Ela’s First Spoonful! Find out what it was…

Hi Everyone!

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Ela getting ready for her first bites!

Finally!! The moment is here! Ela turned six-months-old this past week and we got the official clearance from her pediatrician to start solids. YAY!

Oh the pediatrician.  Ok, before I mildly rant about anything, I want you to know that I love this office.  They are wonderful souls and are always there for us.  But the fellow we saw yesterday is a bit old school and gave me the run-down of what I should be feeding Ela for her first bites.

Surprise!  It was all bland, boring and yucky!

Sigh.

As with Kirina, the same box of pasty rice cereal was mentioned.  And eating applesauce for five days in a row before trying anything else.

And, “no need to use seasonings.  babies don’t need them.”

Um, ok, this kind of kills the entire premise of my book, my blog, and my general culinary mission in life.  And I thought watching Ela get her vaccinations was painful.  The food lecture was kind of soul-sucking!

Listen, I get it…safety first.  But nowhere in the world do babies eat pasty, dehydrated rice cereal from a box and enjoy it.  Babies around the world EAT.  They eat WELL.  As mentioned many times on my blog and in articles around the pediatric world, baby food doesn’t have to be boring or bland.  Babies around the world start eating what their parents are eating from a young age and they are ok.  More than ok!  They eat sushi!  They eat spices and seasonings! And those babies just think it’s normal.  They’ve been exposed to so many varied tastes from a young age and they’ve grown up to be diverse eaters because of it.

Anyway, enough preaching.  I do think safety is a big deal when it comes to babies, and yes, allergies can occur.  So when trying any new food (or spice), waiting a few days as the doctor suggests isn’t a bad idea.

What is a bad idea is making the same mistakes with Ela as I did with Kirina (yes, sadly, the first child is the guinea pig and the second child gets the benefit of dumbo parents who have wised-up).  This means we did NOT start with a box of dried rice cereal for Ela.

Ela’s first food? Drum roll please!!!

Cinnamon Pear and Fig Puree!

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Warm and yummy!

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Ela’s first spoonfuls

 Ok, I cheated and gave her two items.  Butternut Squash Soup was on the menu too!

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Creamy & Yummy Baby Bites: Butternut Squash Soup

The full-bodied, adult version.  What my husband, myself and Kirina ate for dinner the same night.  Can I tell you how addicted I am to butternut squash soup?  Farm fresh butternut squash, sautéed with onions, garlic, a pinch of garam masala, salt and pepper.  Puree it all together and you have a comforting soup for all members of the family.  Ela was sitting in my lap and reached for my spoon.  I couldn’t help but give her some.

And you know what?  She LOVED it!  She loved both meals, which was so comforting to watch.  My little Ela ate my food. 🙂

It was certainly a different experience with older sister Kirina (now 3), who was fed bland boxed rice cereal mixed with formula at 4 months of age.  It was a pasty mush that she spit out for 4 days in a row until we decided to try some real food and discovered that she just wanted food with more flavor.  That whole experience felt like a huge mommy-failure…watching your child reject, again and again, the first foods you are giving her feels terrible.

Not so this time. Yay. 🙂

I can’t tell you how excited I am to start feeding Ela all sorts of new foods and flavors! Her little taste buds are going to experience the joys of eating well.

Join me on this journey of new foods for new taste buds.  I’ll be posting more frequently I hope (as much as they little gummy bears let me).

I leave you with a simple pear and fig with cinnamon recipe.  So simple, it is barely a recipe:

Ingredients:
4-5 (preferably organic) ripe green pears, washed, peeled and sliced.  Ripe pears smell sweet and are soft to the touch.

2-3 fresh figs (look in your produce section for these), stem discarded and sliced.

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Pear and Fig. Culinary partners in crime.

Method:
1.  In a small saucepan, add fruit, figs and a few spoons of water.  Add a pinch of ground cinnamon.  Cover and cook on low to medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until mixture is soft and your house smells wonderful.

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Pears and cinnamon. Figs not pictured. I can’t do everything. 🙂

2.  Puree with your favorite device.  I used a hand blender:

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3.  Serve and enjoy! And make extra because your husband and toddler will suddenly like baby food as well.

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Munches. As we call her.

 

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

Teething Ice Cream and Other Natural Teething Remedies from Around the World

Masala Baby Food

Hello everyone!

This week we are talking about little Ela:

IMG_3843 Ela!

