Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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The Next Chapter for Little City Kitchen: The Story of Five “Singles”

Many of you read last week’s blog about the decision to stop baby food altogether and to not write the baby food cookbook that I had been considering.  Through this process, I’ve realized that my own entrepreneurial path is extremely fluid.  I tend to be one who likes some amount of consistency, so I work hard to embrace the changes and adapt quickly to them.  Flexibility, I’m learning, is one of the most critical skills that an entrepreneur should master.

After I came to the conclusion not to write the baby food cookbook, I sent an email to the editor-in-chief of No Limit Publishing explaining my reasons and figured that would be the end of that.  Imagine my surprise when I received call from him a mere five days later with a new idea: why not continue with the eBooks as planned, but come up with different content?

I should admit here that my initial instinct was “no”.  It took me about a minute to realize that was a knee-jerk reaction, and so instead I chose to listen and start thinking of the possibilities.  The wheels in my head started turning, and in the middle of that conversation, I got a really surprising text message from my dear friend…

“Arnaud <her husband> had a dream you wrote a book and it was a best seller.  It was a super vivid dream, and you were happy….”

Wow.  My belief is that the universe sends you little signs when you’re on the right path, and the timing on this text was just a little too perfect.  After my conversation with No Limit, I grew more and more excited about this project, and a few days later I signed our original contract – with no hesitation this time – and took my first step towards becoming a publish author.

The Scoop on “Singles”

I’ll be writing five eBooks, known in the publishing world as “singles”.  They’ll be about 60-70 pages each and will be available via download on all the major e-retailers: Kindle, Amazon, Nook, iTunes, etc… Each eBook will cover a separate topic, but they will all be tied together under a common theme.

Which brings us to content; what the heck will I be writing about?  Prior to my first call with the publishing team, I brainstormed two pages of ideas.  As I was reviewing the possible topics, three very obvious themes started to emerge:

  1. The content will be advice geared towards the first-time entrepreneur
  2. Points will be illustrated through my own experiences, i.e. I will only write what I know and have experienced first hand
  3. It will be brutally honest and come from a place of self-awareness & introspection

I’m calling this my “Trifecta”.  The Trifecta has become a litmus test of sorts to quickly determine which topics should be considered for the books.  If it fails any of the three criteria, then the answer is pretty obvious.

Being a first-time author, and in typical “Jill fashion”, I intend to share much of my process with you in an unvarnished way.  I’m sure I’ll have setbacks and writers block and several other speed bumps along the way.  But I expect to also have bursts of creativity and inspiration, so hopefully the good weeks will outnumber the frustrating ones!

As always, stay tuned….

The Changes Keep on Coming: The Next Chapter for Little City Kitchen

You may have noticed the radio silence over the last few weeks.  The last four weeks have been monumental for me.  First came the announcement that Little City Kitchen Co. will stop producing baby food.  And now the next bit of big news that may come as a disappointment to some: I’ve decided to stop baby food altogether, which includes the education and cooking class components.

It all began three weeks ago with a potential publishing deal.  After the decision to get out of the kitchen, I moved the idea of writing a cookbook to the front of my mind and started researching my options.  Readers & customers had been asking for a cookbook for a while, and considering all the blogging I had already done, and the 60+ recipes I had already developed, publishing was an obvious next step.

I was introduced to No Limit Publishing through a trusted friend.  They’re a unique & innovative middle step between self-publishing and a full service publishing house. After several phone conversations with their Editor-in-Chief, I found myself staring at a six-page legal agreement that, if signed, would be my first step towards being a published author.  Yipee!

I called them on a Friday evening, gave them a verbal “yes”, and went home to sign the contract.

Then – an interesting thing happened.  I stared at the unsigned contract on my desk for the entire weekend.  Every time I would pick it up to sign, my entire body would rebel.  Literally, it would recoil. Those who know me well know that I’d never give a verbal agreement without intending to move forward, so what the heck was going on?

I originally thought that my disconnect with baby food came from the making of it (hence my decision to stop production), but what I realized in that moment was that baby food industry didn’t feel like the right path to me anymore.  I could no longer see myself being a baby food educator in the future, so why would I commit to writing a cookbook that took me further in that direction?

So while that revelation may seem sudden and shocking to some, I know in my heart of hearts that it’s the right one for me now.

My long-time readers are used to me sharing changes without having worked out all the logistical details, and this is certainly no different.  I have not decided what this means for the Little City Kitchen Co. brand per se, but it does mean that moving forward, we’re no longer going to be a baby food company.

And on a side note…I DID end up signing a publishing agreement, but not for a baby food cookbook!  Read on for more details…

Existing Customers…Still Interested in Baby Food?

If you are still interested in ordering baby food, there are two great businesses that I am recommending, and both are offering 20% off the first order to all Little City customers:

Big Dipper Baby Food offers in-store pickup in Bernal Heights, delivery options & a few store locations including Three Stone Hearth in the East Bay.  They offer lots of nutrient dense foods such as duck liver and beef marrow, blended with fresh fruits, veggies & spices to make them easy for the kiddos to enjoy.  Flavors are listed here.

Fresh Baby Bites offers a CSA-style delivery of fresh baby food weekly. They have 3 different kinds of baby food: Simple Purees, Spiced Up, and Spices & Grains depending on the texture your little one prefers.  Their recent menu is listed here.

I will be sending existing customers a separate email with more details on both companies and how to redeem your 20% off discounts.  And if you purchased a gift certificate for baby food or a cooking class that hasn’t been redeemed, please email me and I will issue you a full refund.


Jill Epner is a recovering food entrepreneur, advocate for early-stage food startups, and Bay Area food blogger. Follow her on Facebook, or sign up to receive her newsletter where she gives a candid peek  into the world of starting her own food company, Little City Kitchen Co.

True or False: Frozen Baby Food is Dead? Scoop on Starting Solids Blog Series

Many months ago, I was speaking with the buyer of a well-known natural foods grocery store about carrying frozen baby food from Little City Kitchen Co.  I figured if anyone would appreciate the value of “real” baby food, it would be this person.  After a minute, he looked me in the eye and said, “frozen baby food is dead”.

I must admit, I’m typically prepared to respond to just about anything in a business setting, but I was so stunned by his words that I sat there looking dumbfounded for about five seconds.  In classic Jill fashion, I then spent the next day replaying that conversation in my head and coming up with a better response.

Fresh or frozen baby food isn’t a product you can just put on the shelves and expect it to sell.  You have to educate parents about why frozen baby food is a better option, but once you have, they not only turn into loyal customers, they become advocates for real food within their respective communities.  Which begs the question…

Why aren’t parents already insisting on real food for their babies?

I have a few theories.

History, Culture & Marketing…Oh My.

First, feeding babies food from a jar is the accepted practice in this country.  It’s what you do, right?  I think it never occurs to most parents that there is any other option.  So why is it that in every other country in the world, baby eats what parents eat?  In Italy, a well-known first food is hard boiled egg yolk mashed with Parmesan cheese and olive oil.  Yummy, right!!

