‘Tis the Seasonings!!

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Happy, well, everything!! This is a festive month no matter what you are celebrating.  The Saini household is a global one, so we like exploring all the different traditions people around the world celebrate this month. Admittedly, it’s usually a hard time of year for me personally.  Since losing my mom 11 years ago, nothing about the holiday season has been the same for me.  Some days I find myself stuck in a beautiful muck of memories, where my heart can’t figure out whether to cry or smile.

One thing I have noticed this year, is that my little ones bring the meaning of JOY into this season.  Truly.  At 5 and almost 3, they are two little sparkly lights running around:

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They get excited over lights.  Over decorations. Over anything sparkly.  Gingerbread houses. And most of all, the experimental baked goods that are coming out of mommy’s kitchen.

I say experimental, because I find baking to be a glorious, scientific, mess.  And anyone that knows me knows I’m the only Indian girl around that can’t do math or science (there’s a reason I majored in English and went to law school people!).

But you know what? This is no time to be frightened. It’s a time to be bold, try new things, EAT DIVERSE! My goal is always to be open-minded in trying new things, because I want to foster that spirit in my own children.

You can do a lot of things with your little ones this season, to broaden their minds AND their palates.  Have you tried another culture’s holiday traditions?  Food is a wonderful way to teach culture and tradition of another country.  How about a Finnish-style sugar cookie, full of warming cardamom? Or simple gingerbread (google your favorite one) cookies or cake? Baking spices are fabulous ways to introduce new tastes to your little one. Cinnamon, clove, cardamom, ground ginger, nutmeg. All “baby-friendly” and festive. 

Me personally? I saw a New York Times recipe for iced sugar cookies from Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book (she’s now my new cookie hero).  I’m my daughter’s room mom this year and for her holiday party I thought I’d do a cookie decorating party with her class. Me? Bake cookies? I was brave and just tried the recipe out this weekend. OH MY GOSH! IT WORKED! I can’t tell you how inspirational it was to just bake something and feel confident.  My kids were psyched, I was psyched (and then my husband came home and ate half the plate). 🙂

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You know what else? It reminded me of my mom. Maybe it was Dorie herself, or the fact that I was being a brave chef (my mom tried everything, she had no fear of cooking and had golden hands in the kitchen).  Or the fact that I was teaching my kids how to just try things. Cooking and baking = DOING.  And DOING is a way to handle everything from missing a loved one, to helping others, to learning new things.  I love that there is a whole world of people out there to learn from and look up to.

Sending you lots of love this holiday season from my entire family to yours. Look for Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food, at your favorite bookstore. xo

Baby’s Thanksgiving Table: Fun & Flavorful

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Whether your little one is just starting out on purees, or you have an older baby mastering finger foods, Thanksgiving is one of the best times of year for introducing flavor to your child’s ever-growing palate!

As adults we are fortunate to enjoy all the flavors and spices of the season:  Delicious roasted turkey rubbed with savory herb butter.  Sage, rosemary and thyme play prominent roles in flavoring stuffing and seasonal root vegetables. Pumpkin pies and sweets are amped up with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

We often think we have to create separate and bland versions of these dishes for baby because they are too young for such tastes.

But I assure you they are not!

As you know, my mission is to encourage parents to feed their babies diverse foods and seasonings from the very first bites.  Including your baby in the family meal (and Thanksgiving is the ultimate family meal!), flavors and all, is a great start to raising an adventurous eater.

So how can we bring these flavors to our babies and toddlers?

  • For brand new eaters (6 months and up), puree parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  Roasted root vegetables, like parsnip or carrots, are easily turned into the right consistency with the help of a little stock or water. Flavor them with whatever you usually use—rosemary, sage, cumin, even a bit of mild curry powder.  Let your little one explore, in puree form, what you are feeding the adults.
  • For older babies, roasted or steamed root vegetables are the perfect finger food.  Already soft and tender, you simply have to cut the veggies into bite-size pieces and serve.
  • Other ideas? Sweet potato puree with a pinch of baby-friendly ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg, good for all ages.
  • Mashed potatoes with herbed garlic butter.  Children and potatoes usually go together well!
  • Thanksgiving soups, ranging from brothy to creamy are perfect to serve to babies.  Butternut squash soup, in particular, is a favorite.  It’s a flavorful, yet mild vegetable and can be spiced with everything from onion and garlic to nutmeg and sage.
  • Pumpkin puree with cinnamon, clove or pumpkin pie spice mix is always a nice and easy way to introduce flavors.
  • Stuffing. Yes, your baby can have some, but probably best to make sure your little one is ready for finger foods.  Also, watch out for large chunks of nuts or raisins or other items that might be too big for baby. Otherwise stuffing is a treat!
  • Cranberry Applesauce.  Whisk a little cranberry sauce into your regular applesauce for a sweet and tasty dessert.