Nearly six-months old and almost ready for real food (not that breast-milk isn’t real, but seriously, how long can you live on this liquid stuff? Poor Ela is reaching for food on the table and we are sneaking her some nibbles and tastes here and there). A few more weeks and I’m assuming we’ll get the official go-ahead from her pediatrician.

Anyway, before Ela’s foodie adventures start, she has to live through some teething. Poor baby has been drooling up a monsoon and chewing on everything in sight.  It’s been happening for months now, and I just can’t imagine where these silly teeth are.  Nothing has poked through yet.

So far, chewing on toys has been enough. But lately, her whole hand is in her mouth and she seems more irritable than usual.

20140728_172953 I’m teething and my sister put…

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Teething Ice Cream and Other Natural Teething Remedies from Around the World

Hello everyone!

This week we are talking about little Ela:

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Ela!

Nearly six-months old and almost ready for real food (not that breast-milk isn’t real, but seriously, how long can you live on this liquid stuff? Poor Ela is reaching for food on the table and we are sneaking her some nibbles and tastes here and there). A few more weeks and I’m assuming we’ll get the official go-ahead from her pediatrician.

Anyway, before Ela’s foodie adventures start, she has to live through some teething. Poor baby has been drooling up a monsoon and chewing on everything in sight.  It’s been happening for months now, and I just can’t imagine where these silly teeth are.  Nothing has poked through yet.

So far, chewing on toys has been enough. But lately, her whole hand is in her mouth and she seems more irritable than usual.

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I’m teething and my sister put this silly hat on me. Not having a good day people!

 

Anyway, one day Kirina and I were eating a tasty frozen experiment (also known as Peach Frozen Yogurt) that we concocted.  We were at the kitchen table and baby Ela was sitting in my lap as we ate.  She reached out for my spoon and shoved it in her mouth! She doesn’t like anything cold but she lapped the frozen yogurt up like a kitten.  That totally got me thinking…maybe it felt good on her gums.

I quickly googled whether I could feed yogurt to a six-month old (looks like you can) and gave her a few more teeny bites.  She loved it!  Teething Ice Cream was born! (ok, well, it’s not really ice cream, and pretty low in sugar, and I was using it mainly on Kirina to get her to eat yogurt and have her “ice cream” fix all at once, but, you know, moms always love anything that can multi-task). I thought this was a fabulous gum soother.

So here’s the teething ice cream recipe:

I’ve used it a few times on Ela and it just makes her smile when she’s fussing around and seems to be in gum pain.  First of all, this recipe is pure kitchen MAGIC.  I read about doing this with bananas, but as I have a glut of frozen peaches to use (we picked too many a few weeks ago and I’m desperate to use them up), this is my fruit of the moment.  You will simply be amazed at how fast this turns out–no machine, no egg yolks, nothing complicated:

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen peaches, a few teaspoons of whole milk yogurt, sugar to taste (yes, that’s it!) (double it if you want some for yourself)

Method:
Step 1:
Sprinkle a bit of sugar onto your peaches (I went sort of liberal here, oops) and place in food processor (a mini one works best)

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Step 2:
Blend (or chop or grind or whatever button you got on that thing).  Magic will occur right before your eyes! The mixture will get chunky at first and then cream into a soft-serve style yogurt.  Instant, healthy, possibly organic (if you wish) frozen yogurt or teething ice cream.

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Peach Teething Ice Cream

I can’t tell you how cool this was to watch form. Usually I have to lug out the ice cream machine, but this was done in minutes.

Now, since I can’t leave well enough alone, this snack-time moment left me wondering what other foods are good for teething babies.  Also, what do babies around the world use for teething remedies? I am a self-professed research whore and went a little nuts.  Here is what I found:

Natural Teething Remedies from Around the World:

Zweiback Toast (Germany)
Zweiback is a type of toast or rusk that is twice-baked (“zwei” means twice and “baken” means baked).  It kind of reminds me of melba toast and is given to teething babies in Europe.  You can find them here in the US as well.  Italian biscotti are a close relative.

Clove paste (India)
Pure ayurveda.  For those of you not familiar with it, ayurveda is a 5,000 or so year-old method of natural healing in India.  Herbs, oils and other morsels of the earth are believed to have certain medicinal properties.  Cloves have an analgesic quality.  Put a little bit of clove paste onto your finger and rub into baby’s gums.  To make clove paste, simply take 2-3 cloves with a few drops of water and mortar and pestle it.  I don’t think that’s a verb.  But you get my meaning.