Like it or not, we are all susceptible to marketing messages.  Most people don’t realize that up until about 70 years ago, babies in this country didn’t eat food from a jar; they ate a pureed version of the family meal.   It wasn’t until Gerber developed baby food in late 1920’s and launched an aggressive marketing campaign that baby food started to take hold.

Parents seem generally intimidated and scared about introducing solids.  Don’t be!!  There seems to be a perception that baby food from a jar is the “safest” thing for your baby, but to me there is nothing as healthy as a real banana, or cooked apple, sweet potato.

The first 4-6 months of introducing solids is the one of the most formative time in a child’s life.  It’s a small, but definite window of opportunity to teach them what food should taste like, so why not pack in as much flavor, texture & spice as you can!  More and more research shows that kids will grow up to be adventurous eaters and make healthier lifestyle choices when you start with an array of foods from the beginning.  Check out How to Grow A Broccoli Lover if this topic interests you.

Let’s be Realistic, Shall We

I realize that there is a big time & convenience factor that shelf-stable baby food addresses, and I’m always an advocate for doing the best that you can with the time and resources that you have.  Making your own baby food may not be realistic for you, but if there is a company in your area that offers this product, consider incorporating their food into your baby’s menu, even in just the smallest way.

My prediction: you’re going to see more baby food companies popping up all over the country.  Some of them will offer fresh, some frozen.  Some will deliver, some won’t. I’ve even heard of a few CSA and cooperative models in the works as well.  I think that slowly people are coming around to the concept of offering fresh food to babies, and I just hope that the grocery stores can jump on that bandwagon to support that movement sooner rather than later.

And on a personal note, I’d love nothing more than to prove that buyer wrong!  Frozen baby food isn’t dead…it’s just new.

Note to Readers: I’d particularly love to hear your thoughts or comments on this subject.  What went into your food decisions for your child(ren)?  What more could baby food companies similar to Little City Kitchen Co. be doing to make this product more available for you?

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

How to Start a Baby Food Company: Lessons From a (Failed) Food Entrepreneur – Part 1

An interesting thing has happened since the last blog came out (where I announced my decision to stop making baby food); I’ve received several calls from startup baby food companies around the country showing their support for my decision and asking for suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls I experienced.  Early on, I made the decision to be extremely transparent with my blog in hopes other aspiring food entrepreneurs would find the information it helpful.  It’s inspiring to realize that they have.

So on that note, I’ve assembled a short list of things I’d do differently knowing what I know now.  Some make call it mistakes I’ve made, but I heard a quote recently that resonates with me even more:  You don’t know what you don’t know.

Surround yourself with a qualified team

I’m talking about a formal group of trained specialist that are there to help you succeed, not just your friends & family that you rely on for emotional support. This could be a formal incubator program (like La Cocina or the newly-launched Food Craft Institute), it could be through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or the Youth Business Association (YBA), or it could be your own steering committee of highly trained experts. Experts being the key word here.

In my perfect food world, I would have liked to have: a graphic designer, a food lawyer, a product development & packaging expert, a public relations specialist, a commercial kitchen consultant, a CFO, a business strategist, a food distributor, and about a hundred other roles that I found myself in throughout starting this company.

Looking back, I would have been willing to pay several thousand dollars to surround myself with this type of talent, but again, at the time, you don’t know that.  It really (really) does take a village…

Find a business partner

I was not looking for a business partner in the beginning, and in fact, had adamantly insisted I didn’t need one.  While the ease (and control) of being a solo-preneur is nice, eventually it worked against me and may have been the biggest mistake I made along the way.

You need to share the burden, the successes, the motivation, and the workload.  You need someone to keep you both creative and accountable, and you definitely need someone call you out on being a jackass!  Looking back, I could have hit the breaks six months ago and put energy into finding the right business partner, but by the time I realized this, it was too late.

Advice: Look for someone who has a skill set complimentary to yours and shares the same basic vision and philosophy as you do.  Sign a mutually beneficial NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so you can speak freely about your ideas, and start exploring potential scenarios.  Brainstorm first; figure out the numbers next.  This could take years, and (I think) to my detriment, I was too impatient.

Prioritize raising investment money

Your business growth depends on having money.  If you have no money, you end up doing everything yourself.  If you do everything yourself, you waste precious time, and you get tired.  If you get tired, then you don’t have the mental or physical energy to stay in an entrepreneurial frame of mind.  And that’s the kiss of death.

Four small hints:

  1. Expect to invest three times as much as you originally intend.
  2. Institutions don’t like lending to startups with no sales history; it becomes a little easier to gain access to capital after one year of revenues.  If under one year, be prepared to have a co-signer or prove to them that you are able pay the money back if your business isn’t successful.
  3. It can take upwards of six months to secure a small business loan (for small food startups, this is generally in the 25k range).  Start the process earlier than you need, even if you think you won’t need it.
  4. Every successful entrepreneur I’ve met says the same thing: Raising capital becomes an ongoing, and everyday part of the process.  It’s always on their mind and on their radar.

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!  And a heartfelt thanks to all the customers, friends & family that have shown their support in the last few weeks…

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.


A Change in Direction for Little City Kitchen: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

As many of you know, this has been a tumultuous few months for me and for Little City Kitchen Co.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the struggle to make this a profitable venture, and after several months of weighing my options, I’ve finally come to a decision: it’s time to stop baby food production.

There will be additional details with logistics coming out for customers (some are at the bottom of this post), but in the spirit in which I started this blog, I wanted to share why I’ve come to this decision, and my process to get here.

Although I have been hesitant to share my doubts publicly, I’ve grappled for several months with where to take Little City Kitchen Co.  I’ve learned through this process that commercial-scale cooking isn’t for me.  Give me the microphone for a 200-person cooking demo any day, but keep me out of the kitchen!  Not only was the cooking physically (and mentally) draining, but to my detriment, it took me out of my entrepreneurial frame of mind.

Let me be clear, I do still believe that this type of baby food business can be profitable, and given the proper amount of motivation and support (both financially and with collaborative partners), this could still be a hugely successful venture.

It boiled down into two simple options for me: grow, or die.  And I decided that I didn’t have the infrastructure or the motivation in place at this time to grow.  There is certainly the possibility that I will re-launch the baby food at a later date, but not in the short-term.

A Little Heartbreak

The part that breaks my heart (just a little) is that I’m still convinced that 1) I’ve created a great product, both in look and in flavor, and 2) there is a dire need for this type of baby food on the market today, and 3) it’s not a product you can just put on the shelf and expect to sell; there is a large amount of education that needs to take place first.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my ego has taken a big hit.  I’ve always prided myself on being the one that can make anything work, so it’s hard to make such a dramatic change without some crap bubbling to the surface.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion that maintaining the “status quo” by continuing on this path is actually the weaker move.  The stronger move is to admit this isn’t working and to make a change.  So that’s what I’m doing.

My New Outlook

Somewhat surprisingly, I feel really good.  I still feel like I’m in the right place, surrounded by the right people, and have no regrets about any choice I’ve made to get me here.  My hope is that by not putting my energy towards that part of the business, I’ve made more space in my life to attract other, even better, opportunities.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself…over and over and over.

