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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Welcome, Bienvenue, Hola, Willkommen, Namaste!

Hello world!

Welcome to the Masala Baby Food blog site.  This is my first foray into blogging, and there is much to learn but I am very excited to share my thoughts on a topic I find fascinating: baby food.  Yes, baby food.  As someone who has been through graduate school, the socratic method and other academic pursuits, I find it pretty funny that baby food has become the thing I’ve found a fascination with.  But I’m not ashamed!

I am a recovering lawyer (recovering from a career that slowly munched away at my soul).  After having my now two-year old, Kirina, I found myself at home and going a little (a lot) batty (as enjoyable as motherhood has been, that first year felt like a hazing ritual gone bad.  I still don’t know what I am doing most days).  For the first time in my life I had to stand still and think about what I wanted to do next, find out what I was really passionate about, what was going to feed my own soul.  It definitely was not the law.

I have always been a foodie at heart and a culturally curious soul.  I have an ongoing romance with all the different foods of the world, culinary customs and history.  When I lived in Manhattan for five years, I would devour all the different cuisines I could get my hands on.  I would scour blogs and restaurant reviews for the best piece of pizza or meal.  It was the first time in my life I had all of the world’s cuisines at my disposal, where Vietnamese Pho and Squid-Ink Pasta were just a delivery phone call away. 

You can imagine how excited I was when it came time for my daughter to start “real food,” aka “solids.”  I was going to raise a foodie 2.0! I bought a special bowl, a cute spoon and had the camera all ready for the sweet smile Kirina was going to give us after her first spoonful.  

It definitely did not quite go as planned.  The week we got clearance to feed Kirina we started with dried baby rice cereal, just as the pediatrician advised.  I had never seen these dried flakes before.  Well, maybe I had actually.  It sort of resembled the dried fish food flakes I used to feed my goldfish as a child.  Anyway, I mixed the flakes with milk as directed and excitedly waited for Kirina to gulp it down.

Kirina spit it out.  With gusto. 

On day 2 she spit out even more.  We tried several days in a row, but no luck. 

I was so deflated!  Here my little foodie-to-be was not taking to solids.  I finally tasted the pasty mush we were feeding her and nearly spit it out myself.  To use one of Kirina’s words, “yuck.”  I mean, I wouldn’t eat this bland stuff, why would she?

On day 5 or so we tried mashing up an avocado and boom, it was like magic!  She gobbled it up with such zeal.  Spoonful after spoonful the avocado went down so easily.  It suddenly occurred to me that maybe she wanted something with more flavor. 

Flavor became my mission, my obsessionI soon discovered this was the most exciting part of my day–feeding her new things, introducing her to new tastes.  I thought about what my husband and I eat (a lot of Indian and other ethnic foods) and how I could make it baby friendly.  I was eager to introduce her taste buds to things other than pasty cardboard rice cereal and strained peas from a jar.  Little by little I started to “baby-fy” our dinners for Kirina.  I started mashing Indian dal and adding rice cereal.  Then I would add one spice (coriander powder for instance).  Sweet potatoes with garam masala.  Carrots with oregano for an Italian flair.    A bit of cardamom to her applesauce, or cinnamon to her pears.  Over only a few weeks time, I realized that Kirina appreciated these new tastes and in fact preferred them to bland food.

I became so obsessed with spicing up Kirina’s meals that I began to research what babies around the world eat as their first meals, talking to parents, researching ingredients and inventing recipes based on my findings.  Kirina began to develop a taste for well-seasoned foods, which in turn encouraged me to delve into more research about taste, how taste buds develop in young children, and what we as parents in this country can do to broaden our babies’ taste buds. 

What else did I learn on this journey? That I am passionate about this stuff! As crazy as it sounds, I think I’ve finally found something in life, career-wise, that totally feels right.  I have never been more passionate about a subject as I am with this one.  I am constantly motivated and excited to develop baby, toddler and kid’s meals that are ethnic, but approachable, seasoned and different, and inspired by the global community of parents and caregivers.  I love teaching my daughter how to eat not only a variety of foods, but how to introduce flavor and seasonings from an early age so that she will (hopefully) be a less picky eater as she grows up (so far so good! she loves eating ginger-spiced lentils more than she loves a chicken nugget.  No offense to chicken nuggets.  We eat those too).  I have so many recipes and notes on this topic, I actually wrote a book (notes on the publishing process are for another day.  I am learning a lot about that too).

In the coming weeks I hope to discuss what parents around the world feed their babies, along with helpful facts, books, and research on this topic.   I want to change the way babies eat. And I would like to share and communicate with other parents who are interested in helping babies eat better. 

From Kirina’s highchair’s to your child’s….bon appetite!

Leena