Easy Chicken Tikka Masala for Baby

Hello Everyone!

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What happens when your toddler finds your spice tin: a beautiful mess

So the post today is about making a tasty, well-seasoned chicken dish for your little one, but since I can’t photograph the results (reason being, the dish was consumed too fast by a 4-year-old and a ravenous 2-year-old last night for dinner. One bowl, two forks, on the couch, with me refereeing the saucy madness! Seriously, don’t let your kids eat this on the couch! Also, photographing chicken tikka masala is really hard and I just plain gave up). Anyway, I am posting instead, a picture of what happens when your entire spice tin comes in contact with previously mentioned 2-year-old. #spicemessmaddness

Good times, folks. 🙂

Seriously speaking, we had a sort of chicken breakthrough last night! Kirina, my 4-year-old, declared herself sort of meat-free a few months back.  Not sure why, not sure how, but she claims she doesn’t like chicken or meat and turns her nose up at any of it.  I think this has to do with the fact that she’s eating some pretty bland stuff at pre-school and it’s not really her favorite.  But dinner last night? She ate like a mad hungry wolf! So did Ela and my hubby too (not that there was much left after the little ones went at it).

I was psyched (who isn’t screaming happy when their family inhales something you just cooked for them? best feeling in the world!) to see them all eat with such zest.  Best part? It was EASY.  Which is key these days, between two small children, and a book to promote (did I mentione Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food is coming out in AUGUST?!! Shameless plug alert, folks!!) I have to think of easy-to-prep meals that are still full of flavor and comforting.

Here’s what I did: (super loosely written!)

Ingredients:

Meat and Veg: 1 package boneless chicken thighs, 1 diced onion, 5 chopped Roma tomatoes, 2-4 minced garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Spices: 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder. Salt to taste. Chili powder to taste.

Liquids: Chicken broth, half and half, water

Method:

  1. Sauce: Sautee onions in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat until translucent and there’s a little browning on the edges. Add a good pinch of salt while sauteeing. Add garlic and ginger and sautee for 3-4 minutes until aromatic. Add tomatoes and cook until they break down, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add spices and cook an additional few minutes until aromatic. Puree with a stick blender. Add some broth if you need a bit of liquid.
  2. Chicken: You can marinate the thighs in a little yogurt with salt and turmeric if you have the time (even 30 minutes is good).  If not, no problem! Cut the thighs into small chunks, sear in a frying pan, and then add it to the sauce.  Or just dump in the pieces if you are super rushed. It’s ok! Add about 1 cup of broth or water.
  3. Simmer, covered, on medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through. It took about 15-20 last night, but I seared the chicken first, so it cooked faster in the sauce.
  4. Add a few splashes of half and half to give it some creaminess. Warm through.

That’s it! The beauty of this dish is that it cooks itself, and particularly well if you have a Dutch oven that can cook the dish slowly. Better still, if you let the dish sit overnight the flavors will meld together.

FLAVOR.  That’s the whole reason that I think this dish was a hit. Seasoned, saucy and tender. And easy enough for two little ones to attack with a fork and bread (to mop up the sauce).

I think the dish also worked because we ate it together. On the couch.  Cuddled up, one child on either side of me. In front of MSNBC (hey, I need my political news!). My sweet hubby brought warmed bowls over when the little ones asked for more.  It wasn’t a traditional meal at the table, no. But it created enough of a happy and warm tradition for us and filled some hungry tummies with a well-seasoned meal.

Whether it is this recipe or something similar, try it! Feed your family flavor.

From my little ones’ highchairs to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

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My book! Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global 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 flavor. I’ve steamed, boiled, baked and pureed every ingredient from fish to fruit to pork to pumpkin.  And I’ve played with all sorts of spices from around the world, cooking up meals to try out on my 4 and 2-year-old. It’s been a cooking and writing adventure and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

All this obsessive passion led to a book deal with Quirk Books (I love them!! and my agent for finding them!) last year.  It’s been a wonderful and happy experience and I’ve had a chance to witness the inner-workings of how text goes from manuscript to pretty book.  Also how photographers can make baby food purees look like glamorous little bowls of goodness (go Christine Han!).

