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!

 

 

 

 

 

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“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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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!!!