Cold Carrots or Cucumbers (UK/Europe)
Not the mini carrots, but the long, garden fresh ones.  Peel them first.  Remember to watch your little one when letting them mouth on these.

Chamomile Tea (Russia/Europe) or Chamomile Ice Cubes
For you and for baby.  Brew yourself a cup.  You need it.  To calm down. 🙂  Chamomile leaf  has long been known to relax the soul.  Dip a washcloth into tea and rub onto baby’s gums.  Make sure you COOL the tea off before using.  You can also freeze the tea in ice cube trays and use as a soother when needed.

Beef Jerky (Europe or babies that shop at Seven Eleven)
Yes, folks.  Somewhere in the world, a baby is using this as a teether.  It is a common practice in parts of Europe.  I don’t know if we are brave enough to try this one.

Brandy or Tequila (the American South & Mexico)
Rub a little on the gums, drink a shot yourself, everyone is much less cranky.  In all seriousness, this is a very common practice for relieving sore gums.

Breast Milk Popsicles (Um, is Pinterest a country?)
If you have milk to spare, turn them into pops! Summer treats. Simple and effective.

Bagels (United States)
My next-door neighbor suggested this with my first kiddo.  A very common, and effective idea.  The hard exterior feels good on little gums.

Non-Edible Teething Remedies

Baltic Teething Necklace (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)
For wearing, NOT chewing, this necklace is fascinating! Made of amber resin and worn around the baby’s neck, the necklace releases succinic acid which is a natural analgesic.  The necklace must come in contact with baby’s skin for it to work.

Sophie the (stupid, $20 dollar) Giraffe (France)
I resisted buying this silly thing for months.  It was TWENTY bucks!  But it works.  It’s made out of a natural rubber and both my little ones found relief from dear Sophie.

Wooden Kokeshi Dolls (Japan)
Old wooden dolls were given to Japanese children to mouth on. These days it is a wooden ring. Pretty cool. Read more here.

Eggs (Africa)
Though not what you think and not for eating.  Folklore says to place an egg in a sock and hang over baby’s bed. Would love information on this one!

So there you have it.  Hopefully your little one will find relief in one or some of these remedies.  Frankly the teething ice cream is my favorite…mainly because I have an excuse to eat it. 😉

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

 

Meet the Inspiration Behind “Masala Baby”

Masala Baby Food

Hi Everyone,

IMG_3390 My inspiration: Kirina

This is a special week over here.  My sweet little girl, Kirina, turns 3 this week!  She is a vivacious, mischievous, fun-loving little soul.  She helps me cook (by helping I mean eating and making happy messes with her mixing bowl and scraps).  I love her with all my heart.

Kirina is the reason this Masala Baby project even happened.  She is my inspiration in many ways, but being inspired to create baby food and write a book about it is all because of her.

Before Kirina was born, I did a whole host of things.  I practiced law (defense litigation and government prosecution).  It was a career that sort of munched away at my soul bit by bit (or, bite by bite, I could say).  My beloved mom (my best friend and only real constant in my life) passed away in 2005 and I…

View original post 997 more words

Meet the Inspiration Behind “Masala Baby”

Hi Everyone,

IMG_3390

My inspiration: Kirina

This is a special week over here.  My sweet little girl, Kirina, turns 3 this week!  She is a vivacious, mischievous, fun-loving little soul.  She helps me cook (by helping I mean eating and making happy messes with her mixing bowl and scraps).  I love her with all my heart.

Kirina is the reason this Masala Baby project even happened.  She is my inspiration in many ways, but being inspired to create baby food and write a book about it is all because of her.

Before Kirina was born, I did a whole host of things.  I practiced law (defense litigation and government prosecution).  It was a career that sort of munched away at my soul bit by bit (or, bite by bite, I could say).  My beloved mom (my best friend and only real constant in my life) passed away in 2005 and I decided I just couldn’t practice law anymore.  I couldn’t live life doing something that left me empty every day.  Life, as I learned, was simply too short.  I sold my childhood home and moved to New York City, simply to start fresh.  I was alone, grief-stricken and without a real path in life.  I took a job at a law school and set out to figure out who I was again.

