Yummy Spoonfuls for Baby

For little eaters with tiny tummies, each and every bite counts from the standpoint of nutrition. We’re encouraging our littlest one to eat what we eat — from Indian curry, to Chinese steamed fish, to tangy tomatillo salsa. He hasn’t reached the inevitable picky eater phase yet so mealtime is a lot of fun. And I’m finding it’s a two way street — the care we’re taking to make sure he gets a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and lots of healthful whole grains is spilling over onto our family table.

He recently had the chance to try some of the products from Yummy Spoonfuls which you can find in the freezer section at Whole Foods. These are definitely the next best thing to homemade, and maybe even better since they contain tried and true favorites like peas, carrots and pears as well as more adventurous ingredients like adzuki beans, parsnips, millet and quinoa. We love that they are organic, contain no fillers and are made in three different textures (creamy, mushy, chunky) to match a baby’s developmental stages. Having a stash of these is a lifesaver when life gets busy — so great for grab and go meals as well as a quick “mix-in” to baby-ize whatever’s on our table. Good stuff!

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I’m excited to share two delish recipes that any baby is sure to love from Agatha, mom, healthy eating advocate and founder of Yummy Spoonfuls. She’s also shared some great tips for making smart nutritional choices. Buon Appetito!

Scrumptious Potatoes & Leeks

Creamy Yummy (Stage 1). Good source of fiber, folate, manganese, vitamin A, C, K.

  • 2 cups organic potato (peeled and cut into small cubes)
  • 1 cup water or home made unsalted vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoon organic extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 organic leek (open and washed well, use white stalk only) chopped.
  • ½ cup organic frozen peas (check label to make sure there is no salt added and also that it is made in the USA)

Add olive oil to pan, add leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes while stirring. Add potato and water (or stock) and cover. Cook for about 9 minutes, add the frozen peas and continue cooking  for about 6 more minutes or until they are all soft. Puree to the right consistency for your baby.  For a creamy texture, use a food mill and for a mushy texture use a food processor.
Delectable Quinoa & Chicken

Mushy Yummy (Stage 2). Good source of protein from both the chicken & quinoa, beta-carotene, iron and folate. This is a great meal especially if your baby needs a very high protein diet.

  • ½ cup organic quinoa
  • 1 cup water or homemade unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoon organic extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • ¼ cup organic leaks (open, washed, chopped, use white stalk only)
  • ¼ cup organic carrot (peeled, washed, diced)
  • ¼ cup organic parsnip (peeled, washed, diced)
  • 2oz organic boneless chicken breast  (washed, diced)

Add olive oil to pan, add leeks, chicken and sauté for about 5 minutes while stirring. Add carrot, parsnip and stir for one minute. Add water (or stock) and cover. Bring to a boil , add quinoa and cook for about 15  minutes (or until quinoa is nice and fluffy  – like rice – and there is no extra water in the pan). Cool food in a shallow pan in a cooler/freezer and puree to the right consistency for your baby.

A note on our recipes:

Make sure the food you feed your baby doesn’t have any added flour.  Flour is mostly used to thicken the food to help mask all of the water added. Do not feed babies ‘empty nothing.’ Make every bite count. Whenever you want to feed something to your baby ask yourself, “what nutritional role is that little bite going to play?” Remember that every bite your baby takes is a nutritional opportunity for you to nourish your baby with the very best.

-Make sure your baby’s diet is sufficient with good calories, protein, calcium, veggies, fruits, whole grains and other complex carbohydrates

-Feed babies food that satisfies more than one nutritional requirement i.e. wholegrain will satisfy the need for complex carbohydrates and iron

-Do not feed babies ‘empty nothing’, make every bite count.

– If you cannot make your own food, please make sure you look at the label closely and identify every ingredient and its role.

You might also like these yummy, baby-approved recipes: Spiced-Up Orange Baby Foods, Baby’s First Ratatouille, Fruit and Juice Wigglers, Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal, Becky’s Carrot-Zucchini Muffins, Raw Apple Muffins

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Baby’s First Ratatouille

Our little one has just started to eat solid food. He’s sampled the usual apple sauce, bananas, green beans and sweet potatoes and enjoyed them well enough. Tonight he stepped into the land of real food with this rustic ratatouille which, with a few tweaks, also happened to be our dinner. He really, really enjoyed eating this as much as the rest of us did. Maybe it’s the sweet-savory flavor combination or the sunny yellow color that won him over. All I know if that he scarfed it right up.

This ratatouille makes a delish side dish, but you can easily make it a bit more hearty as the main event for dinner, brunch or lunch with the addition of a soft egg finished under the broiler and toasty crostini on the side. We’ve been eating more “mostly vegetarian” family meals and this this a good one with summer peppers and squash just around the corner. I would say the crostini are key, especially for little eaters like my Luca who might at least dip if all else fails.