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Thanksgiving is about loved ones, food and family.  And a good meal can bring us all together.  Include your little butterball in all of the foodie festivities!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Food and Love. For all.

20160910_124104Dear Friends,

I am having a hard time talking about babyfood or any food this week. My heart really aches for everything that has been happening around us since the election. The fear, the anxiety, the darkness that seems to be surrounding us all. I am saddened by everything, but particularly saddened that our little ones are having to navigate through such weighty issues at such a young age.

One thing that has helped this past week is simply being around my two little girls.  Being 5 and 2.5 years old brings a sense of pure innocence and happy energy to our home. Their needs are few–love, hugs, food and Anna and Elsa dress-up clothes.  Kirina and Ela spin around the living room literally singing with glee.

I suppose that is how it should be at this age.

But I realized something pretty important in watching them play. Seeds, of everything, get planted in them at such an early age. Want them to eat diverse? Start young! Want them to be compassionate? Start young! Want them to have manners and be respectful? Start young! It feels overwhelming to think that YOU, as a parent or caregiver are tasked with teaching them all these things.  Yes, it’s scary, but wow.  You alone have the power to mold your child into someone who is full of love, open-mindedness and compassion. Someone who will be a global citizen.

For me personally, I want to make sure my little ones learn about all of the different cultures and customs in the world.  How we all may look and sound different, but are the same on the inside and have the same color blood.  That each culture has something wonderful just waiting to be discovered.  A new custom or birthday ritual. A different way of cooking or eating your favorite fruit or vegetable.  Merely realizing that your curiosity should lead you on a new adventure, instead of fearing what is different.

We have so much to learn from one another.  Fun, amazing things that can enrich your heart and mind.

If you are looking for ways to raise a globally aware citizen, someone who is open-minded and curious, try introducing some new ideas.  Something as simple as a pasta noodle can go a long way in teaching diversity.  From Italian spaghetti, to the Japanese ramen noodle, to the Southeast Asian rice noodle.  Venture out to different enclaves in your neighborhood to try new restaurants. Find a favorite Portuguese place or eat Biriyani at an Indian place. Meet new people and learn about them. Teach kids that culture and diversity are everywhere.  And that’s fun to embrace diversity.

Food isn’t going to heal our nation so instantly.  I know that. But it’s one way to bring everyone together. And it gives me comfort, in times like these, that no matter what is happening around me, I have the power to teach and raise and expose my children to the world and all of it’s beautiful citizens.

Please be kind to each other in the coming weeks and always.

From Kirina and Ela’s dining room chairs to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

“Everybody Cooks Rice”

Greetings and Happy Fall!

I’ve been on a blogging break as of late.  But for a good reason! I’ve been on a little tour with what I like to call my third baby, my baby food cookbook, Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food.  It’s been fun!  Between that and running after my two actual “masala babies,” however, I’ve found it nearly impossible to keep a regular blogging schedule.

But I had to write today because I ran into such a lovely little book at the local library yesterday! It was one of those books you are drawn to and meant to find. Little Ela happily sat down in an aisle after finally finding a stash of books and as I sat next to her my eyes landed upon a book called Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley:

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Now, as you know, I’m obsessed with all things global food.  I am fascinated by what people eat around the world and how the same ingredient is prepared in totally different ways to create unique dishes representative of that country or region.  And this worn, bunny-eared, little book was calling my name right there in the children’s section of the library.

The story is about a little girl named Carrie who’s been sent looking for her little brother Anthony, whose gone off to play in the neighborhood somewhere. The young girl visits several neighbors’ homes: the Darlingtons from Barbados, the Diazes from Puerto Rico, the Huas from China, the Trans from Vietnam, the Bleus from Haiti and even encounters a little Indian boy carrying a tiffin (Indian stainless steel lunch containers) full of food.

In each home, dinner is being prepared, particularly dishes involving the humble little rice grain. The Diazes are making rice with black-eyed peas, adorned with friend onions and bacon.  Carrie is offered a bowl and loves it.  She remembers she’s supposed to be looking for her little brother so she tries another house.  She soon discovers with each visit that because her neighbors are from different countries they are preparing their rice dishes in different ways! She ends up tasting Vietnamese rice with nuoc cham, a garlicky fish sauce, Creole rice, which is spicy and Carribean-style rice, which is bright and yellow from a spice called turmeric, and biriyani, an Indian-spiced baked rice dish. When Carrie finally finds her brother and comes home, she’s not only stuffed full of yummy rice dishes, but discovers that her Italian mommy is cooking rici e bisi, rice with peas, Parmesan, butter and grated nutmeg.

