Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rotini with Tuna and Garlic baby led weaning recipe

I decided that Mae should eat more pasta. I haven't hardly given her any, despite the fact that pasta shapes are very grabbable, and it's a pretty easy thing to whip up.  So here's the first pasta we tried, sort of a cross between the classic olive-oil-and-garlic-tossed-with-spaghetti and, I don't know, tuna noodle casserole.  (Ok, the only resemblance to tuna noodle casserole is that it's got tuna in it. And noodles.) Simple yet tasty in the way that things with only three or four high-quality ingredients can be. No picture for this one. I'll admit I'm an amateur photographer, and I'd need more food styling experience than I've got to make this one look good. But it does taste good! And Mae loved it. I think Mae loves anything with garlic in it.

1 1/2 c. tricolor rotini
1 can tuna in olive oil
1 tsp additional olive oil (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
black pepper

Cook your rotini in unsalted water until tender and drain (unsalted for the sake of the infant in question; you can add salt to yours later if you want, it'll be fine. Really.)

Drain the oil off the tuna into a small skillet, add the additional olive oil to it if you've decided to go with that, and heat the skillet up over medium-high heat. Watch out for spattering if any juicy tuna bits get into it. Toss in the minced garlic and saute until fragrant and just starting to brown; pull it off immediately before the garlic burns. Toss in the tuna and rotini in with the garlic and oil.  Black pepper to taste.

Messiness rating: 2 (2-3 wipes)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Muffin Monday-- Pesto Muffins-- Savory muffin recipe for infants

Deconstructed pesto, in muffin form.  These are nice and moist on the inside, slightly crisp on the outside.  If you happen to have some roasted garlic (you know, the thing where you wrap a head of garlic in foil and roast it in the oven till it's caramelized and spreadable), that would be the thing to put on them, in my opinion.

Mae's dad took some of these in to distribute to his workplace (because if I make 3 dozen muffins every week for Muffin Monday and we don't give some away, we'll soon have no room left for anything else in the freezer). He was wearing Mae in the BabyBjorn, and when he opened the container she somehow managed to scoop up a muffin, took a bite out of it, and then reached down with the other hand and snagged another one. I am not making that up. She liked the bran muffins fine, but she loves these.

Pesto Muffins

3/4 c. spelt flour
1 1/2 c. All Purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3 eggs
3/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. whole milk
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. basil, minced
3/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted for about 5 minutes in a 350 degree oven and then chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your mini-muffin (fairy cake) pan with a quick greasing or spraying of Pam.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and baking powder. In another bowl, lightly beat your eggs, then whisk in the olive oil and milk. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in the garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and basil. Fill your mini-muffin tins about 3/4 full, and bake for 12-15 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just thinking aloud

(...or whatever the written bloggy equivalent of thinking aloud is.)  One of the things I want to do is introduce Mae to all sorts of things-- especially vegetables-- so she'll hopefully retain some familiarity and fondness for them as she grows.  I have three vegetables I just haven't learned to like: brussels sprouts, beets, and cauliflower. I hereby publicly declare my intention to find preparations of these that I can tolerate enjoy so that I can share them with Mae and not pass along my vegetable biases. If I haven't done that by the end of the year, please come kick me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Burgers for babies-- baby-led weaning hamburger recipe

Burgers! Mae's dad makes up a big batch of these and separates out a portion for Mae-- no salt, tiny little patties. Regular sized, salted ones for us. We freeze the extras (individually wrapped in Press n Seal)for quick dinners on days when we lack initiative.  They're almost like little, grilled meatloaves-- moist and tender inside, and a finer texture that plain meat patties, so it's less likely that a big chunk will break off and give Mae trouble.  Even though the ones we make for her are small and baby-hand-sized, I end up breaking them into smaller, bite-sized chunks for Mae.  She handled 'em like a champ when we had them last weekend.

2 lbs lean ground sirloin
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp pepper
2 Tbs dried oregano
¼ c. matzo meal
¼ c. skim milk

Just mush it all up together, form into patties, and grill till done. Or fry. Or whatever. It's a hamburger; I trust you have your preferred methods.

