Monday, May 14, 2007

Another family recipe: lentil pasta

We had a great dinner tonight. This recipe is good for babies that want to be able to enjoy dinnertime with everybody else and eat a little finger food.

Lentil Pasta

1/2 lb uncooked rotini or penne pasta (we didn't have this much, so made a little penne for Thomas and spaghetti for Matt & I)
3/4 c lentils
6 cloves fresh garlic, divided
2 carrots, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp dried basil (fresh if you've got it)
1 Tbsp dried minced onion (ditto)
1 Tbsp butter
1 can diced tomatoes
olive oil
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch green onions, cut the whitish part up
2 Tbsp wine

1. Put the lentils in a pot with 3 c water and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, 4 cloves garlic, the bay leaves, basil, onion, butter, and tomatoes and boil uncovered for 20-30 min, until the lentils are soft.
2. While the lentils are boiling, start water for the pasta.
3. Slice or mince the last two cloves of garlic. Saute the mushrooms and green onions in a little olive oil with the garlic until the mushrooms start to brown. Add the wine and stir until the wine is mostly evaporated, then turn off the heat on the mushrooms.
4. When the lentils are soft, put the pasta in to boil according to package directions. Put the lentil mixture in the blender and blend until smooth.
5. Cool a tablespoon or two of the lentil mixture, and put it on baby's tray. Put a few pieces of pasta in it and put baby in the chair. For adults, put pasta in bowls, pour lentil puree over it, and top with mushrooms.
6. After dinner, if the baby (like mine) is not so good with finger food, you can give him some more of the lentil puree with a spoon.

Thomas was so excited to be eating with us again. He spent our whole meal sucking on four pieces of pasta, but he loved it. We let him play with the spaghetti too. That was fun.

I should mention that I adapted this recipe from something my college roommate used to make. I've been enjoying various lentil pastas for about 7 years now, but this one has got to be one of my favorite versions ever. For one thing, I never thought of blending the lentils before, and it makes it much more spaghetti-sauce-ish. It's worth trying even if you're baby-free.

On changes, the passage of time, and happy endings

When I went through the RCIA, Matt and I met these two pretty incredible people. One of them was the candidate Matt got to sponsor that year; the other one was his girlfriend. They were both lovely, witty, fun people -- with two of the biggest hearts (cardiomyopathy aside) that I've ever encountered. Nobody was too small or too great for them to care about, and nothing was too little or too much for them to do for those they cared about.

Events and misunderstandings eventually caused them to break up, and with them the social group that the four of us were a part of. Over the years, we've kept in touch sporadically. I knew that a couple of years ago they started dating again.

Tonight, I found out they're getting married -- next month -- in Ireland.

Why?

"We wanted something simple," my friend told me. Having been engaged and (ugh!) tried to plan a wedding before, they wanted to go off somewhere, just them, have the ceremony and have it all, happily, over. Clink. Happily ever after and all that, finally.

I have to say that I'm struck by an irony. This is the one girl I knew who had a subscription to a bridal magazine back in college -- before she was even engaged.

We all change over time. And not only are we unable to say what constitutes a happy ending for our friends, we even change our minds about our own storybook endings, without even realizing we're changing.

So here's to Melissa and Jason. Congratulations, best wishes, and lots of love. Clink.

The rest of you, go make your happy endings, whatever they are.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A good food day

It seems like Thomas is finally back to eating more. He's got this interesting, and rather nice, routine down now. He eats the same thing every morning and every night for his late-night snack, but different stuff for lunch and dinner.

Today's sample menu:
Breakfast: 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 cup baby oatmeal cereal, mixed with water. This is all he'll eat in the morning, after much experimenting with various fruit-included mixes. He seems to just not want sweet stuff in the morning. Ok. We can handle that.

Lunch: 1 Tbsp kale, 1 Tbsp tofu, rice and water, with apple juice splashed in his drinking water

Dinner:
Chickpea and Apple Curry
  • 1 Tbsp chickpeas
  • 1 Tbsp apple sauce (or maybe pear sauce, after we froze them we couldn't tell them apart)
  • 2 Tbsp barley cereal
  • sprinkles of garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin
This smelled awesome to me, and Thomas liked it so much he got mad when I ran out (we were at a restaurant) and had to resort to leftovers for lunch. He kept grabbing the bowl it had been in and shoving it in his mouth, like "See? This is what I want!" He'll get more tomorrow.

