Happy Halloween! How About Some Pumpkin For Your Little Pumpkin?

Hello everyone,

Happy Halloween! It’s the best day ever! Or, well, one of the best days ever. 🙂  I am, and always have been obsessed with Halloween.  I love everything about it…the dressing up, the decorations, lights, pumpkin picking/carving, and most of all, trick-or-treating.  In fact, I love it so much I’ve been waiting for Kirina to grow old enough for trick-or-treating, just so I can re-live those days of ringing doorbells and getting candy.  Mmm, candy.  Yes, it is what you’re thinking.  I am going to raid my innocent 3-year-old’s candy bag and treat myself to whatever I find appealing.  I figure this is the least she can do for me since I had to, um, birth her, which might I remind everyone involved lots of pain and bad hospital food.  Nothing a free peanut-butter cup won’t fix. 🙂

At any rate, what about baby Ela?!  She needs a treat too.  A special new meal is in order.  On pumpkin day, why not eat pumpkin?!  It’s time for Ela to branch out on her veggies, which quite frankly, we are struggling with.  She doesn’t eat them straight like Kirina used to…Ela wants it sweet, mixed in with applesauce or some other fruit puree.  Which is fine, but it is important to keep her tastes diverse.  Well, we found winners with two great recipes today.  We made pumpkin two ways:

Pumpkin Puree with Cinnamon Butter

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The recipe is easy. I lightly coat a small sautee pan with butter and add 1 tsp of finely chopped onion or shallot.  Add a pinch of cinnamon and cook onions until very soft, about 5 minutes.  Add 4-6 ounces of preferably organic canned pumpkin puree (you can make your own puree too, but it’s Halloween and we need some time savers today!).  Sautee for a minute or two with the onions and add water to reach your preferred consistency (Ela always likes things on the thinner side).  Finally, blend with a stick blender or food mill to create a smooth puree.

Questions I often get from parents? Why onion? Why butter?

Because they taste GOOD. I agree that we should not be adding lots of “stuff” to baby food, but I think a little bit of these ingredients (yes, butter) gives the food so much taste and dimension. Babies are people too! Serve them interesting meals and they’ll keep exploring and asking for more.

The second variation I made was a Pumpkin Sage Puree.  I took a fresh sage leaf and sautéed it in the onion/butter mixture for a few seconds. Sage is strong, so just a scent of it will do if you are introducing this spice to baby for the first time.

So give a little pumpkin to your pumpkin!  Have fun and enjoy tonight.  I have to run and get outfits ready (Ana & Elsa, what else?).

From Ela’s high chair to your little one’s, BOO! and Bon Appetit!

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From farm to highchair!

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Happy Summer everyone!!

Oh my goodness, what FUN we have had here in the Saini household lately! There are sooo many great fruits and vegetables in season right now, I can’t even contain my enthusiasm.  Being a country mouse myself (I grew up in New Hartford, NY, a beloved little town near rolling hills and lots of farmland) I grew up picking strawberries with my mom in June and blueberries with my dear friend Meigan and her mom in August.  Come Fall, we all went nuts for apples and freshly pressed cider (back in the day when it wasn’t pasteurized and tasted sooo good!). My mom had her own vegetable garden, full of tomatoes and green peppers.  What happy memories they were.

My mom passed away 8 years ago and it is now a bittersweet thing to do, but I was determined to pass this love of farm-picked fruits and vegetables to my little Kirina.  There is something so pure and precious about teaching a child where their food comes from.  I think it made Kirina enjoy the food more because she had a hand in picking it.  The peas, pictured above, were such fun to pick.  We’ve kept them in a bowl in the kitchen and Kirina grabs them now and then to munch, having fun peeling away the pods and searching for the sweet peas inside.  It’s pretty fun to watch her.

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Kirina picking out peas

Freshly picked!

Freshly picked!