I discovered so many facets of myself in NYC.  Mainly through all the new relationships and sights and sounds of the great big city of possibilities.   The big sense I discovered? My sense of TASTE.  Of all things food and culture.  Vietnamese Pho a block away.  Thai curried noodles next door. Wine bars, fig and olive bars, Venezuelan arepa bars, gourmet cupcake trucks, waffle trucks, whole shops dedicated to one ingredient (bread! cheese! jam!), and even a whole restaurant devoted to 12 different types of macaroni and cheese.  I went on noodle tours and pizza tours and ate my way through the city, savoring each new discovery.  I fell in love not only with the tastes and creativity of the meals I ate, but also the fact that each meal was a gateway to a new culture.  I loved to learn about all the people, cuisines and customs of the world.  NYC allowed me to journey abroad without ever leaving the country.

I met my sweet husband a few years later, moved to New Jersey and had Kirina.  I never thought I would have a family ever again, but my love and my constant, my husband, brought me back that sense of family and life.  With Kirina’s birth (and baby Ela’s of course) our family was complete.  To this day I am amazed that these blessings have occurred in my life.  I am forever grateful for my family.

Career-wise, however, I was lost again.  I was in a new town, didn’t know anyone, and was home alone with a little one (home alone and scared!).  Whatever was I going to do with myself? As a new mom, I never knew what I was doing and the days felt long and lonely.  Yes, I had a beautiful baby girl, but I felt like I also needed an occupation of some sort.  Something to call my own.

Baby Food

When Kirina was ready to eat solids, I was so excited.  Here was someone I could feed! I could turn her into a foodie just like me and my husband.  I prepared some rice cereal from a box, just as the pediatrician recommended.  It looked and tasted like cardboard mush.  Kirina spit it out.  Day after day after eternal day.  What was I doing wrong? Why wouldn’t she eat? I tasted the mush we were feeding her and it was pretty disgusting. I couldn’t blame her refusal.  So I decided to try something else…something with flavor.  I took an avocado and put some cinnamon on it.  Boom! She ate it! Slurped it up! It was like magic!

Kirina discovering blueberries

Kirina discovering blueberries

 

This moment transformed my life.  As ridiculous as it might sound, that moment taught me that my little one needed foods with flavor.  Real food, not food from a box.  I remembered my mom, my love of cooking, my love of culture and my love of caring for my family.  It inspired me to research what babies around the world eat….to make meals with bold tastes….to experiment with new ingredients and spices and see what Kirina would eat.

We grew together, one spoon at a time, one meal at a time.

Slowly I discovered I had a new passion in life: baby food.  Making it.  Researching it.  Living it.  Yes, baby food.  Ask me ten years ago and I would have laughed, but creating recipes for little ones (especially my own) has breathed new life in me.  I love it!  It’s like I’ve found a new passion in life…the blending of all the culinary and cultural finds and experiences I’ve had.  This passion has led to my recipes, a possible book publication, blogs, and endless amounts of cooking and creating.

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Nurture your baby’s taste buds. Explore global cuisines, even when they are small.

In short, Kirina enabled me to find a new piece of myself.  Even through all the exhaustion, the self-doubt of staying at home (the self-craziness that goes along with it) and endless wanderings of what I wanted to do in life, Kirina managed to lead me to a new, potential career.  I’m still learning about the baby food business, and trying hard to freelance write, blog, and get a book published….it’s slow and it’s hard work, but I feel PASSIONATE about it.  And in all my years so far, it’s the one thing I’ve learned that is the key to success: love what you do.  And love who you are while doing it.  I wake up each day thinking about spicing up baby (and now toddler) food and how to teach parents to embrace different tastes and ingredients from around the world.  To nurture every taste bud and palate, one baby at a time.  It’s a fun feeling every day.

So thank you my dear baby Kirina.  Thank you for introducing me to myself again, and for helping me discover another side of me.  You’ve brought meaning into my life in more ways than I can count.  I love you for bringing joy, laughter and an extreme curiosity into the house.  For eating all my cooking (well, most of it anyway.  I still can’t get you to eat a potato).  For jumping on couches and mashing blueberries into your fingers.  For asking to snack on cumin seeds when you help me cook.  For trying faithfully to chop onions with me while I cook (me with a Wusthof, she with a plastic spoon that serves as her knife).

Thank for you being my Masala Baby and inspiration on this culinary and life adventure.  Happy THIRD Birthday my love!

Mommy loves you. xoxo

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

 

 

Spoonfuls of Summer: Jersey Corn with Basil for Baby (and you!)

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Hi Everyone!