Bedtime snack: Oatmeal with apple (or pear?) sauce and a little cinnamon

Plus he had little bits of finger food throughout the day, including some of the sticky rice at dinner (but what he really wanted was stir-fried eggplant and Taiwanese pork buns (nicely named: "dragon eats pig" )). Poor kid. Gotta wait on that one.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

He eats what? episode 1: Beets!

Thomas really likes beets. Be careful as they can stain. We introduced these at 8 months.

Beet puree:

1 fresh beet

Cut top of beet about 1/2 inch from the beet itself. Wash, put in pot with enough water to cover the beet. Boil, covered, for about 45 mins or until soft. Cut up roughly or grate into blender; blend, adding water from pot, until smooth.

These are pretty sweet (about as much as sweet potato, or a little more), so they are pretty easy for babies to accept, I think. But they will make your baby's next poop reddish. Don't worry!

Thoughts on breastfeeding at 9 months

Thomas has been biting while nursing. When he first got his bottom teeth, he sort of chomped a couple of times, I said "ouch", and he never did it again -- but this week he's been doing it a lot. At first it was just when he was tired of nursing, but after a while he'd sometimes do it right at the beginning. I've been doing what they say you should do (take him off the breast and say no, let him nurse again, and if he does it again put him down altogether and wait a few minutes). He cries. Sometimes he doesn't bite but sometimes he does.

There are some odd things I've noticed. He never does it when we're lying down nursing, only when I'm sitting up in the rocker. He's less likely to bite if he's either not very tired or if he's extremely tired, and he's less likely to bite if I hold him closer to me than if I just let him sit on me. He does seem to do better after the "nursing time-out" I described above. And yesterday and today, at the time he'd normally nurse to sleep, he did the biting thing and I said he was done and put him down, and then he climbed into Matt's lap (last night) or mine (this afternoon) and just fell asleep cuddling. Then tonight he nursed himself to sleep again. I don't know what to make of it all but he doesn't seem to be weaning himself (for half-articulatable reasons, I'm not ready for this to happen), he seems to just be experimenting with some different things.

More later, I guess.

As long as we've all learned something

We seem to be getting Thomas to eat more consistently again. For the past couple of weeks, he's been really unpredictable. We were constantly having to persuade him to open his mouth and worrying that he wasn't getting enough. And we couldn't figure out what was wrong. Part of it was definitely that he had that cold, but I think there were some other factors contributing.

First off, I think Thomas is starting to make connections between his mealtimes and how they operate, and our mealtimes and how we behave. This means that he wants to eat when we're eating, he wants to eat what we're eating, and he wants to feed himself. We've discovered that if we give him finger foods (especially if they're from our plates) on his tray while we're eating, and lean over to feed him bits of the things still too small for him to grasp, he makes an effort, and is more willing to be spoon-fed when we're done. Likewise, if I snack on some of his finger foods during snack time, off his tray, he's more enthusiastic about eating. He's also getting better about feeding himself. Today he figured out how to hold the bottle with one hand, balancing it along his forearm, while holding a piece of bread in his other hand so he could alternate. He's also putting the spoon in his mouth. Yesterday he squealed while we were eating lunch, so I plopped a bit of refried black beans (with cumin in them, even) down on his tray, not thinking he'd eat them anyway. He started grabbing them and putting them in his mouth, so I gave him a spoonful, and he took the spoon from me several times and got it into his mouth. He's never done that more than once before, which brings me to my next strategy.

Variety. Thomas absolutely loves to try new foods, and gets bored easily. I've discovered that offering several different dishes at a meal helps (none of those "chicken-rice-and-vegetable" dinners for him), and offering him new foods or foods he hasn't had in a while will convince him to pay attention and eat. Spices work right into this, as it happens. Sometimes he's turned his nose up at something and when I add a little cinnamon or ginger, he perks up and eats quite a lot. Tonight I gave him the leftover mango chicken and he ate all of the serving -- after I added a dash of cinnamon, a dash of ginger, and a dash of garlic and mixed it all up. So basically Thomas is motivated by taste and by variety. It makes total sense -- I am too.