My whole life I have wanted to find a career I was passionate about.  It certainly wasn’t the law, where I first started out. After having children, I was at home, not quite knowing what my path would be in life.  But my little Kirina, God love her. Her intense dislike of bland food led me on this mission and passion to make seasoned and yummy meals for children. She’s led me to a whole new chapter (literally) in my life.

I feel very, very blessed to have such a wonderful team producing this book. Around the World in 80 Purees: Easy Recipes for Global Baby Food will be published by Quirk Books in August of this year! If you are curious to see the cover pages, check out my author site (omg I have an author site!) at Quirk.  You can also pre-order on Amazon, just click here!!

I look forward to a little more writing and posting as I navigate my way through the rest of this process.  In the meantime, don’t forget to spice it up!! Add a pinch of something flavorful the next meal you make for your little one.

From my little one’s high chairs to your little one’s, bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try Something New!

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

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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 Purees will 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 (it’s also a treat not having food smeared all over your blouse, as is usually the case at home!)

We were sitting at a lovely Asian fusion restaurant, where aromas of ginger, coconut and lemongrass wafted out of the kitchen. As we were munching on fish rolls and edamame, one of the moms commented on how her little one would never eat what we were eating. That it was too “different” for him and “he’d never try it.” Another mom mentioned that her child would be “scared” of the coconut curry she had ordered.

I was kind of blown away.

Ok, I was really blown away!

For one, my friends were all eating plates of highly seasoned foods (the whole group loves the bold flavors found in Thai-style curries and Japanese soups and starters) as they were saying this. How could you love something so much and simultaneously find it scary? And two, I was surprised at the assumption that a child would instantly dislike a meal or an ingredient simply because it was seasoned differently than what you might be typically eating at home.

How do you know if you (or a child) will like it if you don’t try it?

Both of my little girls happily nibble on dishes like Pad Thai, curried lentils or cumin scented potatoes. But it wasn’t always this way! It took a few tries for their taste buds to acclimate to a new dish, but after that it became part of their normal repertoire. Science backs this up: it is a well-known fact that introducing a variety of flavors, ingredients, seasonings and spices from an early age results in more adventurous and less picky eating as the child grows older.

Though I know my little ones won’t love everything they eat (my younger daughter dislikes carrots while my older one finds little joy in BBQ chicken), I don’t ever want to deprive them of the opportunity to try something new. Little ones have tastes all of their own and it’s our job as parents to nurture their tiny taste buds by exposing them to variety.

Don’t be intimidated by introducing your child to spice or world cuisine. Start with baby steps. If you’re eating out, offer your little one a bite of what you are eating. Ramen noodles, Pad Thai and other similar noodle dishes are and fun and kid-friendly options. Indian restaurant? Mix some curry with rice and offer that. Everything from a bite of seasoned fish to a piece of garlic bread can help broaden your child’s palette. As with all new foods, it might take a few tries to get your little one to enjoy it…so don’t give up just because they protest or spit it out on the first try. A small taste now can turn into a great love later.

It’s a New Year! Be bold and fearless when it comes to teaching your child how to eat well and eat diverse.

From Ela and Kirina’s table to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Crying Over Milk, Part 2

Nikon photos 022Hi Everyone,

Yes, it’s been 2 months since I’ve written anything.  I can’t believe it!  The last time I wrote I mentioned I was just starting to wean little Ela.  I was certainly having mixed feelings about it, but I decided after she turned one in March that it was time.  Over the last few months I’ve been dropping feedings, going gradually, to see how we would do.  We were down to one last evening feed before bedtime, probably my favorite time to feed her b/c she is so tired and relaxed and peaceful. All seemed fine.