We made the most simple and easy soup last night for dinner.  It was actually the perfect meal because it fed everyone in my house, from husband to toddler to baby.  Ok, well, the baby not yet (she’s almost 5 months old and hasn’t started solids.  I can’t wait until she does.  Not only because I’m excited to try out real food with her, but also because I’ll have lots more material to blog about, ha!).

Anyway, we picked some corn the other day and I decided to make a dish that both my mom and her sister (my aunt) used to make: corn soup.  It’s nothing fussy or fancy and it’s not a chowder, but it’s the most fabulous tasting soup for a corn lover.  The recipe has just the right balance of seasoning–not too overpowering that it takes away from the corn.

My aunt first made this dish when she was visiting from India.  My mom was pretty ill at the time and my aunt came to stay with us for awhile.  One night, when we were thinking of what to make for dinner, something not complicated and not Indian, but still comforting, my aunt came up with this corn soup.  It was refreshing because of its bright flavors.  To this day it reminds me of my mom and aunt, and how wonderful their cooking hands were/are.

The original recipe simply calls for carrots, onions, corn, salt, pepper and cooking liquid (milk or water).

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Cut the kernels right off the cob! The milk from the corn ear will help make the soup tasty

My recipe variations:  I added 2 stalks of chopped celery, swapped the white onion for some scallions and added a few chopped up basil leaves. Flavor twist!

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Diced carrot & celery…soup base must!

 

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Scallions impart a unique onion flavor to recipes. Simply summer.

The best part of this recipe?

You can serve it hot off the stove for an adult or toddler, or blend it into a smooth, well-seasoned puree for baby.  The whole family gets to eat together and, most importantly, eat the same thing.  The last thing you want to do is become a short-order cook and make separate meals for separate members of the household.

Also, the addition of basil is exciting for baby in particular.  You can try lots of other herbs with this recipe…try oregano or cilantro for some variation.  Each herb will provide a different flavor profile for baby.  As always, start gradually! This particular puree is good for the 8-month-old and above crowd.

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Pureed corn-basil soup for baby

Here’s the recipe, written out (it’s not very formal, which is ok.  variations here and there will not affect the deliciousness!)

Ingredients:

1 cup or so of preferably fresh corn (if using fresh ears, take a knife and slice off kernels, allowing some of the corn milk to drop into your bowl

1/4 cup or so each of diced carrots, diced celery & chopped scallions

1 clove garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh basil (start with 3-4 leaves, add more to taste) If using oregano or cilantro, aim for a pinch of dried herbs.  If using fresh, about 1/8 teaspoon chopped is a good place to start

Cooking liquid (can use water, broth or milk.  remember cow’s milk is usually for babies over the age of 1).

Butter or vegetable oil

Method:

1. Coat pot with a thin layer of butter an/or cooking oil.  Add carrots, celery and scallions.  Add a pinch of salt.  Sautee for 7-10 minutes, until soft.

2. Add minced garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes, until the raw smell dissipates from the garlic.

3.  Add corn and sautee for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Add enough cooking liquid to cover vegetables.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce and simmer for 20 minutes.

5. Add herbs and cover pot.  Let sit for 5 minutes to allow flavors to permeate the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

6.  To serve:  Keep as is for adults.  You can blend a few cups of the soup in a blender and add it back into the pot for a thicker texture.  For baby, puree in blender and serve warm or cold.

I served this with grilled cheese sandwiches (Swiss cheese on challah bread to be exact).  What a great family meal! I am going to try this again in a few months so baby Ela can really take part.  Kirina had plenty of fun with it.

My writing is so scattered today! So goes life with two children under the age of 3. 🙂 Feel free to e-mail me or comment if you have questions.

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

 

21 Yummy Flavored Waters for Little Ones

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Hello everyone!

So, we are on a hydration kick this past week.  Why? Because 3-year-olds can get UTI’s (um, urinary tract infections, in case you were wondering).  As this is a baby/child food blog, I will spare everyone the gory details (though believe me, I have about 10 posts worth of drama, moaning, crying and insight into how to get a toddler to pee into a cup).  Anyway, the number one advice from the pediatrician? DRINK!

Not THAT kind of drink, sadly (though today’s recipes are perfectly able to accommodate a wee dram of vodka or rum when the kiddies go to bed). 🙂

Drink, as in water.  One of the most basic and lovely beverages.  Until it isn’t.  Water can be bland or beautiful depending on your viewpoint.  To my toddler, endless amounts of bland water was getting pretty tiresome.  But we had to make her drink!  Juice wasn’t the answer.  A few ounces of the stuff here and there is fine, but it’s still too sugary and filling for a little tummy.  Water needed an exciting make-over fast.