So, what’s next?  Don’t worry, I’m not out of the baby food business entirely!  I’m going to keep on writing and teaching, two parts of the business I’ve always loved.  Stay tuned for a four-part baby food cooking series in the next couple of months with more hands-on instruction.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of writing a book, baby food or otherwise.  I wonder if the title ‘Confessions of a Failed Food Entrepreneur’ is available??   In the meantime, there will be blog posts dedicated to lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully it will help both inspire and provide a realistic picture for other food entrepreneurs out there.

Read more about Little City’s direction…

Baby Food Orders for Customers

The next baby food pickup/delivery date will be Saturday, March 10 as you know.  The order form will be coming out in the next few days.  I don’t want to leave all my best customers high-and-dry, so there will be opportunities to continue ordering in April and May, but they will be limited to existing customers only.  So those of you who have just started ordering through Little City Kitchen Co., you should have plenty of opportunity to stock up on food if needed.

So there you have it.  Big news.  I don’t want to get too mushy here, but I do want to take a moment to thanks all my friends, family & customers for their amazing support over the last two years.  I’ve received so many incredible calls, texts, emails, etc… with kind words throughout this process.  It really has meant so much – thank you thank you!!

Wait, this is starting to sound like a goodbye.  I assure you, it’s not.  You don’t think you can get rid of me that easily, do you?

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Make Your Own Baby Food: Scoop on Starting Solids Blog Series by Little City Kitchen Co.

People always ask why I bother teaching parents how to make their own baby food when I’m selling my own.  My answer is always the same: whether they buy some from me, or make their own, the goal is getting kids to eat more “real” food.  I feel there is a (very big) difference between roasting & pureeing your own sweet potatoes and buying them in a jar that is shelf stable for two years.  I don’t think they qualify as sweet potatoes anymore.  So here’s why you should consider making your own…

Reason #5) Teach baby to like a variety of flavors

Here is your opportunity (your first and one of the best) to expose baby to a variety of flavors that will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy food choices.  Pack as many flavors, spices, and textures you can into the first few months.  Take advantage of this stage, because it starts to diminish the moment they start walking.  For more on this, check out: How to Grow a Broccoli Lover.

Reason #4) Better control what baby eats

There is no better way to know where you food comes from than when you make your own.  (I don’t know who grew those peaches in a jar?). Chose organic food whenever possible (see the Dirty Dozen) and support your local farmers if that’s an option in your area.  We live in a toxic world, so if you have access to good, clean food for your baby, then everyone wins.

Reason #3) Taste varieties that aren’t available on the shelf

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen baby food with roasted kohlrabi, blood oranges or Chioggia beets on the supermarket shelves before.  Whether you’re in the Bay Area or not, hopefully have access to heirloom varieties of foods that you can introduce to baby, and most likely these are not foods available in any pouch or jar.  And if you refer to reason #5, you’ll understand why it’s so critical to introduce them to so many flavors from the beginning.

Reason #2) Teach your kids what food should taste like

There’s something a little unnatural about the baby foods on the shelves.  The flavors are bland, the colors are muted, and the texture is super (super) smooth.  The bright flavors are lost during the high-heat processing method or from sitting on the grocery shelf for extended periods of time.  Set up your own baby food tasting experiment.  Sauté up some carrots and compare them to three different jarred varieties.  Which one tastes more like a real carrot?  This is your chance to teach kids what real food should taste like.

Reason #1) Re-establish a connection to food

I’ve saved the most important reason (from my perspective at least) for last.  As a culture, we’ve lost our connection to food.  Most people think food comes from the grocery store and have no concept of how it came to be there.  Take this opportunity to involve baby in the whole process: have them watch you roast sweet potatoes, smear it all over their face so they can taste the flavor, give them a cooked chunk to squish in their hands, and do anything to involve them in the process of transforming raw ingredients into their food.  Take this time to teach them that real food something to appreciate.

You’ll see from this list that nowhere have I mentioned saving money.  Some companies have taken the position that making your own baby food is less expensive, and while that may be the case with some ingredients, most parents I speak with aren’t drawn to making their own baby food for that reason.

They just want to feed their kids the healthiest food possible, and on some level, they know the answer doesn’t come from a jar.

Interested in reading more?  Check out a Few of My Favorite Posts which has information on best baby food equipment, making your own grain cereals, healthy fats for babies, and more…

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

Straddling the Line Between Inspiration and Reality: My Quest for Profitability

I’ve been delaying writing this blog post.  Well, not really delaying, just reluctant to commit to words the biggest struggle I’ve faced throughout this process: building a business that is financially sustainable.

For those new Little City Kitchen readers out there, I went on record saying this would be the most honest food blog you’ve ever read.  This week’s blog is a departure from the usual baby food-related topic and is more of a “day-in-the-life” of a food entrepreneur.

There’s a delicate balance that every entrepreneur needs to find between inspiration and reality.  You need enough inspiration and creativity to stay motivated, but not so much that you spend all day with your head in the clouds.  You need enough reality to stay grounded, but not so much that you become bogged down with everyday issues.  And straddling that line is tricky…

So where does that leave me now?  This leaves me in a precarious position, because <gulp> I haven’t figured out how to make this business profitable…

The Most Common of All Traps

I’ve fallen into the most common trap for new entrepreneurs: trying to do everything yourself in the beginning, getting burnt out in the process, and losing sight of your original purpose as a result.  Totally, and utterly, classic.  How annoying.

I came into this knowing that it takes a while for businesses, especially food businesses, to become profitable.  Becoming profitable (to the point of being able to support myself) is still certainly possible, but it requires a lot of growth, and I’m not sure that I’m motivated enough anymore to fully commit to that.

I’ve spent the last several months in a state of self-reflection trying to identify what I love about the business (and what I do really well), and what I don’t love about the business (and what I don’t do really well).  I’ve done everything from flip charts to spreadsheets, brainstorms to meditations.  My typical “Jill” approach.

The Result

The result: I love teaching and inspiring parents & other food entrepreneurs, building relationships with my customers, developing the recipes, and writing this blog.  Everything I don’t love (and therefore don’t do very well) has to do with manufacturing the baby food, and particularly cooking in large quantities.

In theory, that’s the easiest component to delegate, and while I’m working on some potential solutions for the production, it still doesn’t solve the bigger question I keep asking myself: is this still the right path & direction for me?

How’s that for honest?

I think it’s normal (healthy, in fact) for entrepreneurs to question their direction along the way.  You’re constantly making decisions, evaluating how well those decisions worked, and then comes the ongoing “tweaking”.  However, I’ve reached a point where this goes beyond needing small changes, and I’m faced with the larger question of where to go from here.

Here is what I know: something big has to change.  This could mean I develop a business partnership with someone who would manage the production, or possibly even stop the baby food production all together to focus on teaching.  It may mean that I go back to work in some capacity, or work more on another idea I have to help budding food entrepreneurs.  I’m considering it all.  The idea of stopping production is a tough pill for me to swallow.  Parents tell me all the time how much their kids love the food, and how good they feel about giving it to them.  The idea of disappointing my customers weighs on me constantly.