Ratatouille with Soft Eggs and Parmegiano Reggiano

adapted from “Avec Eric” by Eric Ripert

Ingredients: 3 Red, Orange or Yellow Sweet Peppers; 1 Onion,; 4 Cloves Garlic; 3 Medium Tomatoes; 1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce or Puree; 1 Large Italian Eggplant; 3 Yellow Summer Squash; Parmegiano Reggiano; Eggs; Crusty Bread; Olive Oil; Lemon Juice/Vinegar (optional)

Ahead of time:

Poach several eggs a little under where you like them because you will finish them under the broiler. Try a minute less than what you would normally do. After poaching them, immediately move them to a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking. They can be held this way in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Here’s a handy link on poaching eggs.

  1. Heat several Tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add another drizzle of oil as you are cooking the vegetables if anything starts to stick.
  2. Chop 1 large onion into medium dice. Mince 4 large cloves of garlic. Add them to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from 3 sweet bell peppers (yellow, orange and red) and chop into medium dice. Lightly season them and add them to the pan.
  4. Chop 3 yellow summer squash into medium dice. [To me long-cooked zucchini are not the prettiest shade of green, so next time I’ll opt for yellow squash in this recipe]. Lightly season them and add to the pan.
  5. Remove half the peel of a large Italian eggplant because the peel can sometimes be bitter. Cut off alternating strips giving it a purple and white stripe effect, then cut it into 1/2″ thick slices and then into medium dice. Lightly season with salt and add to the pan.
  6. Chop 4 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of cherry tomatoes) into medium dice. Lightly season them with salt and add them to the pan.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or tomato puree.
  8. Stir and lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt as needed, black pepper and a dash of vinegar or lemon juice if you like.
[You can make the ratatouille in advance, it will keep for several days.]
  • Heat the ratatouille if made in advance. Spoon the warm ratatouille into a baking dish (or individual oven-safe bowls would be nice) and put it under the broiler until it is bubbling and piping hot.
  • Dry the pre-poached eggs well and arrange them on top of the hot ratatouille, seasoning each with a little bit of salt. Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmegiano reggiano. Return the dish to the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute just to heat the eggs through without cooking them too much more.
  • Garnish with minced parsley and serve with slices of good, rustic bread, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.

Guest Post: Spiced-Up Orange Baby Foods

Now that Stacie has had her little one, I am sure we will be posting more baby food recipes. To get us started here is a post from my friend Abby, who is the Executive Director at Urban Sprouts, a neat little non-profit that builds school gardens in San Francisco’s under-served neighborhoods.  Abby had her daughter Pepa last year and there is no doubt in my mind that her little one is going to be fed some of the best food around.  I hope it inspires you to make your own baby food and you find her tips helpful.

Spiced-Up Orange Baby Foods by Abby Jaramillo

I want to teach my 9-month old, Pepa, to eat fresh, healthy and delicious foods all her life. In order to achieve that, I give her colorful and flavorful foods, adding an herb or two or spices to fruits and vegetables that I get in my CSA box.

In the mom-baby relationship it is never really possible to separate food, comfort, and nourishment. Pepa is a champion breast-feeder with the chubby, muscular cheeks to prove it. Maybe she really loves to eat, or maybe it’s the comfort of being so close. She started day care this week, and is not thrilled about bottle-feeding. At least, I can send her with homemade baby food, that smells and tastes of home.

The first thing about making baby food: it is EASY. Really.  I fit in my baby food tasks while I’m already at the stove making dinner. My little cubes are in the freezer in no time. I’m not even tempted by those pale-colored jars in the supermarket.

Butternut Squash Baby Food with Curry Powder, Allspice and Nutmeg

Makes 12 oz of baby food.

Ingredients:

2 cups butternut squash (or other winter squash) pulp

¼ tsp curry powder (or less)

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ cup water or broth

Method:

1. I like to bake the squash a day in advance in order to break up the tasks and make it go faster. Cut the squash into quarters and lay them skin side up on a baking tray with ¼ inch of water. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour (45 minutes for smaller squash).

2. The next day, or when the squash has cooled, scoop out the pulp and save.

3. In a blender or food mill, combine all the ingredients. For the spices I use less than ¼ teaspoon, really just a pinch. Add more or less water or broth for thicker or runnier food. I used lamb broth tonight that I bought at Avedano’s in Bernal Heights and it is delicious! Take care not to use a broth with extra salt added.

4. Mill or puree the mixture until it is smooth. Don’t forget to taste it!

I prefer my food mill to my blender because I can cook the food with the peel still on, thus retaining more nutrients. The food mill removes the pulp from the peel. (Plus, Pepa hates the blender noise and I hate to clean it.) This time however, I did use the blender and turned the rest of the butternut squash into soup for the grown-ups.