Peas with a Hint of Mint

     Way back when (ok, not that way back, two years ago) when I was pureeing baby food I took the freshly picked peas, shucked and steamed them, and blended them with a bit of fresh mint leaves.  It was simple and divine.  And different! Peas adapt well to a whole array of seasonings, so be sure to try out different ones–oregano, basil, even a pinch of ground black pepper.  The sweetness of the peas, particularly when they are young and freshly picked, makes it a great vehicle for introducing new spices to your little one.

   Am looking forward to more summertime farm finds.  And little Ela is almost four months old! That means she will be ready for solids soon.  Can’t wait to introduce her to the tastes of the world.

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

Balsamic for Babies?

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Freshly picked summer strawberries

Hi everyone!
Kirina picked these strawberries all by herself! Here in the Garden State we are lucky to live near such amazing farms, all full of fresh, homegrown fruits and vegetables.  Our favorite farm, Terhune Orchards, has a cute “read and pick” event every other Tuesday this summer.  It was so much fun! Was a bit hot, but we picked a little pint together (while I had the other little pint, Ela, 8lbs, strapped on me.  Wearing a baby and managing a toddler picking (eating, smearing) strawberries in the heat is not something I would recommend).  🙂

Farmer Kirina

What to do with all these strawberries?? Obviously, they are delicious and sweet on their own (particularly since they were locally grown), but there are tons of creative ways to feed them to your little one. Ideas to try:

1.  Strawberries & Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic for babies? Yes! This is an unbelievably tasty combination for grown-ups and your little one shouldn’t be deprived.  Strawberries are a great vehicle for introducing a new flavor to your little one.  For toddlers, simple mix a few drops of your favorite balsamic into a bowl of chopped strawberries and serve.  For babies (over 9 months), take about a cup of strawberries, chopped, and steam them for five minutes (a steamer basket is best for this).  Puree in a blender, adding a few drops of water if necessary.  Add a drop or two of balsamic and serve! For an even smoother consistency, strain the strawberry mixture before adding the balsamic and serving.

2. Strawberries & Mint

A pinch of mint offers a nice, fun, refreshing flavor! Simply take 1 or 2 fresh mint leaves (or a pinch of dried) and add to your strawberry puree or chunks as prepared above.

3.  Strawberries & Lime

One of Kirina’s favorite combinations! For toddlers, a small squeeze will do.  For babies, start with a drop or two and work your way up.  A little does go a long way.  For mommies, I encourage you to muddle some strawberries, add ice, a squeeze of lime, tonic or soda water and vodka.  No, I am not kidding.  Children, as lovable as they are, make you want to drink.

4.  Strawberries & Cardamom

Definitely more unusual, but since cardamom pairs so well with sweet fruits and desserts, a pinch of this ground spice really enlivens a strawberry mash.  As always, using a familiar ingredient as a vehicle to introduce your little one to a new spice or flavor is helpful.

5.  Strawberry Ginger Yogurt

For babies who are taking yogurt, puree strawberries with a thin slice of fresh ginger root, then add into the yogurt.  For toddlers, you can create a yogurt parfait, layering pureed strawberry and ginger in between layers of yogurt, or simply use the baby version and mix everything together.

From Kirina’s high chair to yours, bon appetit!

Have your taste buds grown up yet? Maybe one day they will!

Hello Everyone!

What an interesting foodie household we have had here in the past few weeks.  Kirina is almost three and Ela is almost 3 months.  Kirina, my original “ethnic baby” (aka guinea pig for recipes from my please-let-me-get-published-soon-book) is in toddler-eating mode and Ela is in full-on nursing mode (forming her own tastes through breast milk based on what I eat).  Mommy and daddy eat when we remember to, often late-night suppers once Kirina is in bed and Ela snoozes in my lap.

The main dinner table drama these days involves dear Kirina, who, as a toddler, has her own will, her own wants and her own tastes.  Which would be fine, except her tastes involve graham crackers with cream cheese, grapes, and hummus with strawberries….over and over and over and over and over….and over again.   Coming from someone who craves variety on a daily basis, I just don’t understand how this little munchkin of mine can have such a boring (to me) diet.  She used to love variety, but has now settled into a sort of cracker and dip complacency.