Yeah, Mae's dad puts cheddar and pepperoni on his. I'm a pickle, ketchup, and mustard kind of gal, myself.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Crispy watermelon and apple salad infant fingerfood recipe

I haven't had good luck giving Mae raw apples or watermelon-- they're kind of hard, and when a chunk breaks off, it gives her trouble (usually ending with me freaking out and initiating rescue procedures).  Yesterday morning I had more success with the watermelon by cutting it into very thin, small slices. Then we went for a 2 hour long walk in the heat, and I started thinking about cool, crisp fruit for some reason. In particular, it dawned on me that raw apple could be treated in the same way, perhaps...and I started fantasizing about a crispy, cool salad of apples and watermelon until it officially became an obsession. This is the result. 

1 apple
1 slice watermelon (a 1 inch slice off a 8th of a watermelon)
1 tsp. minced fresh spearmint
1 lemon half

Squeeze the juice of your half lemon into 2 cups water in a small bowl.  Peel, core, and slice your apple into long thin matchstick-size pieces, about 1/8 inch thick. Put the apples at each stage of slicing into your bowl of lemon-juicy water to prevent browning. Slice off thin pieces of watermelon, and slice them into matchstick-size pieces as well.  Drain the apple slices well, and toss them together with the watermelon and minced mint. Discard the leftover lemon juice water, or save it and make it into lemonade. :)

This was so good, it was all we could do not to eat it all before even giving any to Mae. The recipe makes enough for one baby and one adult, and I think that if you doubled it, it would still make only enough for one baby and one adult.

As for Mae, she enjoyed it, although I have to admit that she might enjoy it more in a month or so when her pincer grip is more fully online. She was able to pick up the pieces, but they'd often break and she'd end up with a little piece in the palm of her hand that she couldn't get into her mouth. But if I held a piece for her, she'd lean forward and eat it out of my hand enthusiastically. So I'm going to call this a recipe for 8 month olds rather than 7, but she didn't have any trouble getting the fruit down once it made it into her mouth.

Messiness rating: 1 (one or 2 wipes'll do it)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers-- baby finger food recipe

It wasn't until adulthood that I really started to like eggplant. I chalk that up to our never having it in our house, very nearly continuing the the cycle of no-eggplant. At some point all that changed, and now it's one of my favorite things about summer. Eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, tossed in olive oil and-- if the whim takes me-- some sliced basil, minced garlic, and mozzarella sprinked on toward the end-- I could eat it every day. The only thing that stops me is that I don't want to heat my oven up every day during the summer.

Eggplant, tomatoes, and red peppers are all things that cook up nice and soft-- perfect for Mae to nosh on. She tried it first a couple of weeks ago after being very receptive to some green peppers my aunt had roasted for Italian beef sandwiches. 'Receptive' is an understatement. She slurped those suckers down. So when we got home from our visit, I roasted up some peppers and eggplant and let her have a go at them. She loved them. Now they're part of the regular rotation. I make up a batch once a week and store the extras in the fridge for a few days-- they're pretty good to bring along for her when we're going out to eat.
I like these tiny little eggplant I get at the farmer's market, but any eggplant cut into appropriate size and shape will do. Sweet peppers of any color. Tomatoes, if you like. Basil and garlic if you've got them, would not be out of place. Add them in the last 10 minutes so they don't just burn.

2 pints small eggplant
6 or 8 Roma tomatoes
2-3 small bell peppers

It wasn't until adulthood that I really started to like eggplant. I chalk that up to our never having it in our house, very nearly continuing the the cycle of no-eggplant. At some point all that changed, and now it's one of my favorite things about summer. Eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, tossed in olive oil and-- if the whim takes me-- some sliced basil, minced garlic, and mozzarella sprinked on toward the end-- I could eat it every day. The only thing that stops me is that I don't want to heat my oven up every day during the summer.

Halve the eggplants and tomatoes, cut the peppers into strips, and toss it all with a generous dose of olive oil. Pop it into a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, giving them a good stir once or twice partway through. The skins will loosen up nicely by the time everythings done-- slip the skins off the veggies before you hand them over to the little one. (They don't get digested anyway. Trust me on this.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chronic annoyance with "for kids" recipes

I was annoyed by this long before Mae arrived-- I have this old candy cookbook from the 60s that was always chuntering on about how the kids would love the recipe at hand. My thought was always, "Of course they will! It's candy! But what about the adults? Adults like candy, too!".  More recently, I was poking around on Epicurious, exploring their "Cooking For Kids" info and "Recipes for kids" tags.  Don't get me wrong, I love Epicurious*, but get this: Of the recipes featured with pictures in their "Cooking For Kids" group page, fully half of the 24 recipes pictured are for sweets. And if you click on the 'recipes for kids' tag, 9 out of 10 recipes on the first two pages of results are for sweets.  Now, I'm no anti-sweet harridan, and on her future birthdays, Mae will be eating her share of cupcakes or pie, not sardine-and-alfalfa-sprout-on-whole-wheat sandwiches.   I'll note again that it's overdetermined that kids are going to like sweets, and there's nothing wrong with that in moderation (a moderation that I readily confess I myself have never  achieved).  But it's not like they're any better for kids to eat  than for adults.  They may be able to burn the calories off quicker, but they may be worse for children in the long run, if you consider the long-term effects of reinforcing those sorts of eating habits.  *Also gestures in the direction of childhood obesity and diabetes*. 