Mommy, put on your public relations hat and get to work! How can we make water yummier?! Flashier?! More marketable?!

The first thing I thought of was spa water.  Remember the last time you went to a spa?  Maybe, like, ten decades ago before you had a child? I’ve only been once or twice (pre-children), but I remember fondly the cucumber-infused water they gave me in the waiting room.  How refreshing!  And what a simple way to flavor water, I remember thinking.

Flash-forward to life with a toddler.  We had some cucumbers from our garden and I decided to give the spa trick a try:

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Fresh from our backyard

To sweeten the deal I also chopped up some fresh strawberries:

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Add some ice and voila!  Natural.  Fresh.  Homemade.  And most of all, convincing.  To a toddler who really wants juice:

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Refreshing for both mommy and kiddo

 

 

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I want “juice” mommy!

This combination was SO GOOD! I had really forgotten how tasty and easy this water drink was. Admittedly, I’m not always the best water drinker either.  But I know not only do I have to be a good role model for Kirina, it’s also hot outside and I’m nursing my baby, Ela, on top of all that.  Hydration is super key right now.  Kirina and I lapped this water up and I found a whole new way to be creative with food.  Herbs too.

Masala baby indeed!

Kirina and I brainstormed the following ideas together for other flavored waters.  The easiest and most baby-friendly herbs were mint and basil.  To prepare: simply muddle a few leaves at the bottom of a glass or tear with your hands.  Add your fruit and ice and allow the whole thing to soak together for a few minutes.  Serve and enjoy! Infuse longer for stronger flavor; strain with a tea strainer if you don’t want leaves in your little’s way.

Here are 21 of our favorites (we’ve made it through about half these combos so far.  Not a one has been rejected!).

21 Toddler-Approved Flavored Waters

1.  Cucumber

2.  Cucumber Strawberry

3.  Cucumber Mint

4.  Mango Strawberry

5.  Strawberry Mint

6.  Orange Mint

7.   Mint Lime

8.   Blueberry Basil

9.   Raspberry Lime

10.  Raspberry Mint

11.   Watermelon Mint

12.  Guava Strawberry

13.  Pineapple Peach

14.  Peach Basil

15.  Blueberry Orange

16.  Lemon lime

17.  Blueberry Lemon

18.  Strawberry Lemon

19.  Strawberry Orange

20.  Cucumber Watermelon

21.  Mango Strawberry

The flavor combos are endless, so have fun! This is only a starter list.  Stay well and stay hydrated!

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

Natural “candy” for babies?

Hi everyone!

I have to credit my lovely agent for this post.  We were trading stories on what we’ve learned to make from scratch (it was a fascinating conversation.  between us we have learned to make everything from yogurt to paneer to jam.  it had to have been one of my favorite food chats).

Anyway, we got to talking about babies, toddlers and treats.  As in candy treats.  What, you say? Candy for babies?  Ok, before you stop reading my blog (all, like, 8 of you, that is) let me explain.  We as parents, especially of young babies and toddlers, are always striving to fill up their tummies with good things, like fruits, veggies and other (oftentimes organic) yummies.  But what about when your little one learns the art of getting a treat? Or wanting a piece of candy? Or simply wanting something sweet? It’s a challenge trying to find healthy ways to satisfy that sweet craving as most little ones have no limit when it comes to sweets.

“What about that raspberry jam you made?,” says my agent.  “That’s like candy for babies!”

Yes it is! Natural in the true sense of the word too.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I give my little Kirina “candy-like” treats all the time, especially now that she is dealing with potty training and the like.  She has had homemade jam on a spoon as a treat.  Frozen bananas drizzled with cardamom flavored chocolate.  Strawberries dipped in vanilla sugar.

Sure, there’s sugar in these treats, but there’s no corn syrup or artificial of dyes.  Just the colors and tastes of the summer.  And best of all Kirina is getting to taste nature at it’s ripest–the raspberry jam was made with fruit picked only hours before.  The bananas were made with a drizzle of melted chocolate chips mixed with cardamom powder, cut into small chunks and frozen (making it hard like candy).  Even the strawberries were fresh from the farm (the vanilla sugar was made with a drop or two of extract) but made to look like candy.

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Homemade raspberry jam a.k.a. “candy” for babies

 

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Vanilla sugared strawberry; raspberry and cherry jam drops in the background.