Part of the reason I write blogs like this is to provide a very real picture of what it’s like to start a new business.  Nobody talks about these things, which is a shame considering these are the realities that every entrepreneur faces along the way.  I wish more people shared this type of information with me when I was getting started!

In spite of all the struggles, and although I would do things differently now based on what I’ve learned throughout this process, this has been one of the best decisions and experiences of my life and one that I’m proud to have gone through.  I’m still actively working on a solution that will both personally & financially work for me, so continue reading about the recent changes in direction for Little City Kitchen Co.

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.



A Guide to Legumes: Incorporating Beans into Baby Food – Scoop on Starting Solids blog series

Let’s face it, cooking dried beans can be a daunting task, and it’s certainly not the first food you would associate with baby food.  You have to soak them ahead of time, cooking times are unpredictable, and we all know what property helped them to become notoriously known as the “musical fruit”.  How do you easily incorporate these nutrient-packed little legumes into your baby food, and can you do it in a way that’s easily digestible?

This is not a blog about how to cook dried beans (I’ll leave that to you & Google).  It’s about how to make them beans digestible for baby and to give you some recipe inspirations for baby food that you can use when you’re making your own.

And for those who have no interest in cooking dried beans from scratch, we’ll even talk about a specific brand of canned beans…one of the few canned items that I recommend for parents.

Behold the Bean

What makes them good for baby?  From a nutritional standpoint, beans are packed with fiber and protein, about 8g of each in ½ cup.  They’re digested and absorbed slowly, making baby (and us) feel fuller for a longer period of time.  Beans are also very low on the glycemic index, which means there’s no dramatic spike in insulin.  They’re great for maintaining consistent blood sugar levels and are typically a very satiating food.

And now we come to the word on everyone’s mind: digestion.  Here are some suggestions on how to make dried beans more digestible…for baby and for your entire family.

Tip #1) Soak dried beans for 2 whole days – This is a process called “sprouting”, but you drain the beans before they actually sprout.  Change the water 1-2 times per day and keep the soaking beans in the refrigerator, not on your kitchen counter!  Most of the gas-causing agents are in the skins, so a 2-day soak with several water changes usually takes care of 80% of the gas problem.

Tip #2) Add kombu or other sea vegetables when you cook the beansKombu has enzymes that further break down the beans making them more digestible.  Add a 2-3 inch strip to the beans to the pot during cooking.  Available at most natural food stores.

Tip #3) Ease babies into beans the first time – start small if little ones are new to legumes.  Give a few spoonfuls of your bean-based baby food to start, and feel free to combine with your favorite fruit, veggie or meat.  If you use the two methods above (like I do at Little City Kitchen for all our bean flavors), then the chances are baby will be able to digest them easily.

Canned beans

I don’t generally recommend canned items, but there are occasionally some items that are good compromises.  Native Forest coconut milk is one of them (the brand we use exclusively at Little City Kitchen), as are canned beans, specifically the Eden Organic brand.  Most canned goods have BPA in the lining, but the Eden Organic brand are both organic and come in BPA-free cans.  If you’re going for a canned bean, then this is the brand to buy.

Recipe ideas

Once your beans are cooked (or drained and rinsed if you’ve gone the can route), just throw them in your food processor with water or coconut milk, add any other fun ingredients and buzz away.

  • Red beans: wonderful source of iron, go “Cajun” style with some okra, celery and green pepper, or sweet with some cinnamon and coconut milk
  • Black beans: for savory, saute up some onions, mushrooms & garlic or for sweet, add some fruit like mangos or peaches and coconut milk
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas): think hummus here…lemon, basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese
  • White cannellini beans: go savory with some roasted carrot, parsnip and orange zest

Go forth to the bulk bins at Whole Foods and report back with your own bean adventures!

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

The Scoop on Nitrates & Baby Food: Dig into the Carrots, Beets & Spinach…

For those of you who have attended one of the Little City kitchen baby food cooking classes or demonstrations, you’ll know that I love an interactive class. I watch everyone around get inspired by the questions and conversation, which inspires me as well.  There are always common themes, but one topic that seems to be coming up frequently is concern about nitrates.  Should you be concerned with nitrate levels and avoid baby foods like beets, carrots & spinach?

I asked our favorite pediatrician, Dr. Julia Getzelman, founder of GetzWell Pediatrics for her perspective.  She said that by six months old (when most babies start eating solid food), babies have enough stomach acid to digest just about anything you could throw at it, including nitrates.  In fact, she goes on to say that “kids would have to eat more than is almost humanly possible for nitrates to even be in the toxic range.  Whew!

The AAP has only issues some cautions around nitrates if you’re dealing with a baby under the age of three months old.  This doesn’t apply to 99.9% of the parents I speak with throughout the day, but see the full statement here if you’d like to read more.

Common Causes of High Nitrate Levels

Just to put your mind even more at ease, let’s talk about three common causes of high nitrate levels, and some suggestions that the everyday parent can use if they’re still concerned:

Cause: Unregulated well water – not too common here in the city
Solution: Use tap or filtered water in formula or if you’re making your own baby food
(Note – we use reverse osmosis water at Little City kitchen for all baby food)

Cause:  Conventional/synthetic fertilizers
Solution: Buy organic fruit & veggies, which are grown without synthetic fertilizers

Cause: Long storage times
Solution: Buy fruit & veggies from a local source.  Spinach from the farmers market is better than spinach from the grocery store.

In our cooking demos and classes, I talk a lot about giving kids a variety of foods.  Veggies such as carrots, beets and in particularly dark, leafy greens like spinach are all healthy foods to introduce early.  Don’t let your concern about nitrates get in the way of feeding your kiddos these great items!

So the short version: don’t be too concerned about nitrates, but if you still are, use local & organic produce and tap water to make your baby food…or buy some of ours!

Since the Burlingame farmers market is closed until April, we’re doing special orders every few weeks.  Next pickup/delivery date will be Sunday, February 5, so stay tuned for our flavors of the week.

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

Common Mistakes with Homemade Baby Food…and How to Avoid Them

There is a lot to worry about when you’re a new mom or dad, and even more so once you enter the great big world of “what am I going to feed the little one”. If you’ve made the choice to make your own baby food, there seems to be a whole other set of concerns that parents experience: What equipment do I need, what foods should I use, how do I store it, etc…

After a year of making baby food nearly ever week as Little City Kitchen Co. has grown, I feel like I’ve learned a lot of shortcuts and tips along the way. So here are some of the most common mistakes one can make as they embark on homemade baby food, and some suggestions on how to avoid making them.

Mistake #1) Buying expensive specialty equipment:

So you’ve been eyeing the $150 Babycook at Williams-Sonoma or any of the other cook & puree baby food appliances. In general, I’m not a fan of buying any piece of equipment that only serves one purpose (especially one that you’re not going to need after six months of use). If you were ready to spend $150 for the Babycook, consider adding $100 more and buying a food processor that you’ll use for the next 15 years.