In the end, I think adults use kids as an excuse to make sweets for themselves. Why not just admit it? And how about featuring recipes for kids that don't teach children to turn primarily to high-calorie foods for reward or comfort?  Or that keep sending the message that these kinds of foods are fine for kids to eat, that they are in fact prototypical "kid food"?

I want my daughter to like sweets, sure. I want her to love pie, ice cream, and our family's Christmas cookies. I also want her to be able to find comfort and indulgence in well-prepared asparagus, a plate of oven-roasted tomatoes. Or to continue to love eating fresh summer peaches and sweet corn every bit as much as she does right now.

* Though not as much as I did when Gourmet magazine was still a going concern.

Recipe for Chicken Bites with curried yogurt dipping sauce-- finger food for babies

Ok, this is what I'm talking about. These are yummy, not too difficult to make from stuff you might already have sitting around waiting to be used, and fun. I have to introduce my new messiness rating scale for them, though, as they're not the tidiest lunch you can give a kid. But that's part of the joy of it-- they're initially pick-uppable, yet mush easily (no choking or gagging on these!)
Messiness rating: 3 (Get out the hose).
I thought it might be different if I had not given her the little bowl full of curry sauce (which, as you can see, she enjoyed in its own right), but the next day when I served her the leftovers, I drizzled the sauce on instead, and you know what? It wasn't any less messy that way. It was equally tasty, however.

Chicken bites
1 c. mashed potato
¾ c. finely chopped cooked shredded chicken
Black pepper to taste
½ tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Olive oil for frying
Flour for dredging

A note about the potatoes-- I mashed mine with skin on, and then just pulled off the large sections of skin that had accumulated on my masher. Left the other skin bits in, because I'm lazy and potato skin is healthy anyway. But go ahead and peel them if you want. I won't stop you.
Then in a small bowl, mix together potato, chicken, and spices. Roll them into little balls (about 1 1/2 inches across), flatten them a little, and dredge them in flour. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in your skillet-- when hot, fry the balls until golden, flipping halfway through.

Curried Yogurt Dipping Sauce
½ c. plain yogurt
Squeeze of lime juice
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp hot curry powder

Mix it all up together in a little bowl. Yep, that's it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Muffin Monday-- bran muffin recipe for baby-led weaning

Welcome to Muffin Monday! I've found that the muffin texture is perfect for Mae-- toast or bread sometimes gets gummy and makes a big wad that can cause gagging, but muffins break apart nicely. Unfortunately, most muffin recipes are on the sugary side. That's ok. I can fix that. First up, whole wheat bran muffins. These feature 100% whole wheat and bran, with molasses for sweetness (and a little extra iron!). I've kept them plain, as I'm not quite sure Mae is ready for dried fruit, but in a couple months I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes. These are delicious with a little apple butter on them. I'll be sneaking a few for myself. Probably more than a few, actually, since the recipe made about 4 dozen. Luckily they freeze just fine.

Whole Wheat Bran Muffins

1 1/2 c. wheat bran
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 Tbs cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

2 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. molasses (I used half sorghum and half blackstrap)

1 egg

1/4 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350, grease a mini-muffin pan. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, oil, and molasses. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and stir 'em up until just combined. (No huge lumps, but don't overbeat them either). Fill the cups of the mini muffin pan, bake for about 12 minutes, or until a knife stuck in one comes out without batter on it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A side note on 'adventurous' recipes for babies

I promised 'adventurous' recipes, and while most of this first week's recipes have been tasty, they may not be what you'd call 'adventurous' (with the possible exception of the pumpkin soup). I assure you I'm working on that! Of course, 'adventurous' is a matter of perspective-- for some people, I suppose whole wheat pancakes are fairly adventurous when given to a 6 month old (no offense if you're one of those, dear reader! It's just that it's not exactly in the same league as Thai curry, flavor-wise). But anyway, these first recipes are my so-far standbys, which only underlines why I need to declare my intentions about 'adventurousness'. You find a few things that work reliably well, and next thing you know, the kid's having the same thing for breakfast every day, and you've missed your opportunity to introduce them to a real variety of foods.