And then it wasn’t.  And it hasn’t been.

About four weeks ago I developed a clogged milk duct. A painful, sore to the max, awful lumpy clogged duct.  I was exhausted and stressed out, but this was a new kind of exhaustion.  Not to mention I couldn’t sleep b/c every time I was on my side it killed.  I knew this was a possible side-effect of weaning, but I’m not sure I was really expecting it (at least not that kind of pain). I knew dropping that last feeding at night had to be done, if only to set my body and boob back to some sort of normal.

Boy was I mistaken.  I finally got up the courage to stop nursing Ela and since then nothing has been “normal.”

Yes, the infection cleared up. But It’s been a horror of hormones, emotions, fatigue and everything else since then. When I say horror, that is exactly how it feels. I feel like I am grieving something, which sounds ridiculous, but I have feelings of grief that remind me of when I lost my mom ten years ago. I cry at EVERYTHING. I cry at bottles, at heating up milk that comes from a carton out of the refrigerator and not me (mind you, I’d been giving Ela a bottle in the daytime so it’s not like we went cold turkey or anything).  I cry at songs, TV commercials and in the shower. I am absolutely bereft and never in a million years did I expect to feel this way.

Physically it has been no picnic either.  I am exhausted, like first-trimester exhausted. I get chills at night where my teeth chatter, and no number of fluffy blankets can make it stop. I’ve had heart palpitations, weird food aversions, loss of appetite and just feel sort of blah in general.

I scoured my baby books for any information on weaning side effects. Understandably, there is a lot of literature on the effects it has on a baby, but I was actually surprised at the dearth of info out there for how it affects a woman’s body.  An internet search did lead me to lots of blog posts and some journal articles about this and thank God, because I was beginning to think I was crazy!

Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?! Weaning is HARD! I am finding there are TONS of women out there that have experienced what I’ve been feeling…heavy, low feelings, physical aches and pains, a basic withdrawal of some sort that is hard to just put into words.

I’ve been struggling with this so much, but I think I’m starting to piece things together.  It was important to write this blog post today because I truly do think there is not enough out there for women who are weaning and experiencing these side effects.  For me, I definitely think there is a physical component at work.  When you nurse, all those good endorphins and oxytocin are released into your bloodstream, basically giving you a high whenever you feed.  After a year, my body must be used to that natural pick-me-up.  It will take time for my body to go back to it’s pre-nursing, pre-pregnant chemistry (let’s hope this happens fast b/c this sucks. Er, well, it doesn’t suck, that’s the problem, ha. ).

Mentally, it’s more challenging I think.  Ela is our last baby.  She is the last baby I will ever nurse.  She is the last baby who I can cradle in my arms, who will play with my gold necklace and pull my hair when she snuggles next to me and nurses.  I will never give that kind of nourishment to a living creature again.  It’s the end, simply put, of that charming baby phase.  No one even calls her a baby anymore.  She’s a toddler.  Gasp!

For days I grappled with whether I was doing the right thing.  I even researched ways to go back to nursing (which apparently you can.  It’s called re-lactation).  But deep down I know I will have to wean someday.  I will have to confront these feelings of sadness, of loss.  I know this all might sound ridiculous.  Loss of what? Your baby is fine! She is. But I’m perhaps not.  Not yet anyway.  I think it’s not something that is not often discussed, but grief can come in so many forms, so many shades.  Particularly after losing your mom, or parent, or a loved one, any other kind of loss feels so amplified.  It’s like your mind doesn’t know how to keep things in perspective and it goes into extreme grieving mode…the memory of past grief sends your brain into a tizzy.

So how’s Ela been with all this? Just FINE. More than fine.  She eats, and eats and eats some more.  She’s a tiny little thing who just loves food, loves to be fed, loves to laugh and loves to smear yogurt all over her face (and mine).  I actually tried to nurse her a couple days ago to see what would happen.  She looked confused and then laughed at me.  Something she’d always wanted and within a matter of days she’s moved on.