Which is why I keep introducing new tastes, just so we keep up the habit.  The other day we were eating an eggplant and potato curry, two vegetables that she hasn’t warmed up to (yes, she is the only child on the planet that does not like potatoes.  she will not take them mashed, she will not take them fried, she will not take them baked, broiled or otherwise, Sam I Am).  The vegetables were cooked in an onion, tomato and yogurt gravy and sautéed with spices such as cumin, coriander and garam masala.  She took a small spoonful and made a face.  Not a happy one at that.

The title of this post is based on some words from my dear friend Valerie, who shared this wonderful (non-chicken) nugget of advice that she tells her own children when it comes to new foods or flavors.  Which we promptly said to Kirina when she made her yucky face:

“Maybe one day your taste buds will grow up and will like potatoes later!”

Oh my goodness, this sentence was great! She started asking us if taste buds grow like hair (hair?) and we told her yes indeed, taste buds grow like everything else! And truly they do.  Imagining taste buds like any other organ in the body helps to understand…they, like other body parts, need time and nurturing to mature and grow.  Only with taste buds they grow to appreciate new tastes and flavors.   We have used this sentence with Kirina for all sorts of things she doesn’t have a taste for yet–olives, squash, eggplant.  And the key is not giving up.  I always ask Kirina to taste everything, especially if it is a new ingredient, usually telling her she doesn’t have to like it, but she at least has to try it.  Now with this new bit of advice about her taste buds growing up, she really does try harder to taste new things.  She’s excited by the concept of things growing and this helps her relate to new things instead of just shutting down the idea, as many toddlers are prone to do.

Motherhood is SUCH a day-by-day learning experience.  I never fully feel like I know what I’m doing or if I am doing it right (no matter the topic).  Little nuggets of advice from other mommies surely helps lead the way.

From Kirina’s highchair to yours, bon appetit!

‘Tis the Seasonings!

‘Tis the Seasonings!

Just a quick post to talk about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  I’m still building my site here, but I wanted to make sure to post some thoughts about making Thanksgiving tasty for the littlest butterballs in our lives.

That would be babies, not turkeys.

As adults we are lucky to enjoy the all the flavors and spices of the season. Turkeys are rubbed down with savory herbed butters.  Rosemary, thyme and sage play prominent roles in seasoning everything from turkeys, to stuffings to gravies.  Nutmeg and cinnamon are wonderful warming spices used in sweet potatoes, yams and pumpkin pies. 

How can we bring these flavors to our babies and toddlers?

You might be thinking they are too young for such tastes, but I assure you they are not. Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to introduce your little one to different seasonings and ingredients.  The idea is to use, for lack of a better word, baby steps.  A pinch of this or a pinch of that is all you need.  In fact, each holiday or family feast should be looked at as an opportunity to broaden your babies’ taste buds.  As I will discuss in future posts, baby taste buds need to be nurtured from the start.  Feeding baby a diverse array of seasonings from the moment they can enjoy solids will enable them to appreciate a wider variety of foods as they get older. 

Take this time of year to share these flavors with your baby and toddler. Here are some quick and easy ideas for your little ones (for full recipes hop over to the recipe page):

Babies (6 months and up):

Sweet Potato and Cinnamon Purée

Nutmeg Sweet Potatoes

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Carrot or Parsnip Purée with Sage

Curried Carrot Purée

For Toddlers (12 months and up):

Since toddlers can eat a wider variety of textures, be sure to introduce them to the above spices via your regular Thanksgiving table food.  Stuffing and potatoes are obvious favorites.  It’s ok, and actually encouraged, to give your toddler tastes of full-seasoned dishes.  If your little one refuses, don’t give up! Remember, it can take 10-15 tries before a baby/toddler starts to like the taste of a particular seasoning or ingredient.  Experiment and have fun.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!