Also in adventure news: we officially have crawling today. We're in trouble now!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baby-led weaning recipe for Whole Wheat Pancakes

These are the pancakes my mother always made for me, so they're my Platonic ideal of a pancake (which helps explain why I've never been a fan of the pancakes one gets at Pancake House type establishments). When I was little, I always used to get excited about helping to make them by dropping batter onto the skillet-- always in tiny kid-size drops. Now I make them tiny-kid-size for Mae-- about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Snip them in half and she has a perfect little hand-sized piece to hold. They freeze well, too-- I make a big batch and freeze, then reheat in the toaster oven. Smear with sugar-free apple butter, and there you go.
Whole Wheat Pancakes
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. All Purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
1/4 c. canola oil
In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk, eggs, and oil. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Brush a griddle with a little extra oil, and heat over medium high heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter in, cook until bubbles begin to form in the middle, like this:
I use about a 1/4 cup of batter for adult-sized pancakes, and a teaspoon for baby-sized ones. Flip 'em and cook until nice and brown.
When I make these, I get about 8 adult-sized pancakes and 16 tiny ones.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An anecdote.

Last night we went out to eat at a cafeteria-- they're a Midwestern thing, I think-- I never saw them in the south to speak of, but they're everywhere here. Once you get over the flashbacks of bad school lunches (which the food usually does not resemble), you have to admit they are nice-- no waiting on servers to bring you things (a benefit which I am acutely aware of nowadays, since it seems dinner inevitably comes just after Mae has reached the end of her patience). Anyway, we brought along a banana and some smoked thin-sliced beef brisket for Mae, but turned out to not really need it. There were a variety of overcooked and underseasoned vegetables available among the cafeteria's selections. So we picked out some green beans and broccoli (hold the cheese) for her and let her loose on them. Secretly, I had not believed that she would really like broccoli. Especially underseasoned, floppy broccoli. But she did! She did her little excited leg-kick when she saw it, and leaned out across her tray to get at the large stalk I was handing her. She couldn't decide which end she wanted to work on-- stem or florets. She did a pretty good job with it, ended up eating three(-ish)* large pieces (the fluffy green bits, anyway) in all. Towards the end, though, when there were several different things on her tray and she was getting a bit tired and overstimulated, at one point she just picked up the stalk enthusiastically, brought it halfway to her open mouth, then dropped it and reached immediately for some of the white beans from my ham and bean soup that I had given her. So many choices! The point of all this is just to say: Yay! The baby will eat broccoli! * I say '-ish', because there was a good half cup of debris in the highchair. Still not three full florets worth, though.

Cheesy squash casserole recipe for babies

Squash casserole, that Southern classic, is one of my favorite things about summer. The original recipe involves a cup of crushed Ritz crackers, which isn't the most baby-friendly ingredient in the world (salty!), so here I've subbed in bread crumbs. Traditionally the veggies are boiled, mashed, and turned out into a casserole dish, but I save a bit on cleanup and make it tastier by sauteeing the veggies in an oven-safe pan (my trusty cast iron skillet) and then popping the whole thing into the oven. Even without added salt, this is one that tastes good to both adult and baby palates. Golden brown and delicious!
The squash mushes up readily, and Mae can grab big handfuls with no problem. Sometimes the skin of the squash doesn't mush up quite enough for her preferences, but she just spits that out and carries on.
Cheesy squash casserole
5 small-med yellow squash
1 med. onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs minced fresh parsley (or dried if you haven't got fresh)
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
3/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/4 c. milk or cream
black pepper to taste
Add oil to an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Add onions. Cook until beginning to brown. Meanwhile, slice squash into thin disks-- about 1/8 inch wide. Add squash to skillet. Cook until brown -- the squash will cook down a LOT. It should all be very soft (this could take a while, but it's worth the wait). Stir in the remaining ingredients, saving a little cheese to sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pumpkin Soup baby led weaning recipe

Ok, generally speaking, we don't do purees. I like to let Mae feed herself, and purees are, as everyone knows, a bit on the messy side for self-feeding. But she does need spoon practice, so as often as I can bring myself to, I give her yogurt or a thick soup. We're still using the 'loaded spoon' method-- I dip the spoon and hand it to her, she navigates it into her mouth (or not), does her best with it (which may involve eating it, or turning it around and sucking on the handle), and then generally drops it onto the tray or, more likely, the floor. Then I reload, and we repeat.