But that’s a good thing.  It’s reassuring to know she’s ok and not dwelling.  She’s growing and moving onto the next phase of her life.  Walking. Talking. Growing some more teeth (she still only has two!).

I woke up this morning feeling a little better.  I am getting there in small baby steps and am excited I actually had the drive to write.  And some time to cook up some yummy food for her and Kirina.  Let’s hope for brighter days. 🙂

From Ela’s (yogurt-smeared) highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

Crying Over Milk: The Unexpected Sadness of Weaning

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Wow.  Ela is 11-months-old.

When did that happen?!

She started off as a 5lb peanut and suddenly she is a crawling/standing/cruising 15lb butterball!

This week’s post isn’t really food-related.  But definitely nourishment-related.  I’ve made the decision to stop nursing in a month.

I can’t tell you how mixed-up I am over this decision.  I thought when the time came I’d be jumping for joy.  No more nursing in the car in a supermarket parking lot.  Yay!  In restaurants while trying to eat a meal.  Yay!  In front of llamas at the zoo (for real, this happened).  Yay!

Instead, I’m left with a rather heavy, emotional feeling, which I can only call sadness.  But why? I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few weeks.

I never even thought I’d be able to nurse Ela.  I couldn’t nurse Kirina, my oldest, and didn’t expect anything different the second time around.  With Kirina, who spent time in the NICU while I recovered from a difficult childbirth, nursing never came naturally.  I was sad, frustrated and unfairly chided myself for being a mommy failure because I didn’t produce enough milk.  But I didn’t have to chide myself—Kirina enjoyed her formula and whatever breast milk I had and has grown into a fine, happy (sometimes crazy) toddler.

My experience with Ela, on the other hand, has been completely different.  She was handed to me minutes after she was born (an astounding feeling in and of itself) and almost immediately started rooting around looking to nurse.  For real!  I was completely and utterly amazed.  She knew exactly what to do.  I still find it pretty awesome that such a synergy, such a bond can exist between a mother and child, only minutes after meeting one other.

I cannot adequately describe the wonder of watching a little being grow and thrive, solely on the milk that I’ve been providing for her.   But it isn’t just Ela who’s been thriving–it’s been me too.  In unexpected ways.  Biologically I feel relaxed, calmer, when she latches on.  But mentally, that feeling of providing, of nourishing Ela on so many different levels…it leaves me content, happy and full of love.  I’m not sure how to even describe, adequately, that part of it.  I’m just stunned that in my life, I’ve had the opportunity to nourish someone’s tummy and someone’s soul.

We are not having anymore children.  So Ela is it in terms of all things baby.  Perhaps I am sad because the end of nursing means the end of that sweet baby phase, which I will never be able to experience again.  It’s overwhelming to think that phase of my life can be over just like that.  No more nursing her to sleep, no more rocking her in my arms in that way, no more playing with her little wisps of hair while I cradle her.   The fleeting nature of those tender baby years…I really feel that right now.

This post is certainly a bit sad.  But I am happy little Ela is thriving and ready for the next phase.  She’s starting to walk, use a cup, eat more varieties of food.  She is a sweet and happy little soul and I have to let her grow up.  I realized this a few weeks ago when I gave her some water in a cup.  She was thrilled! Her face said it all: “Mommy, you wench, you’ve been holding out on me! This cup contraption is great and it takes HALF the time to suck down liquids. Cool beans.”

Ok. She doesn’t talk. And she didn’t say “cool beans.”  But she will one day.

At any rate, I am thankful to have had this experience with Ela.  Anytime you feed your baby it is an amazing thing.  You, and only you, whether through breast, bottle or spoon, are nourishing your baby and helping them grow.  It’s the most important work you will ever do.

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

Ela’s Eggs: Healthy Finger Food for Babies

Happy New Year everyone!

Hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season. We’ve recovered, knock wood, from various tummy bugs and colds. Yay! I am not only appreciative of everyone’s health, but very happy to get back to cooking and feeding my babies good food (Saltines and Pedialyte get pretty old fast).

For Ela, who just turned ten-months this past week (omg!), I’m on the hunt for fun finger foods.  She’s not always in the mood for mommy shoving a spoon in her face and enjoys feeding herself.  For Kirina, that tummy bug took its toll!  We’re trying to gain back some weight, so each bite needs to count (and you all know, parents of toddlers, how much effort it can take to get even  one bite of anything healthy into a finicky mouth).

Enter the humble egg.

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Fast. Healthy (high in protein and good yolk fat for baby).  Budget-friendly.  Easy to cook. And versatile. Yes, you can cook them in various ways (scrambled, boiled, omelettes, etc.) but you can also season them.

Yes, season!

Ela’s current way to eat eggs is scrambled (I scramble eggs with a touch of half-and-half and a pinch of salt and cook them in over low-medium heat in a lightly buttered pan) with a pinch of oregano or Italian seasoning.

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Dried Oregano

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My husband introduced this to me the first year we met and he made me the tastiest batch of scrambled eggs.  His secret was using the slightest pinch of oregano in the egg mixture.  It totally transformed the eggs into something new and different!

But don’t stop there! You can try a pinch of just about anything on a scrambled egg.  Paprika, cinnamon (Kirina’s favorite), basil, onion powder, cumin or coriander powder.  What’s great is that you can serve a different “flavor” of egg anytime you want, making for a different meal each time.  Toddlers will get a kick out of choosing their “egg flavor” which might also help them eat more of it (ah, the budding independence of a tyrant, um, toddler). And babies will learn to taste new and yummy spices.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  A quick note on eggs: make sure you check with your pediatrician and ask when your little one is allowed to eat them.

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

Ginger to the Rescue: Using Spices to Boost Baby’s Immunity & Soothe Tummies

My babies are sick. 😦

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In fact, my whole family got sick this past week. Ela, who just turned 9-months, has been battling a cold and chest congestion, while Kirina, 3-years, got nailed with the stomach bug. My poor husband (who shouldered most of the cleaning-up and rescue duty because he 1) has a stronger stomach than me 2) is more mature about baby throw-up, meaning, he doesn’t scream and run away and 3) he’s just better at this stuff, or, so I tell myself.  Whatever, he’s just the better parent and I suck! But I digress) also got nailed with some hybrid of whatever the girls have.  Me?  I’m coughing a lot, and losing my mind (update: I started this post a few days ago. I now have a fever and am totally miserable!).

We haven’t been able to eat much in the Saini household this week, but some things have been wonderful.  In fact, they’ve been surprisingly effective.  The first being ginger, our new best friend.  Did you know ginger has been around for a zillion years and is known to soothe all sorts of tummy problems?  It reduces inflammation and is very protective. Asian countries use ginger in just about everything, particularly ginger teas (I remember drinking hot water and ginger infusions when I was pregnant).  Kirina’s nurse even recommended flat ginger ale for her stomach.

How could I use ginger with Ela?  Too young for soda for sure, but it got me thinking, what if I infuse cooking water with ginger and boil/steam her veggies in it?  I tried a carrot and ginger combo.  I thought it would be a great immunity booster, and also a gentle way to introduce ginger to her palate (hey, I have to multi-task. I’m still in the business of spicing up baby food people!).

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It was awesome! And super easy. Simply take a slice or two of fresh ginger root and add it to your water while boiling/steaming your vegetable of choice.  The carrots took on a lovely, light ginger flavor.  Ela ate them all up! I think this cooking method would be fabulous with lots of different herbs and spices.  Mint, cilantro, basil leaves, etc.  Even a clove or two in boiling water would create a nice perfume and gentle flavor.

Give it a try and let me know your thoughts! And most of all, stay well this holiday (and cold and flu) season.  Lots of love!

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