Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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A Guide to Introducing Allergens: Revised AAP Guidelines and Recommendations

To wait or not to wait, that seems to be the question on parents’ minds about introducing allergenic foods to their little ones.  When I started research for Little City Kitchen Co., I was pretty confused because there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.

Some experts say to introduce things like eggs and peanuts early, some say to wait a year.  Which is it?

I think one of the beauties of being a parent is you get to decide what makes the most sense to you. Information about nutrition is published all the time…some of it I agree with and some of it I don’t.  This blog is just another piece of information that you can use to form your opinion as you decide what’s best for little one.

Allergens 101

Let’s start by reviewing the eight most allergenic foods identified by the FDA (which are responsible for 90% of all allergenic reactions):

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Nuts from trees (such as walnuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews)
  • Fish (such as tuna, salmon, cod)
  • Shellfish (such as shrimp, lobster)

We’ll cover the research first, and then my opinion. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) puts out recommendations for introducing solids that are intended to serve as a guideline for all pediatricians.

Their most recent revision came out in Jan 2008, and was a reversal of their previous version from 2000.  You can view the full revised guideline here, but I’m going to give you the abbreviated version in layman’s terms:

ALL foods (allergenic or not) can and should be introduced starting at 4-6 months old.  This includes meats, eggs, fish, wheat, vegetables, etc…

The AAP has found that there’s no research to support that delaying the introduction of allergens makes the babies less likely to have a reaction.  And in some cases, by delaying introduction to these foods, we’re actually causing a sensitivity to them.

(Note one exception:  If the baby’s mom, dad or sibling has an allergic disease, particularly a food allergy, then your little one is more likely to have food allergies as well.  You should talk to your doctor as the AAP recommendations may not apply to you.)

So the big question of the day…why are doctors still telling parents to wait to introduce allergens?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it’s that they aren’t familiar with the newest recommendations (which would be weird seeing as they’re three years old), or maybe it’s that they disagree with the AAP.

We choose our pediatricians because they are highly trained professionals and we trust the information that they give us, right?  If this information makes sense to you, and it conflicts with what your doctor has suggested, I see no reason why you couldn’t bring a copy of the AAP recommendations and have an open conversation with your pediatrician about why they recommend a different strategy.

So remember, your little one needs a variety of foods when they start solids.  Don’t be afraid to try meats, eggs, greens, and other fun and colorful foods!  Happy Eating :-)

What is the Local Food Economy: Tales from a Food Entrepreneur blog series

The phrase “local food economy” wasn’t one I was familiar with until very recently.  As it turns out, I’ve been a local foodie for some time now without ever realizing it.

There’s probably a formal definition of the local food economy, but I define it as a system that takes a “back to basics” approach to celebrating food: How it’s grown (with care), how it’s harvested (humanely), where it’s sold (locally), how it’s enjoyed (with appreciation & community), and it’s impact on the environment (sustainability).

I know what you’re thinking…oh god Jill, you’re turning into a hippie farmer!  Not the case, I assure you.  However, learning about where my food comes has affected my own personal food choices, and it certainly has affected the food decisions and direction of Little City Kitchen Co.

I’ve blogged in the past about how important it is for a new entrepreneur to find a tribe, or a group of like-minded and supportive people.  In so many ways, I’ve found my own tribe in this new food community.   I mean really…these are MY people!

One of my new interests is a non-profit organization called Slow Money.  A special shout out to a new and dear friend of mine for bringing me into this circle (he knows who he is!).  At its core, Slow Money connects local investors with local food producers, but they do it in a very special and personal way.

Instead of just handing their money over, investors develop a close relationship with a local food business, and in many cases, lend their time and expertise to help that business flourish.  What a great concept!

I’ll get off my soapbox now, but if this is a topic that interests you, check out the 3-day Slow Money National Gathering on October 12-14.

Vote for Little City Kitchen!

And if I could add a shameless plug here…please take 20 seconds to vote for Little City Kitchen Co. in a contest hosted by Slow Money.  The two businesses with the most votes wins a free pass to the three-day conference ($600 value).  Vote, vote, vote!