 

Here are 7 natural ways to satisfy your baby’s sweet tooth:

1.  A spoonful of jam, preferably homemade.  Make small circles on a plate or other fun drizzles.  Let baby play and eat.

2. Frozen banana bites (drizzled with a few melted chocolate chips.  for extra flavor, add a pinch of curry powder or cardamom powder to the chocolate!)

3.  Frozen yogurt dibs (freeze organic greek yogurt mixed with jam of your choice into ice cube trays.  cut into teeny pieces for baby.  make sure baby is old enough for this…ask your doc about yogurt).

4.  Curried chocolate chips (melt together a pinch of curry powder with 15 or so chocolate chips in the microwave.  Use a spoon to drip melted chocolate onto a cold plate, to make your own little chips.  when they cool you will have flavored candy). Instant gourmet chocolate!

5.  Vanilla sugar strawberries (or peaches or raspberries)  (add 1-2 drops vanilla extract, preferably the alcohol-free kind, to 1/4 cup of sugar.  dip fresh strawberries into mixture and enjoy.

6.   Spice up your sugar! Flavor your sugar with different extracts, say almond or aniseed.  Or crush some mint leaves and mix with sugar for natural peppermint (remove leaf when finished, flavor will perfume the sugar).  Other herbs to try? Basil sugar (goes well with strawberries).  Cardamom sugar (pairs well with cantaloupe or banana).

7.  Honey (for babies OVER a year old only please).  Honey is nature’s candy! Drizzle it on whatever you see fit…fruits, yogurt, carrot sticks.  There’s a reason Pooh bear is so obsessed with the stuff. 🙂

From Kirina’s highchair to yours, bon appetit!

 

 

 

Spoonfuls of Summer: Raspberries for Baby

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Freshly picked!

 

Hi everyone!

Oh my gosh, before I even get started with this spoonfuls of summer business, I have to tell you all (well, all five of you reading this thing) something:  I MADE JAM! Yes! Me! Canning-challenged and fearful ‘ol me successfully made jam this morning! So many leftover berries from our farm picking adventures I had to try something new:

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Omg jam!

I know to most of you this sounds ridiculous, and yes, smart people have been making jam and canning things for eons.  But I suppose I’m excited because I was never one of those smart people.  For whatever reason the whole process seemed really intimidating.  But my dear friend Amy, who always sends us the MOST divine strawberry jam, inspired me to try and make some.  I didn’t use pectin, or do anything complicated because I was too scared, but did a lot of research and made sure everything was sterile, lol.  It might not taste good, this raspberry jam, but damn, it’s clean! 🙂

Not that this has to do with baby food, but the basic recipe, in case you want to try this yourself:  for every cup of raspberries you have, add 3/4 cup to 1 cup of sugar and stir together in a large pot.  Cook on medium heat until the “gel stage” (see, it’s already complicated, right?).  Heh?  Exactly.  Idiot proof this step by getting a candy thermometer and waiting until it reads 220 degrees.  Cool for a few minutes, jar, and dip in hot water bath according to standard jarring directions.  As this is a baby food blog, I won’t get into the particulars, but you can check out loads of websites and the Ball website (they are the folks that make the ubiquitous jars).

This whole jarring process really got me thinking about baby food too! As in jarred baby food.  I am wondering aloud if I can make up my own jars for Ela and serve them to her when she is ready for solids (she’s four months now; pediatrician said to wait until six months to start solids.  not sure why…Kirina started at 4 months).   Peach picking season is coming up and I’d like to preserve some for her.  So cool!  I never thought of making my own sterilized jars of food for Kirina…I usually made small batches and froze them. More research on safety and stuff is needed though.  Thoughts and advice from other parents are most welcome.

Meanwhile…if you have fresh raspberries, which are in season right now here in the northeast, they are a wonderful food for baby! High in fiber in vitamin C…also high in seed content, which, is not a big deal, but could possibly be an annoyance for a wee little one who is just starting out on solids.  Our doctor recommended raspberries as an 8 month and older food.  Also, buy ORGANIC, where possible.  Red raspberries are known to be high in pesticide content, so organic is key where possible.  As for the seeds, there are a few ways around this issue:

1.  Lightly steam and puree fresh raspberries in a mini food processor.  Take a small tea strainer and push the mash through it.  Time-consuming, but cheap and easy to do.