Those baby food makers have one thing in common: they steam and puree the food. Which brings me to my next mistake…

Mistake #2) Thinking you have to steam everything

You’ve heard me say it several times before, and I’ll keep saying it…There’s a whole world outside of steaming baby food! Remember what I said in a past blog about flavorful cooking methods. I do a ton of roasting, sautéing and braising, so don’t forget about these other cooking methods to get lots of flavor into the baby food.

Mistake #3) Waiting to stock up on the basics

One of the biggest joys for me is to hear how inspired people get after taking one of my baby food cooking demos. But…then they have to spend the day buying a few supplies that I recommend (I’m working on a solution for that by the way, so stay tuned).

There are some things you can buy ahead of time (say when the little one is between 3 and 4 months old) that you’ll need:

  1. Cans of Native Forest Classic Coconut Milk
  2. Either Ice cube trays or 4 oz glass Ball canning jars
  3. Different kinds of whole grains (black rice, quinoa, farro, etc…)
  4. $20.00 coffee grinder if making your own baby cereals is on your list
  5. Various dried herbs and spices, maybe 2 tablespoons of each

Mistake #4) Cooking separate food for baby

I always tell people, the time consuming part of making your own baby food is the cooking of it, not the making of it. If you want to spend a couple hours in the kitchen making special food for baby, then that’s fine, but there’s a better way.

I recommend that you incorporate cooking for baby into your normal family cooking. Within the first couple of months of eating, they can and should be eating just about everything you do, so just hold the salt and puree it up. Roast up four sweet potatoes: two for your dinner, two for baby food. Sautee up zucchini and onions with olive oil and parmesan cheese: half for your dinner, half for baby food. This will not only save you time, but (hopefully) it will also encourage you to continue cooking healthy family meals.

Interested in More?

If you’re interested in reading more about making your own baby food, check out a few of my favorite posts for information on baby food storage containers, cooking methods, equipment reviews and more…

Happy cooking!

Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist.  Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.

Getting to the Root of the Recipe: Baby Food Flavors for Fall

In this blog, we talk about all things baby food; making it, storing it, the health of it, etc…  But the one area I’ve been reluctant to share is actual baby food recipes. Call it “trade secrets” or my entrepreneur protectiveness kicking in, but you normally don’t get specifics from me unless you take one of my cooking classes or attend a cooking demo.

People ask why I bother with teaching baby food making classes.  Seems contradictory since I want to sell them my own baby food, right?  I’m equally as (if not more) passionate about teaching & educating parents about healthy baby food as I am about producing my own.

So in that spirit, today’s blog is going to all about baby food ideas inspired by the fabulous fall flavors, and root vegetables in particular…  And hint hint, these can also be used for your own family dinners, just cook extra and reserve some for baby food.

The Scoop on Root Vegetables

Although I can’t stand the cold weather (one reason I moved to the Bay Area from Boston), I do love soup & stew season.  And a large component of any stew of mine is root vegetables. They’re earthy, hearty, packed with good nutrients, are super-easy to cook with…and they make excellent baby food!

My Favorites:  Golden beets, Tokyo turnips, purple kohlrabi and celery root
Other great options: Parsnips, sunchokes, rutabagas, and watermelon radish
Recommended cooking: Either roast in the oven or sauté on the stovetop for best flavor

The Root of Roasting:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Peel root veggies, chop into ¾ – 1 inch pieces
  • Toss with either olive oil or melted coconut oil, and add any herb or spice
  • Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet (not crowded) – I like to put aluminum foil or parchment paper on the bottom for easier cleanup
  • Roast in oven for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes
  • They should be slightly browned and soft when finished.  If they get too brown, turn the oven down 25 degrees.  If they start to get dry, add more fat like olive oil.

The Root of Sautéing:

  • Peel root veggies, chop into ½ inch pieces.
  • In a large skillet (10 inch or 12 inches) over medium heat, heat up enough olive oil or coconut oil to coat the bottom of the pan, approx 2-3 tablespoons.  (Be liberal; remember babies need lots of healthy fat).
  • Add root veggies and sauté for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes.
  • They should be slightly browned and soft when finished.  If they start to burn, turn the burner down. If they start to stick, add more fat.

For baby food, consider mixing some of the stronger root vegetables (like beet, celery root, parsnip) with milder and sweeter options (like sweet potato, kohlrabi, baby turnips or sunchokes).  It’s a good way to balance out the strong earthy flavor, and the kiddos seem to really like it.

Fun Fall Flavors

And finally, here are some recipe ideas you can play around with…baby food or a side dish for your family dinner, take your pick.

  • Roasted golden beet with apple, ginger & fresh parsley
  • Sautéed celery root & fennel with coconut milk, white sweet potato & cinnamon
  • Roasted parsnips with sweet potato, pear & fresh thyme
  • Homemade spiced pear sauce with coconut quinoa & clove (see baby cereals)
  • Roasted butternut squash with carrots, sautéed turnips and a hint of maple syrup

Happy cooking!

A Few of My Favorite Posts

Being a one-man show has its advantages…but not this week.  When you’re the “do-it-all” person and you come down with a stomach bug, your progress comes to a screeching halt.  On the road to recovery now, but suffice it say I haven’t been in the kitchen cooking at all, nor have I been feeling my most creative…which tends to put a damper on my writing.

So forgive me for cheating a little bit this week, but in lieu of our normal blog (and because we have a ton of new readers) I thought I’d assemble some of my favorite blog posts over the year to share with you.

Making Your Own Baby Food

So your little one is 5 months old and you’re getting ready to start solids.  Congratulations!  You want to make your own food, but where do you start?

First, checkout my review of baby food making equipment.  My favorite piece of equipment is the food processor, but if you don’t have one of those on hand, here are some alternatives that work well.

Next, learn all about my favorite cooking methods here.  People think that baby food can only be steamed, but there’s a whole world of roasting, sautéing and other methods to bring out the best flavors for little one.

You probably know that I’m not a fan of boxed rice cereal being a first food for baby.  Homemade grain cereals, however, can be a wonderful addition to baby’s diet, so check out my guide to making your own baby cereals here.

And finally, once you’ve made all this great stuff, how do you store it?  Read all about the best baby food storage containers here.  I have a “Best Buy” and a “Wanna Splurge” item in each category.

Scoop on Starting Solids

One of the most exciting parts of starting Little City Kitchen Co. is that I spend a lot of time educating parents.  I started my Scoop on Starting Solids blog series to help the many questions that I get asked.  The questions are answered by my favorite pediatrician, Julia Getzelman, or another expert in the field.

A lot has changed in the baby food world in the last three years.  It started with the revised AAP guidelines that were released in 2008.  Read here to find out the newest recommendations for introducing allergens.

I use a lot of healthy fats in baby food including coconut milk, coconut oil and olive oil.  You can learn a little more about cooking with healthy fats here.

Every parent wants to raise a child that makes healthy eating choices, but most people don’t realize that they can teach food preferences from the very beginning.  Read all about how to grow a broccoli lover here.

And finally, I talk a lot about why rice cereal isn’t the best first food.  You can read a little more about that and some other suggestions for first foods here.

Enjoy the recap…we’ll be back next week with lots of new goodies to read.