What a beautiful story of food, culture and community!

The book really struck me, because it’s one of those rare children’s books that teaches not only diversity of food, but diversity of culture, which often can be found right on your own street (or as the book jacket aptly describes, Carrie discovers a “new world right in her own backyard”).

I aspire to teach my children about the world and all the beautiful and interesting citizens in it. As this book, and hopefully my own cookbook shows, you can teach your children about world culture through every single meal you serve them.  A passport on a plate as I like to say. You are not only teaching your children to be diverse eaters, but teaching them about other cultures and customs that might be new to them.  This is turn teaches little ones respect and open-mindedness, lasting life lessons.

Food brings everyone together, and crosses all borders. I can’t wait to find more diverse books like this one for my little ones (and me!).

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try Something New!

An oldie, but goodie! #trysomethingnew

Masala Baby Food

Hello!!! Happy 2016! (I’m about a month late). 😉

DSC_1021 It’s not always about the PBJ (though PBJ is indeed yummy)

I’ve been very busy writing a book! (Hence the lack of blogging the past few months). Around the World in 80 Pureeswill be published by Quirk Books this year! More on this soon, I promise.

In the meantime, I have a story to share, one that involves taking risk. Well, ok, not that much risk, but for a little one’s taste buds, it might be! And that’s ok. Trying new things, including different foods and flavors, should be on everyone’s 2016 agenda.

I stumbled upon this resolution last month, as I was enjoying a night out with some mom friends. We all have children under the age of five so it is always a treat to get dressed up and have someone else do the cooking for a change…

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Easy Ways to Dress Up Yogurt for Babies (Adults Too!)

Hello Everyone!

Baby yogurt. Best thing ever.  It’s easy, nutritious and always available. Best of all, Ela loves the stuff.  When my harried self is at a loss (or just too exhausted) for lunch or snack ideas a little container of yogurt comes to our rescue.  Not only Ela, but Kirina and even myself slurp down cooling yogurt in one form or another (Kirina has moved onto yogurt tubes, me, I sort of indulge in a few bites of Ela’s yogurt.  The years of buying creamy, whole-milk yogurt are fleeting and I must take advantage!  It’s so much tastier than the adult, boring, low-fat stuff.  Sigh.  I love dairy fat.  The fat does not love me back).

Whole milk yogurt doesn’t always come in lots of flavors. Yes, there are the pre-made baby yogurt containers, but Ela grew weary of those week after week….after week…after, um week (two kids equals chaos.  which equals a heavy reliance on yogurt containers).  Our wallet also grew weary.  Mommy had to think fast! I tried this:

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Whole milk yogurt.  Plain.  Creamy.  Organic.  Yum, right?  I got this in response:

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More of a yuck than a yum.

I can’t blame her.  It’s not like I sit around eating plain yogurt either. I eat it with fresh fruit, a spoonful of jam, even a sprinkling of ground cardamom.

Think of yogurt as a blank canvas for you to decorate with fun flavors. Not only are you creating variety for your little one, but you are also training their taste buds to appreciate new tastes.  Here’s a combo Ela appreciated:

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Kiwi, mango and cardamom.

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The kiwi was fresh and the mango frozen (frozen fruits are a wonderful thing to have on hand!  Especially for out-of-season fruits).  I ground up the cardamom, just a pinch, with a mortar and pestle.  Just mash everything up and add to yogurt.  The consistency will depend on the age of your baby (chunkier textures are ok for babies over 8 months).

Try other fruits and spices too.  Cinnamon, grated nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice. Get creative to keep baby’s taste buds happy and engaged!

From Ela’s highchair to your little one’s bon appetit!

My book! Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food

Masala Baby Food

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Hello Everyone!! Happy Spring!!

I hope you all have been very well.  I’ve been over the moon, nutty excited about the fact that in a few short months I will officially be a first-time AUTHOR! Like a real one.  With a book. With  my name on it. Which I wrote. (Can you tell I can hardly believe it myself?)

These past few months have been a whirlwind of learning, cooking, photo shoots and just pure excitement. As anyone that has written a manuscript knows, the completion of and creation of a book is like having a baby.  For the past few years I’ve been obsessed with the topic of how to feed our babies and children better.  I have madly researched recipes, talking to parents from around the world about what they feed their children.  Studied taste bud development and the science of how we learn to eat and accept…

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