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!

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!

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!

Mango Season Is Here!

A spoonful of the season

A spoonful of the season

Hello Everyone,

MANGOS! Or is it mangoes with an “e?”  Jury is still out on that one (grammar folks help out on this one).  Anyway, mango season is upon us! Every April, May and June this wonderful season takes over, particularly for Indian and Indian-American households who are mango-crazy.  When I say crazy, I mean crazy! Whole festivals are created around this fruit in India.  It is sometimes called the hundred days of madness, in fact, in reference to the brief amount of time this prized fruit is in season.

My parents came here in the 1970’s and one of the things they missed most was the Indian mango.  My mom would tell me stories about how my grandmother would spend time pickling unripe mangoes, setting the jars out on the veranda so that the hot Indian sun would work its magic, heating the jars and preserving the newly jarred jewels.  I also have childhood memories of my parents, once they finally found mangos in this country, eating the juicy, fleshy, fruit over the sink because it was so messy! Every Indian-American kid probably has the same memory.

But it isn’t just Indian folks who have a fondness for the fruit.  Caribbean and Mexican cultures adore the fruit as well.  The only debate is over which mangos are tastier.  True Indian mangos, called Alphonso mangos, have been denied an entry visa for years from the US government (something to do with pesky insects they carried) until recently (they can be found for way too much money now in Indian grocery stores).  Other mangos, like the Kent and Ataulfo varieties are more commonly found in US markets and are grown in Florida and Mexico.  These are just as tasty when ripe…look for sweet-smelling, soft fruit when selecting.

Ripe Mango

Baby Food

If your baby is lucky enough to be starting solid foods during mango season, this is an amazing fruit to try! Simply cut into chunks and blend until smooth.

Mr. Teacup takes a taste of mango saffron puree.

Adding Flavor to Baby’s Food with Saffron

What could be better than simply mangos? Adding a pinch of saffron!  Saffron is a mild, gentle, but flavorful spice that comes from a special orchid flower.  It is used in everything from warmed bedtime milk, to Indian and Middle Eastern desserts to the famous Spanish Paella (it is what gives paella its bright orange color).

Saffron and mango are buddies…they taste amazing together.  Dissolve a few saffron threads in a few teaspoons of warm water.  You will notice the color coming out.  Add this to your mango chunks when blending and your puree will be imparted with a beautiful, exotic saffron perfume.  It is a wonderful way to introduce your baby to a new spice.  Kirina loved this as a baby and I can’t wait to try it on Ela when she is ready to start solids.

 

For toddlers, you can add the mango-saffron puree to a cup of yogurt in a bowl, or blend to make a smoothie.  YUM!

Keep those taste buds growing!  With summer upon us and fruits coming into season it is a fun time to experiment and introduce new flavors to your little one.

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

 

 

‘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!!!