He has to wait on tea though.

Yesterday's dinner was: roasted chicken, and I pulled some of the meat apart into very tiny shreds for him; stuffing, and I gave him a few squares; and steamed broccoli, and I gave him a few tiny sprigs. He has an easy time eating steamed green beans, steamed very soft, because they are long, so they're easy to hold and bite off bits.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Indian food for all

Well, I made Indian food for Thomas and us tonight. I am not sure how successful his share was, but our share was pretty amazing. I'm going to go ahead and record it here. He didn't sleep well last night and this evening has been too fussy to eat much of anything, even milk. So I'll try it again tomorrow. The texture is a little grittier than what he's used to (I put it through the food mill) so maybe that's the problem. I wonder if I should put it through the food mill then blend it...

Presumably as we test other spices on Thomas, like garlic and onions, this will become closer and closer to one meal for everybody.

Indian Mango Chicken for the whole family

1 ripe mango
1 c plain (whole-milk or low-fat) yogurt, with extra yogurt for blending baby's portion
2 c basmati rice
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 yellow onions
3 chicken breasts
1 chicken thigh, with skin removed
2 tsp ground ginger for adults' portion
1/8 tsp ginger for baby's portion
2 tsp cumin
about 1/3 head fresh garlic, minced
10 cardamom pods
10 cloves
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 dash cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
1. Peel mango (wear gloves if you might have a sensitivity to mango skin - it makes some people break out). Wash hands, knife, and cutting board. Cut mango flesh away from pit. When you can't cut any more off, pick up the pit and squeeze the juice into a blender container. Add the flesh and 1 c yogurt, and blend until smooth.
2. Preheat oven to 350.
3. Rinse rice and soak for at least 30 mins. Drain, add 3.5 c water, and cook in rice cooker.
4. Thinly slice onions.

Cook:
1. Pour 1/2 c yogurt mixture over chicken thigh in covered baking dish. Add 1/8 tsp ginger (and any other spices your baby has already had without trouble) and turn to coat chicken. Cover and put in oven, bake 35 mins.
2. Add butter and oil to saute pan on stovetop and heat. Add onions and cook until they are becoming clear (about 10 mins).
3. Add whole spices (cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, garlic) and cook until onions start to brown.
4. Add ground spices, stir, add chicken. Cook about 5 mins on each side until browned.
5. Pour yogurt mixture over chicken, stir, heat until bubbling, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes until done.

Serve:
6. Pull baby's chicken off bone, add rice, and add extra yogurt or water if needed. Run through food processor or food mill.
7. Put adults' chicken on bed of rice, pour sauce over top.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Where'd it all come from?

A couple of people have asked me where I've gotten the information I have so far about baby food. The book I'm using is Homemade Baby Food Pure and Simple by Connie Linardakis and I've found it very useful.

I haven't used many of the recipes, beyond the basic tips: bake or steam and blend, but I've consulted two of the tables over and over. One of them gives recommendations on what age to start various foods (although some foods with recipes in the book, like lentils, are inexplicably left out). The other, and probably the most useful, is sample menus for a four-to-six-month-old baby, 8-to-10-month-old baby, etc. This one not only gives the approximate caloric value for different kinds of foods (because do you know how many calories there are in a tablespoon of sugar snap pea puree? I didn't) but also gives an idea of how much of each kind of food (carbohydrates, fruits, veggies, meats) to offer each day to give the baby the right mix of nutrients.

I don't know that this is the best baby food book on the market. I didn't shop around: my mom bought it for me (at a real live bookstore, so you can shop before you buy). There are a couple of other books on amazon that I find intriguing, especially because it looks like they have more recipes. I think if I had a book like that I might cook for all of us out of it, and add spices to my portion and Matt's. But I don't.

I've also used the internet. Surprise. In fact there is an amazing amount of information on baby food making on google, so I don't know that I'd say anyone needs to buy a book. I definitely don't think I'd start by buying one if you're not sure yet that you want to commit to making baby food.

Unfortunately, a lot of the information you read is repeated from website to website. There are, however, some sites with a lot of real information and guidance:
I've also consulted some personal blogs and such, but mileage varies.

Thomas is crying, so more later. Stay tuned for the uses of yogurt.