4. Spoon the puree into ice cube trays or the nifty one-ounce plastic cubes that I bought at Natural Resources. Close them up and pop in the freezer.  I like to save about 2 ounces in the refrigerator to feed Pepa for the next two days.

5. Over the next few days, I just put some hot water in a bowl and stick all the little plastic cubes in there. After a few minutes I can easily remove each frozen cube of food from it’s container and put them all in a Ziploc bag, label it with the date and ingredients, and store it in the freezer. That way I have dinner ready for whenever we need it.

6. To defrost the cubes, I create a double boiler with two small pots. It only takes about 3 minutes. Microwaving baby food is not recommended.

Here are some more ideas for other orange-colored baby foods, full of carotenoids and vitamin A, and in season during our California winter:

Apple & Yams with Allspice

Sweet Potatoes with Ginger

Carrots & Potatoes with Cumin

To make each of these, I chop the vegetables into big chunks and cook them covered in a small amount of water (peel first if using a blender or food processor to puree). When they are soft, I run them through the food mill, add the spices, and freeze in my plastic cubes.

Getting more of the food into baby’s mouth than everywhere else is the biggest challenge!

Genius Cauliflower Soup

Our family has been on a quest to include more vegetables and whole grains in our diet. As we’ve gone down this path, I’ve realized that it helps to mix it up and go beyond our standby salads and steamed/stir fried vegetables. So we often have a simple pureed soup as a starter or side to our meal. What’s nice is that you can make a soup like this over the weekend or on an evening when you have a bit more time and you’ve got a readymade vegetable course for a busy night. Smooth, pureed soups are also baby-friendly which is another bonus.

Genius Cauliflower Soup

One of the pureed soups I make most often is this ingeniously simple cauliflower soup from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks “Cooking By Hand” by Paul Bertoli. Cauliflower is one of those things I’ve noticed a lot of people actively dislike, but stay with me here…. even if you’re not a fan, try this one! It might just change your mind. In the preface to this recipe, Paul Bertoli himself admits to not liking cauliflower, but enjoys this soup because it brings out the vegetable’s finest qualities. I agree. When prepared this way, cauliflower has an incredibly silky, velvety texture. You would swear that this soup was cream-based.

With only 2 ingredients (cauliflower and onion), it couldn’t be easier to make and or more versatile. It’s perfection as is, but you can also dress it up with condiments (crispy shallots, garlicky croutons, herbs, a drizzle of your finest olive oil, a pinch of spices), or use it as a sauce for a crispy fish or chicken fillet, even add it to other sauces where you want a little creaminess (mac and cheese). It’s a great dunk for a sandwich or a piece of garlic bread. So grab a head of cauliflower and an onion and give it a go!

Cauliflower Soup

(from “Cooking By Hand” by Paul Bertoli)

Ingredients: 1 Head of Cauliflower, 1 Onion, Water, Salt & Pepper

  1. Wash and trim one head of cauliflower and set aside.
  2. Saute one medium onion in a little olive oil in a large pot until translucent (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the cauliflower to the pot along with 1/2 cup water. Cover tightly and let braise for 30 minutes (cauliflower should be tender by this point).
  4. Uncover the pot and add 4 1/2 cups water and simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes. Let cool.
  5. When cool enough, puree in blender. Beware of hot foods in a blender — they can explode on you!
  6. When ready to serve, warm through and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

Curried Carrot Soup

It is strange to post a soup recipe in the middle of summer but if you live in San Francisco, summer with all the fog is the best time to have some soup. If you reduce the amount of spices this is really good for younger kids.  I introduced Ria to flavors/spices at a young age by adding small amounts of spices to the purees I made for her.  This was after we were done with the introduction of solids and one new food at a time.  I often made a thick soup of mixed vegetables with onions and some basic spices.  This recipe is inspired by those “baby soups”.  Great for cold, foggy and rainy days served with a grilled cheese sandwich and some in season heirloom tomatoes.

Curried Carrot Soup

Serves 2 adults & 2 kids

Ingredients

1 lb carrots, roughly chopped (for ease you can use a bag of baby carrots)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion or 2-3 shallots, chopped
½ inch piece of ginger, minced (optional)
½ tbsp curry powder
½ tsp cumin powder (optional)
½ tsp fennel powder (optional)
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
3 cups vegetable/chicken stock
salt & pepper
Yogurt for garnish

Method

1.    Preheat oil and sauté onions and ginger for 2-3 minutes.  Add spices, seasoning to taste and carrots and cook for a couple of minutes
2.    Add 3 cups of stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer covered for 15-20 minutes till carrots are soft (how long this takes will depend on size of carrots)
3.    Process soup using a hand blender or food processor or regular blender
4.    Garnish with yogurt and serve