2.  Use your puree with another fruit or vegetable to create blend.  The seeds will simply be less noticeable.  Again, seeds are not a problem.  But smooth foods might be easier to start off with for young babies.

Here are my top ten raspberry puree recipes for baby:

1.  Raspberry-Banana (1 banana, 1 tbs raspberry puree)

2.  Raspberry Cinnamon Oatmeal (either boxed or real oatmeal, prepared according to directions, mixed with 1 tsp raspberry puree and one pinch cinnamon)

3.  Raspberry Mint (muddle a mint leaf in a small bowl, using a pestle or back of spoon.  Remove leaf, add puree and stir.  the mint residue left behind will gently perfume the berry puree)

4.  Lemon raspberry (1-2 drops of lemon juice per serving)

5.  Raspberry-Guava (add 1-2tsps of raspberry puree to guava puree (fresh or jarred).

6.  Raspberry Yogurt (1 tsp puree to every 2 oz of organic whole milk yogurt.  This is for babies who are given the yogurt ok by their pediatricians)

7.  Raspberry Nutmeg (one pinch to each serving)

8.  Berry Bash Mash (equal parts blueberry, raspberry puree with a pinch of cinnamon)

9.  Raspberry Porridge (millet porridge with a spoonful of raspberry puree mixed in).

10. Plain raspberries! Flavor them with any baby-friendly spice from my spice cabinet links…best ones are cinnamon, cardamom, basil and even grated ginger.

Phew! I’m tired of typing the word raspberry. Thank goodness peach season is almost here, lol.  Hope you enjoy and hope you tell your friends to read my little blog.  Pretty please, with berries on top?

From Kirina’s highchair to yours…bon appetit!

Kirina the picker!

Little hands, big flavors.

 

 By the way…raspberries courtesy of Lee Turkey Farm, East Windsor, NJ

Spoonfuls of Summer: How to Introduce Your Baby to Blueberries

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Freshly picked!

Hello everyone,

Hope your summer has been great!  We are still on a picking frenzy over here…I am introducing my 3-year-old, Kirina, to “pick-your-own farms” this summer and it is such fun! A wonderful a reminder of my own childhood when I picked fruits and veggies with my mom.  Kirina has a lot of fun at these farms…mainly she picks for five minutes and then asks to play on the swing set, lol. Me, I get lost in the dirt and berries and thorns and broccoli and have a blast.  I have a very supportive (only slightly grumpy) husband who waits in the sunshine with two kids while I go a little farm happy. 🙂

We went picking last week and it was Kirina’s first time in a blueberry patch.  I took a lot of pictures…they are cute, but it looks sorta like child labor in some of them:

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Child at work. 😉

 

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The haul!

 

Blueberries for Baby

The Why:

Blueberries are a superfood, plain and simple.  They are high in antioxidants, which are amazing for you no matter your age.  When ripe, blueberries also have a sweet and pleasing flavor.  You can serve them as is or add summer herbs to them for extra dimensions of flavor.

The How:

Making a blueberry puree is simple and fast.  Simply measure out one cup of blueberries, fresh or frozen (one cup will yield about 7 oz of puree).  If fresh, pick out stems and leaves and rinse well with water.  You can even add a splash of vinegar to the mix to wash away bacteria (just rinse well when finished).

Steam the berries in a steamer basket or in a pot with a few spoonfuls of water for 3 minutes:

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Puree until smooth (for 6 to 10-month-olds) or simply mash with a potato masher for older babies (10-months and above) as a nice way to introduce food with textures:

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Puree

 

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Blueberry puree with mint

 

The Seasonings:

Yes, you can season blueberries! I am all about how to spice up baby food am constantly experimenting with what herbs, spices and little flavor additions will work with a particular ingredient.  Try these summery flavor additions:

1.  Mint (add a leaf while pureeing or mashing)

2.  Lemon juice (a few drops added in brightens up the blueberry flavor)

3.  Cinnamon ( a mild, warming spice to give that berry cobbler taste)

4.  Nutmeg (a pinch)

5.  Mint yogurt (puree yogurt, mint and blueberry mash together for something different).

Blueberry mint yogurt

Blueberry mint yogurt

 

You can also mix blueberry puree into other purees and season accordingly.  Remember, start slow when introducing your baby to new spices or flavors.  I promise it will pay off!

Stay tuned for the next Spoonfuls of Summer article.  We’ve picked a lot of fruit and are excited to eat and write. 🙂

From Kirina’s highchair to yours, bon appetit!