Baby Steps to Healthier Eating – Part 1: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

I’ve been a foodie all my life, but until starting my own food-based business, I never had given much thought to what healthy food really was. It wasn’t until I started immersing myself in the food world did I come to my own conclusions…and you may be surprised by the results.

Like many, I relied in the past on the experts to tell me what was healthy: low fat, low carb, low calorie, etc…  That’s all healthy, right?  NOPE!  If all this food is healthy, how come we are the sickest and unhealthiest we’ve ever been in our entire history?

I have moved to a much more “traditional” diet, i.e. nutrient dense foods that our ancestors have eaten (and lived extremely healthy lives on) for thousands of years.  High quality meats, saturated fats – yup, even the stuff we’ve been told is bad for us like butter and lard – lots of vegetables, and raw, unpasteurized milk.  If you’re interested in reading more about this philosophy, check out the Weston A Price Foundation for more details.

You’ve heard me say before, “I’m a common sense girl”.  Until around the 1940’s, the American diet had been pretty much the same…and then came the advent of the microwave and TV dinners.  The result: we started to move away from eating real food and shifted to processed foods.   And to boot, it certainly didn’t help that we had a boom in marketing and advertising for these shortcut products.

Fast-forward to present day.  We’re still being told that shortcut products are healthier than the real versions; we’ve been trained well.  Don’t rely on advertising or food packaging to tell you that things are good for you (Dave: ignore the high antioxident message, trust me).  Use your common sense, and to me, there is nothing more common sense than eating “real food”; unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, meats, and seeds.

So how could the average person start eating healthier?  Start small.  Here are some examples of things you can do that take very little time and have very little cost…

Baby Steps to Healthier Eating

  • Buy one pound of grass-fed beef instead of conventional beef.
  • Pick a few fruits or veggies to buy organic each week: See the Dirty Dozen for a guide on what to buy organic.
  • Go to the farmers market one more time per month than usual (Great iPhone app recommendation: Farmers’ Market Finder – I love mine!)
  • Ask a meat vendor at the farmers market to tell you about their products; what they eat, how they live, etc…
  • Check out the Weston A Price website and research a traditional diet
  • Go to a restaurant one less time than usual per month, cook at home instead
  • Buy pastured eggs…not to be confused with organic, free range.  Read about the difference here.
  • Donate some of the unhealthy processed food you have in your pantry
  • Cook with one new whole grain every week.  This is my favorite website to learn about whole grains.  Quinoa, farro, wheatberries and black rice are my favorites.
  • Read a chapter from The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Brilliant author, and a wonderful “real food” educator and advocate.
  • Given the choice between buying local grapes (from a farm 30 miles away) or cheaper grapes (from Mexico or Chile) in your grocery store, choose local.  Or chard, or apples, or carrots, you get the idea.

I’ve also assembled some general guidelines for people trying to eat healthier foods, but we’re going to cover that another week.  Reminder to hit up the Food Allergies Rock free concert this Sunday, November 6 at Golden Gate Park.  Until next week, happy (and healthy) eating!

A New Mantra: Trust More, Fear Less…Even Just a Little

I recently did something that I’ve never done before…I took up meditation. Never having meditated a single day in my life, I booked myself for a 6-day meditation retreat at a place called Expanding Light in the Sierras.  Decided to go totally “unplugged” and forego any internet, email or phone during the retreat as well.  Go big or go home…right?

In the beginning of building this business, my brain was overwhelmed with creativity, possibilities, and just overall enthusiasm.  There were many sleepless nights, but what an exhilarating time.

As I referenced in one of my last Food Entrepreneur blogs, the thoughts that now occupy my mind are increasingly laced with worry and doubt, which besides being really heavy and annoying, tend to be counterproductive in the forward-progress department.

I will say that I caught onto meditation pretty quickly, but it wasn’t until day 4 or 5 that I actually started to like it.  During my retreat, I spent considerable time thinking about the fears I have, both as and entrepreneur and as a person.

Along the way, one realization hit me: the opposite of fear is trust.  So that is what I’ve decided to build my own mantra around.  When I start to feel the worry creep back in (or bulldoze as the case may be), I just say to myself:

Trust more, fear less…even just a little.

And Now What…

And every entrepreneur out there knows, there is a lot of fear and uncertainty when starting a new business.  I don’t expect to get rid of all that stuff overnight, but if I could just make a little progress each day, then I think that’s a big step forward…

One of the goals I have for the next month is to get really (really) clear on what parts of the business I love, and what parts I don’t.  You’ll probably be seeing some changes in the Little City kitchen…many little tweaks, but possibly some larger changes coming too.  An exciting time!

Food Allergies Rock

Food allergies are a common concern for new parents…so for anyone who’s kids deal with food allergies on a regular basis, check out this awesome free event called Food Allergies Rock next Sunday, Nov 6 at Golden Gate Park.  Nibble on some great food, chat with other parents, and rock out to songs by Kyle Dine that specialize in teaching kids about food allergies.

The first 300 people get goodie bags, and since Little City Kitchen Co. is a sponsor, you’ll find in there a $5.00 coupon off any of our baby food!

November Farmers Market Schedule

Many of you have noticed that Little City Kitchen Co. has moved to an every-other week schedule at the Burlingame farmers market.  Here are the upcoming November/early December dates:

October 30
November 13
November 20
December 11 (probably our last day at the market)

Hope everyone has a great week!

A Common Sense Approach to Introducing Solids: Scoop on Starting Solids Blog Series

I’m a common sense girl.  I’d like to think that it’s one of my more redeeming qualities.  Some may find it annoying, but I’ve found that questioning everything can help weed out the superficial stuff and get to the heart of an issue.

As I’ve dug deeper and deeper with Little City Kitchen Co. into the world of baby food and infant nutrition, I’ve come to rely even more on this trait to help sort through the maze of antiquated guidelines and marketing messages from large baby food companies.  I can understand why parents are confused…everyone you talk to has a different opinion or suggestion!

The goal of every conversation I have with parents – be it during a baby food cooking class, demo, farmers market – is to provide another perspective to be considered as you’re are deciding what is best to feed baby.  To me, one of the beauties of being a parent is getting to decide what makes the most sense to you.

With that being said, I’ve assembled some common sense rules around introducing solids and deciding what to feed your little one.  And if any of these don’t makes sense to you, that’s okay, just skip over it and pick out the ones that do.

Five Pieces of Common Sense Advice

Educate yourself: Seek advice from at least 3 qualified people and don’t wait until your kid is 5 months old to start reading up on it.  A lot has changed in the baby food world in the last 3 years…  Suggested reading to open up your mind: Feeding Baby Green and Real Food for Mother & Baby.

Don’t always listen to your friends: Everybody parents in a different way, so you can listen to them, but don’t assume they’re always right.  Friends have a way of “guilting” you into things (“what do you mean you haven’t started rice cereal yet?”), so just add their opinion to your repertoire of resources.

Question your pediatrician: Doctors know a lot, but they don’t know everything.  I had a parent who’s doctor told her to avoid coconut because it was a “nut”.  (ps – it’s a fruit guys, not a nut). You guys know by now the value of healthy fats like coconut oil in baby food.

