Elijah had just started solid foods and I had no clue what I should feed him except that I should be making it myself and there should be vegetables. It was not pretty, y’all.

Fast forward to our second son, Abram, who became our first real food baby. When he began eating solids, I would place mashed up stuff in separate little piles all over his tray. There was usually a meat or protein, a mashed vegetable, and sometimes a starch like potato or rice. All of them contained lots of fat mixed in and he invariably reached for the animal products first.

My Two Favorite Resources

Before I get to the five things I consider when feeding our babies, I’d like to share two things that have been by my side through the last four of our newly eating little ones. The first is this book and the invaluable information I’ve gleaned from it. The second is a simple device my Mother-In-Law gave me way back when I first became a Mama.

I used to whiz up ice cube trays full of baby food in my food processor. After a few babies and a little less time on my hands (and now no freezer or food processor), this food mill has been my absolute favorite. I simply take the elements of the family meal that the baby can eat, add a bit of extra fat, milk, or water, and blend it up. So simple.

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The Five Nutritional Needs of Little Ones

In feeding babies for the first couple of years I like to put an emphasis on the following:

Fat. This can not be over-emphasized for little ones, in my opinion. The largest portion of calories in breastmilk comes from fat. I think we can take this God-given food and have it not be much of a stretch to say that a good 50% of a baby’s calories could come from fat. So I add grass-fed butter, coconut oil, and olive oil to pretty much everything I give them. And avocado is probably my favorite baby convenience food.

Minerals. I personally think minerals are an under-emphasized component of a traditional food diet. I try to emphasize mineral-rich foods for our children but also for us. After having five babies in ten years, I know my own mineral stores are greatly depleted, despite our best efforts to keep them tanked up. So it is important to always be adding to the minerals tank. At first I like to emphasize cultured dairy, bone broth, mineral-rich animal foods like egg yolks, meat, and canned salmon. After they are a little older I like to add in leafy greens and legumes.

Carbohydrates. The other main constituent in breastmilk is carbohydrates. At first I like to emphasize simple starches like cooked root vegetables + fat, white rice + fat, potatoes + fat. I also do small quantities of soft fruits like bananas and applesauce, but try not to give too many sweet foods. After they get a bit older I add in fermented oats and other fermented grains… with, you guessed it, fat.

Protein. While I do like to give babies dark poultry meat, red meats, and wild canned salmon, I try to do it in balance with the fat and carbohydrates. And I generally emphasize fresh and cultured dairy over other protein sources, in terms of calories.

Ferments. I think it’s important to introduce children to fermented foods early. I feel the same way about bitter foods like greens. Both Annie and Ruthie got kraut and kraut juice young and Joshua takes kraut brine off of a spoon from time to time. Abram was our first baby to get kombucha at one year of age. All of the children have gotten homemade yogurt and kefir under one year of age and all of them rave about the super tangy kefir and yogurt I bring to the table and serve with no added sweetener. Abram is also well-known for complimenting my seemingly failed loaves of over-fermented sourdough by saying “You know what I like about this bread? It’s got a nice tang!”.

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People often tell me that we have such good eaters but I really don’t think that our children are any different than any other children. The first time someone offered them candy I watched in horror as they tried to shovel it in as fast as they could before I could stop them. And we’ve certainly had health issues come up here and there. We also have a pretty picky eater (cough, Annabelle, cough). Oh, and I totally bought the boys ice cream cones the other day when it was 100 degrees and we went to town.

I think I had to get that off my chest.

By in large, though, I am grateful for how easy it is to feed this crew and I really think it comes down to some of the same principles that I strongly believe in about parenting in general. Lead by example. Tell them why. Put what is right and good in front them. And sometimes, what you don’t give them is just as important as what you do.