Baby’s Thanksgiving Table: Fun & Flavorful

Greetings and Happy Thanksgiving!

IMG_4341

Whether your little one is just starting out on purees, or you have an older baby mastering finger foods, Thanksgiving is one of the best times of year for introducing flavor to your child’s ever-growing palate!

As adults we are fortunate to enjoy all the flavors and spices of the season:  Delicious roasted turkey rubbed with savory herb butter.  Sage, rosemary and thyme play prominent roles in flavoring stuffing and seasonal root vegetables. Pumpkin pies and sweets are amped up with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove.

We often think we have to create separate and bland versions of these dishes for baby because they are too young for such tastes.

But I assure you they are not!

As you know, my mission is to encourage parents to feed their babies diverse foods and seasonings from the very first bites.  Including your baby in the family meal (and Thanksgiving is the ultimate family meal!), flavors and all, is a great start to raising an adventurous eater.

So how can we bring these flavors to our babies and toddlers?

  • For brand new eaters (6 months and up), puree parts of the Thanksgiving meal.  Roasted root vegetables, like parsnip or carrots, are easily turned into the right consistency with the help of a little stock or water. Flavor them with whatever you usually use—rosemary, sage, cumin, even a bit of mild curry powder.  Let your little one explore, in puree form, what you are feeding the adults.
  • For older babies, roasted or steamed root vegetables are the perfect finger food.  Already soft and tender, you simply have to cut the veggies into bite-size pieces and serve.
  • Other ideas? Sweet potato puree with a pinch of baby-friendly ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg, good for all ages.
  • Mashed potatoes with herbed garlic butter.  Children and potatoes usually go together well!
  • Thanksgiving soups, ranging from brothy to creamy are perfect to serve to babies.  Butternut squash soup, in particular, is a favorite.  It’s a flavorful, yet mild vegetable and can be spiced with everything from onion and garlic to nutmeg and sage.
  • Pumpkin puree with cinnamon, clove or pumpkin pie spice mix is always a nice and easy way to introduce flavors.
  • Stuffing. Yes, your baby can have some, but probably best to make sure your little one is ready for finger foods.  Also, watch out for large chunks of nuts or raisins or other items that might be too big for baby. Otherwise stuffing is a treat!
  • Cranberry Applesauce.  Whisk a little cranberry sauce into your regular applesauce for a sweet and tasty dessert.

Leena-Sunil-1180

Thanksgiving is about loved ones, food and family.  And a good meal can bring us all together.  Include your little butterball in all of the foodie festivities!

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

Advertisements

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

IMG_4898

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

IMG_3470

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:

20140709_125525

Child at work. 😉

 

20140709_130405

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:

IMG_3162

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:

IMG_3165

Puree

 

IMG_3180

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!

Balsamic for Babies?

Image

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!

Have an ear? Make it spicy!

Hello all!

Hope everyone’s Friday is going well! Had a fun snack from Kirina’s table this week to post.  I was thinking a lot about my mom, particularly since Mother’s Day is coming up (she passed away 8 years ago this June.  I miss her loads, and miss her cooking just as much).  We had a few rainy days here and it made me remember an Indian snack she used to talk about a lot from her childhood.  She said she would eat it during monsoon season in India, a terribly wet and muddy time in Western India.  I’m not sure what the official name of this snack is, but it involves fresh-roasted ears of corn and spices.  My mom said it was a nice, warm, treat when you felt cold and wet from the rain.

I thought Kirina would get a huge kick out of this snack (what kid doesn’t like eating things off a stick or a cob of some sort?) and also she could eat something from her grandmother’s kitchen and we could remember her that way.  It’s an easy snack and there are variations with the spices.  You know we are all about spices here when it comes to babies, toddlers, and adults! No one is too young to experience zesty food if you ask me.  So here goes…try this out on your little one and see how it goes.

Start with an ear:

This one happens to be sweet Jersey corn (New Jersey is the Garden State after all.  We are not just Newark Airport).

Make the corn naked (shuck the corn) and place on a medium flame on your burner if you have gas.  You do this on an outdoor grill as well.  And my mom only had an electric cooktop and somehow made it work too (stick to medium heat).

Keep rotating the cob until you start to see browning (be careful not to char too much.  though if this happens, it’s ok, just lightly rub it off with a paper towel).

Next, get your spices ready.  I tried to take nice pictures, but, as usual, they kind of turned out blurry, or in this case, just plain creepy, lol:

Image

 

I told you it was creepy. 🙂  This is my grandmother’s cutting board.  My grandmother! Her name is Gigi, and she is amazing.  Anyway, what you see on the board is paprika, chili powder, salt and lemon.  That’s all you need!

Here’s what the roasted corn looks like when cooked (the steam kind of messed up the picture):

Image

In a separate plate, take the roasted corn and rub all over with lemon first, then salt. And here is the variation…rub with paprika for a toddler just trying this snack out.  Adults eat full-on chili, and so do children in India who are used to the seasonings.  With Kirina I’ve started her on paprika because it is a mild chili flavor, and now we do a mixture of paprika and chili as she gets older.  That’s the great thing with introducing your little one to spices…it’s easy! And you can vary the amounts and strengths as your little one gets older. The goal for us is always to expose Kirina to new tastes so she gets used to all the yummy flavors of the world.  How did she like it?

Image

 

It was a hit! Though she didn’t like getting corn stuck in her teeth and we had some adventures with dental floss, but hey, I guess it got her to like dental floss and brushing more, so it was an added bonus!

For you adults who are curious, this is a flavorful way to prepare corn without the fat of butter (even though butter is totally my best friend).

Good luck and hope your little one finds it tasty.  From Kirina’s table to yours, bon appetit!