Many doctors don’t know about the 2008 revised AAP guidelines and are still telling parents to hold off on introducing allergens for several years…  There’s no reason you can’t bring your own research to your pediatrician and have a conversation if you have conflicting opinions.

Feed your baby (and yourself) real food whenever possible: To me, carrots that can last 24 months on the shelf aren’t carrots anymore.  They’ve either added preservatives or heated it to a high enough temperature to kill all the good stuff.  If at all possible, make your own food, buy some of mine, or buy fresh/frozen baby food from someone in your area. Grab the pouches for a long road trip, but use them sparingly if you have another option.  Do the best you can on this one; I know it’s not easy.

And finally, my cardinal rule: If you wouldn’t eat it yourself, why would you ever feed it to your kid?  Look folks, baby food should taste great.  If you cringe at some of the stuff in the jars or pouches, think about how you can start incorporating more real food into baby’s diet.  Roast four sweet potatoes, two for you for dinner, and two in the fridge to make some baby food.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be real.

Birth & Baby Fair

We had another great time at the Birth & Baby Fair this past weekend.  The baby food cooking demo was the biggest crowd yet…close to 60 people came and participated.  Check out the photo album here.  Special shout out to my rockstar helpers: Kate K, Penny C. and MaLanie F.  You guys were awesome!

Hope everyone has a great week!


How to Grow a Broccoli Lover: Teaching Babies to Like Vegetables

One of the most popular baby food flavors at Little City Kitchen Co. is swiss chard and kale with caramelized onions, apple and white sweet potato.  Kids eat chard?  Really?  I talk to parents all day at the farmers market, and one of the most frequent statements I hear is “My kid doesn’t like _____”.  Typically they fill in the blank with a green vegetable like broccoli or green beans.

Which begs the question: Can you teach food preferences, or do babies already know what they like and don’t like?

I recently had the honor of attending the first annual Childhood Obesity Conference hosted by Slow Food San Francisco.   You may know one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green and creator of the WhiteOut initiative that calls for a ban on baby white rice cereal.

My long-time readers know that I’m honest to a fault, so while I was familiar with the book Feeding Baby Green, I must now confess that I picked up the book for the very first time last week and sorta “crammed” for the conference – sorry Dr. Greene!  Imagine my surprise that nearly every philosophy and conclusion that I came to through my own research (with the help of experts like pediatricians and nutritionists) was echoed and even expanded upon in this wonderful book.

So back to baby’s food preferences…can they be learned?  YES!

Why is it important to expose your kids to a variety of foods at an early age?  Because you’re setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.  You have a distinct window of opportunity when they start solids to teach them to love a variety of flavors.  Once they start walking, that window closes and they rely on what they’ve been taught so far to carry them throughout toddler-hood and the rest of their life.

Dr. Greene talks about the key word to introducing new foods is patience, and to that I would also add the word persistence.  If you keep those two words in mind, you’re likely to have a drama-free feeding experience and a healthy eater in the end.

Three small steps that parents can take:

  • Involve baby in the new food ahead of time.  Let them feel the avocado skin, squeeze the cooked sweet potato in their hands, watch you chop up the green beans before you feed it to them.  Getting them familiar with flavors and aromas will help them be more accepting of those foods.
  • Eat these foods yourself for dinner.  Kids will naturally want what’s on mom or dad’s plate, so if you eat the same foods, they’ll be more apt to try them themselves.
  • And the most important one: Try new foods 7-15 times before allowing baby to make up her mind.  Just a spoonful a day needed, once a day, for at least a week.  No need to force it, just try again the next day if they aren’t interested.  You’ll be surprised when all of a sudden they gobble up the swiss chard they’ve been refusing for days!

Yup, you too can grow a broccoli-lover!   Please feel free to leave a comment below about your own experiences with getting kids to eat less-common whole foods!

Birth & Baby Fair

And just a reminder, Little City Kitchen Co. will be at the Birth & Baby Fair this Sunday at Fort Mason from 10-4pm.  We’ll be leading another baby food cooking demo that day at 3pm, and you can pre-register here to reserve your seat.  Hope to see you there!

Healthy Fats: Using Coconut and Olive Oil in Baby Food

Time for another chat with Little City Kitchen Co’s favorite guest blogger, Dr. Julia Getzelman, founder of GetzWell Pediatrics.  Today we’re going to tackle a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: using healthy fats such at olive and coconut oil in baby food, and some alternative breakfast foods for baby.

A reminder to readers – submit your baby food-related questions by posting a comment on our Great Baby Food Giveaway blog, and if we feature your question on our blog, you win a free pack of baby food from Little City Kitchen Co., just like Penny and Julie did this month – congratulations guys!


Question from Julie P: I hear that healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil are good for babies and can be used in baby food.  Is this true?  Do I need to worry about the calories or fat content?

Dr. Getzelman: Yes!  Fats are good for babies.  Their developing brains and immune systems need lots of fats and olive and coconut oils provide distinct fatty acids to the body.  Organic butter is fair game too.  Be sure that babies’ food isn’t too lean by drizzling first press olive oil over prepared foods or allowing raw coconut butter or oil to melt on warm purees.  They will love it!

Jill’s note: for those familiar with Little City Kitchen Co. baby food, you already know that I use a lot of coconut milk and coconut oil in my recipes for this reason.  Coconut has gotten a bad rap in the past, but we’ve started to see a shift in thinking as the great benefits of this healthy saturated fat are recognized.


Question from Penny C: I wanted to ask for suggestions for breakfast for my 9 month old son. I’ve been feeding him pureed fruit and oatmeal from the box. I’m crunched for time in the morning and I would like to vary up his meal. Do you have suggestions?

Dr. Getzelman: What we think of as breakfast foods is shaped largely by culture.  For example, we think of carbs (often empty!) and sweets (like muffins or toast and jam) while the Chinese eat meat and vegetable soups for breakfast.

It’s good to start the day with good fat and protein so pastured eggs make a wonderful breakfast food and can be scrambled up quickly and served as finger food for your 9 month old, if he is already participating in feeding himself.

If he’s still taking purees, quinoa flakes (which can be made into a hot cereal) can be served with coconut butter or oil, almond butter, and fresh berries or a little cinnamon.  Alternatively, your son could have a puree (partly prepared the night before by using left-over steamed veggies) of mixed steamed or sauteed vegetables, chicken stock, a pinch of curry powder or some fresh or dried herbs.  He doesn’t yet “know” that breakfast is different from dinner or lunch and in some countries there isn’t much distinction!

Upcoming Events

Lots going on in the Little City kitchen for the next couple of weeks!

Scoop on Starting Solids cooking demo
Wednesday, Sept 21, 6:30 – 7:45pm
Whole Foods Los Altos
See event details and RSVP here

Guest panelist “Farmageddon
Local Chef’s Dinner and Conversation
Friday, Sept 23 from 6-9pm
Viewing at the Roxie and discussion following
View event details here

Scoop on Starting Solids cooking demo
Birth & Baby Fair
Sunday, Oct 2, 3pm
Fort Mason Pavilion
Details and register here
(Use code: LCK for 50% off registration) 

A Guide to Homemade Baby Cereals: Rice, Quinoa, and other Whole Grains

It should come as no surprise to my long-time readers that I tend not to agree with the “common” American philosophies surrounding introducing solids. You’ve heard me discuss new guidelines for introducing allergens, recommend adding spices to your own baby food, and address other common myths surrounding baby food.