Supporting the Local Food Economy

Anyone can help!  Here are a few small things that you can do to support the local food system:

  1. Shop at farmers markets – in most cases, you’re buying directly from the farm
  2. Purchase local items at your grocery store – chains like Whole Foods have really stepped up their support of local food businesses and usually have signs indicating which items are from local sources.
  3. Patronize restaurants that grow some of their own produce, or use items from local suppliers.
  4. Consider purchasing a weekly CSA vegetable box – this is a box of fruit & veggies, sometimes collected from several farms, delivered to your front door each week.

GetzWell Cooking Demos

It’s time for another cooking demo!  Join me and the GetzWell Pediatrics team next Tuesday, August 16th from 6:00 – 7:30pm for a discussion on introducing solids and a baby food cooking demo.  Event details are here, and RSVP soon to reserve a spot.

Hope everyone has a great week.  Get out there and support your favorite local food businesses!  We appreciate it.

A Guide to Pureeing: The Best Equipment to Make Baby Food

Okay people, let’s talk equipment…that is…equipment needed to make your own organic baby food.  I have buzzed, smashed, and blended my way through hundreds of my own baby food recipes at Little City Kitchen Co., and have learned which pieces of kitchen equipment work best along the way.

Unless you plan on being a serious baby food maker, I don’t recommend going out and purchasing a bunch of expensive equipment.

The goal of this review is to talk about equipment that you hopefully already have in your home kitchen, or inexpensive things you can buy and use for other non-baby food related recipes once your little one moves beyond purees.

A few other references for those who are interested:  I recently did a review of my favorite cooking methods for baby food (it’s not just steaming!), and a review of the best baby food storage containers on the market today.

I’m going to start at the top with the “ideal” tools, and work my way down.  Don’t worry if you don’t have the top-of-the line items.  Anything on this list will work, it just may take slightly longer (and slightly more work) to prepare the baby food.

Food Processor: This is the most efficient and effective baby food-making tool a home cook can have.  I use the Kitchen Aid 12 cup food processor…and I should confess here that I own four of them.   Expect to pay $150-$200 for a good model.

Pros: Smoothest puree texture, very efficient and fast, large bowl capacity, easy to use, very versatile (I make hummus every week!)
Cons: On the expensive side, more time consuming to clean, takes up space

Blender:  Since many home cooks don’t have a food processor, I’ve found a blender is a great alternative.  I use the Kitchen Aid 5-Speed model for around $100.  You want a pretty powerful one, but if you have a cheaper model, that’s fine, it just means you may need to work a little harder.

Pros: You probably already have one, they puree relatively well
Cons: Requires a few stop/starts and a spatula to keep scraping down the sides, not quite as efficient as a food processor

Immersion blender: If you’re a fan of making pureed soups, then you may already be the proud owner of an immersion blender.  These nifty little things have a blender blade on the end of a wand that goes right into the bowl of food and liquid on your stove.  I have a Kitchen Aid immersion blender that cost me around $80.

Pros: Small appliance, super-easy cleanup, purees soft vegetables pretty well
Cons: Doesn’t work well on harder veggies, takes longer to puree than a food processor or blender

Food Mill: Think of a bowl with a colander-like bottom and a crank that pushes food through the holes.  Food mills can work well for softer, well cooked foods like applesauce, sweet potato, and butternut squash.

I have  very sturdy stainless steal one from Cuisipro for around $90, but most baby stores sell a plastic version for around $15.  Not a great piece of equipment, but it can certainly work well if you don’t have a blender.

Pros: No electricity needed, plastic ones are inexpensive, works on soft foods
Cons:  Not a very smooth consistency achieved, not extremely useful outside of baby food…unless you really like homemade applesauce!

Potato Masher: Trust me folks, everyone can make baby food!  If nothing else, you can always rely on a handy potato masher combined with a little elbow grease to make food for your kiddo.

Check out five easy and inexpensive baby food recipes using nothing but a potato masher.  My fav one is actually a “bean masher” (which I prefer over a potato masher) for a measly $2.00 from WalMart.  You can usually find them at Mexican or Hispanic food stores as well.

Pros: very inexpensive, small, easy to clean
Cons: takes time and energy to mash, don’t get a very smooth consistency

So you’ve learned how to cook baby food, what equipment is needed to puree it, and finally, how best to store it.  Now off you go into the kitchen to whip up some goodies for the little ones.  Please feel free to leave a comment with your own baby food-making experiences!!