Every fall I become some sort of squash-crazed lunatic and buy more winter squash than any human really needs-- I dutifully roast and puree it, and then spend the rest of the year trying to find ways to use up the quarts of puree I've stashed in the freezer. I know this is a bit early for fall pumpkin recipes, but thus is my madness revealed-- I'm currently stepping up pumpkin consumption in an effort to make room for the new batch that I'll be working on in a couple of months.
Anyhow, I started with this recipe from Epicurious. My version is a bit thicker, omits the salt and sugar, and increases the spices a bit. I like that it's not a sweet squash soup, but cheesy and savory, and easy too-- nothing needs to be sauteed. You just stir things together, add some spices, simmer, and you're done. Autumn any time of year!
Little Punkin Soup
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup pumpkin or winter squash puree
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
Bring the chicken stock and cream to a boil. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and spices. Let simmer 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in the shredded cheddar. There you go. Slurp it down.
If desired, you can remove a portion for the baby and then add salt to the rest for the salt-loving grown-ups.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Part of a complete breakfast"?

This article on the nutrition (or lack thereof) in breakfast cereals for kids is from back in May, but it's still timely. I've just about come to believe that a good rule of thumb for buying food for my kid is, if it's marketed to kids, stay away. Food manufacturers, please prove me wrong....

Stewed cinnamon apples recipe for baby led weaning

Fruit was one of the first things Mae went for when she started eating solids. Peaches and nectarines are her true loves (the first time she had a peach, she cried when it was all gone), and she's fairly enthusiastic about plums, bananas, and mango as well. Apples are a little bit more of a challenge for someone with no teeth-- left raw, they're a choking hazard. Stew 'em up in a pan with a little cinnamon, though, and you've got a winner-- nice and soft, easily grasped by little hands, and portable as well. I make up a batch and keep the slices in the fridge in a little container, ready to grab when we're going out to dinner or for a quick snack or breakfast.  She started eating these at 6 months old.

Stewed cinnamon apples
1 apple
sprinkle of cinnamon
 Cut the apple into 12 wedges. Remove core. You can peel it before cooking or if you're lazy like me, cook with the peel on and just pull the peel off before you give it to the baby.  (I find that if I leave the peel on, she can't chew it up and gags on it, so I do recommend removing it at some point). Put the apple wedges in a 12 inch pan (I like cast iron) with about 1/2 cup of water. Sprinkle each slice with cinnamon. (Ginger or cardamom would also be good!) Cook apples over medium-low heat, turning once or twice, until the water has evaporated and they're soft and cooked completely through.  If you wander off and forget about them, they'll get nice and caramelized. Even yummier!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baby-led weaning recipes

My daughter Mae turned 6 months old in July-- by mid-June she was already beginning to intercept anything I was eating in her vicinity, so I officially began baby-led weaning in July. You can read all about baby led weaning here (or explore the list of links over on the sidebar), but the gist of it is this: when she's ready, a baby is allowed to explore a variety of finger foods in a hands-on manner; things like what to eat and how much of it to eat are left to her. The parents' role is to provide her with a variety of healthy foods to sample and play with as she learns about this whole new world of flavors and textures. Some start slow and take their time becoming familiar with different foods, while others dive in with gusto and eat everything they're handed. Miss Mae turned out to be in the latter category. I'm happy to report that, now 7 months old, she hasn't rejected a food yet! So I'm beginning to get ambitious-- I'd love for her to become an adventurous eater with a healthy relationship to food, who likes veggies, whole grains, farflung and downhome flavors alike. Now, in theory we're supposed to be able to just share our food with her at mealtimes. In practice, though, it's not quite that easy every time-- mainly because we don't eat as healthy as she needs to (I love me some salty food! But babies should have next to no salt for the first few years), or changes need to be made to make the food less of a choking hazard. If we're going out to eat, there are all kinds of problems too-- the food's salty, too fatty, in big chunks, or just too messy to allow her free rein with it. Or we're really only there for the sausage gravy. So I find myself constantly looking for good recipes that will be low-salt, low-sugar, and whole-grain, but tasty enough for all of us to eat. If it's quick, neat to eat, and portable, then so much the better. This blog is a place for me to record the recipes I come up with, stumble across, and adapt for my little eater.