One myth that really bugs me is the general assumption that baby white rice cereal from a box should be little one’s first food.  Whole grains can be wonderful for baby, but instead of using the highly processed boxed varieties (with absolutely no nutrients!), today’s blog will tackle the topic of making your own whole grain baby cereals.


When I’ve asked parents why they use baby rice cereal from a box, they cite two main reasons: food allergy concerns and high iron content.

If you’ve read the 2008 revised AAP Guidelines surrounding introducing solids, you’ll see that they now recommend introducing a variety of foods in the first few months, and in no particular order.  There are better alternatives if allergies are your concern.

And on the iron front, guess what folks; the fortified iron added to boxed rice cereal is not easily absorbed by your little one, so you’re better off cooking up iron-rich foods like meats, leafy greens and red beans for your baby food.

Remember, babies need a variety of foods, so make these whole grain cereals, but blend them with fruit, veggies, and meat for optimal nutrition.  Many of the baby food recipes at Little City Kitchen Co. have a whole grain component, but it’s never the star ingredient.

Making Your Own

Making your own baby grain cereal is relatively simple and fast if you’ve done a few things to prepare.

  1. You buy a whole grain of your choice
  2. Grind it into a powder using a coffee grinder
  3. Add some liquid and cook for about 5 minutes on the stovetop

Which Whole Grains?

Get creative people!  You can use just about any whole grain that you can find to make your own baby cereal.  Find them in the bulk sections of your natural grocer.  Whole Foods usually has a good selection, but my pick is Rainbow Grocery if you’re in San Francisco.

My favorites grains to use are:

Brown rice – I use exclusively Massa Organics, but brown basmati is a great too.
Red quinoa – a great source of protein; try toasting it in a dry skillet before grinding for even better flavor.
Black rice – I use Lotus Food’s Forbidden Rice, lots of antioxidants and a pretty lavender color.
Farro – an Italian version of spelt, very nutty and creamy

Other whole grains to consider trying: spelt, kamut, buckwheat, wheatberries, millet, amaranth, the list goes on.

The Daily Grind

Next, you need to grind the whole grain into a powder, and for that, I recommend buying an inexpensive coffee grinder.  If you wanna splurge a little, my favorite one is this one from Kitchen Aid at $35.00, but Capresso makes my value pick, a great one for only $20.00 at most Bed Bath & Beyonds.

Add ½ cup of your whole grain to the grinder and grind until you get the consistency of fine sand.  For brown rice, this can take 2-4 minutes, for softer grains like quinoa, it’s only 20-40 seconds.  Finer grind = smoother puree, so adjust according to your little one’s age and preference.

The Secret to Smooth Cereal

Most baby food recipes tell you at this point to heat up the water to boiling and just throw in the rice cereal.  I did that the first time…and it was not pretty.  The cereal formed these very unattractive lumps that were gummy and undercooked.  It’s sort of like making gravy at Thanksgiving; you can’t just throw in the flour and expect a smooth consistency.

I recommend reversing the process; chefs will know this as making a “slurry”.  Heat the water up until you can stick your finger in for only about a second (around 170 degrees, give or take).  Have your ground cereal in a separate bowl.  Pour the hot water over your ground cereal and mix thoroughly with a whisk.  Then transfer the mixture back to the stovetop and stir constantly on medium heat until it’s cooked, usually about 5-7 minutes.

Rice: Use a 1:6 ratio (1/4 cup of rice powder + 1 ½ cups of water)
Quinoa: Use a 1:3 ratio (1/4 cup of quinoa +3/4 cup of water)
Farro:  Use a 1:4 ratio (1/4 cup of farro + 1 cup of water)

Feel free jazz up baby grain cereal with ¼ cup of coconut milk, dried spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom, or a fruit puree.  You can also blend with savory ingredients like vegetables and meats.

So my parting words to you: stay away from the boxed rice cereal and get creative with whole grains.  And for the record, it’s not just for kids!  My breakfast this morning was homemade coconut quinoa cereal with peach puree, cinnamon and clove.  It was a recipe I made for the little ones, but it was too good to resist eating myself!

Finding Answers in the Woods: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

People often ask how I come up with my blog topics.  I wish I could tell you guys that I have a master calendar filled with scheduled content (sorry Sis!), but I typically wake up on Thursday mornings and think to myself “what am I going to write about today”.

I do tend to stick to one main principle: I write about what is on my mind…and more than likely, it’s what has been keeping me up at night.

If you’ve been reading my “Food Entrepreneur” blog series, you’ve probably noticed that the tone has changed in the last couple of months.   In the beginning, there were tons of things to share and lots of progress being made in the Little City kitchen.  Man oh man…that was an exciting time for me!  Didn’t get much sleep, but the wheels were a-turning!

The last few months have been hard.  As you begin to shift from the “dreaming” to the “doing” part of building a business, you learn really quickly what works and what doesn’t.  And it can be a somewhat painful and taxing process.

Finding Answers in the Woods

For those that know me, you’ll find this analogy somewhat funny since the words “hiking” and “Jill” don’t typically fall in the same sentence.  This journey reminds me of an Outward Bound course I took when I was 15 years old.  We had to walk through the woods, typically with no trail, using a few proven tools to get us to our destination.

In any new business venture, there is no clearly defined path. There is however, a clearly defined direction and goal.  You may trek a little to the right, or wobble to the left, but in general, you’re still moving in a forward direction towards your goal.  And hopefully you’re not going in too many circles.

In this (admittedly unpleasant) Outward Bound course, we had three tools to keep us pointed in the right direction: our map, our compass, and our group.

My Map

Also known as my business plan.  This seems to be in a constant state of tweaking these days.  What is the best way to produce this food?  How do I distribute?  How big do I want this company to get?  It changes often, but typically it’s still moving the company in the same general direction.

My Compass

Oh boy, this is a big one for me.  My dear friend and life coach, Alexis Robin of Nourish Life Coaching, taught me the concept of listening to your body compass.  That combined with intuition are the two most helpful tools as I try and find my way.

And if I’m being honest, I still have a lot of work to do on this front.  Listening to your intuition (I mean really, really listening people) requires your mind to be quiet.  My mind is anything but quiet these days – in fact, it sometimes even screams at me – so I’ll be working on that a lot in the next few months.

My Group

This is my tribe that I’ve told you guys about!  Someone told me last week that “it takes an army” to build a successful company, and after the last few months, I can now emphatically agree.   I’ve already found some wonderful people to help me on my journey, and look forward to finding even more along the way.

So, this should be a really interesting and exciting phase for Little City Kitchen Co.  There will be some changes coming, although I can honestly tell you that I have no idea what those will be right now!  In the meantime, we keep hiking and moving forward.

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 :-)