Thursday, January 9, 2020

Homemade baby cereal

Food manufacturers have done their jobs well when it comes to baby cereal. We've come to believe that it should be baby's first food and that we need to buy something special in order to make it.

When we first discussed introducing solids to our oldest over 4 years ago our pediatrician suggested rice cereal. I did some research and found that rice can contain small traces of arsenic which can build up and have adverse effects on babies tiny bodies (studies can be found here and here). For this reason we decided to start with oat cereal instead of rice.

A friend gave me an organic oat cereal for babies from a brand I knew. We made it following the directions on the box. The thin grey cereal was not something I even wanted to taste. But I thought that this is what we were supposed to feed our baby - the doctor had told me, my friends did it - so we gave it to him. After 3 days it just didn't seem right that I was giving him something I didn't even want to eat myself. Aren't we supposed to teach a baby what good food should taste like?

I did more research and found that in other parts of the world baby's first food is much more flavorful: in France it might be leek soup, in Thailand a banana, in Italy veggie purees or semolina pasta. It's really only in the US that we've come to believe that babies need bland food with little flavor.

That said I still wanted him to have baby cereal as part of his diet. We eat a lot of oatmeal and it felt like a good vehicle for introducing other foods.  It can easily be made more flavorful with spices and herbs and fruit and veggie purees. And it doesn't need to come from a box. It is so easy to make and significantly less expensive than buying baby cereal from the store.

Homemade baby cereal
Ingredients
 - organic old fashioned oats
 - water

Directions
Using a food processor grind up oats, pulse oats for about 15-30 seconds until finely ground. This can be stored in an airtight container for later use.
To make the oatmeal I do a 1:2 ratio for oats to liquid. Add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup oats to pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and stir until mixture becomes thick and creamy.

Notes:
Oatmeal can be thinned using breast milk or formula. Add to the oatmeal after it's cooked, as breast milk and formula should not be boiled. Adding breast milk or formula may help introduce a new flavor since it is a familiar taste to the baby already.
Do not add salt as you might when making oatmeal for yourself. Babies can't process excess salt and should be avoided when making them food.
Feel free to add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to boost the flavor.
Do not add honey for babies under the age of 1 year old, or any other sweeteners like agave or syrup.
You could also use a combination of water and milk to make it creamier.
Try adding fruit and veggie purees. Oatmeal is such a simple dish it lends itself well to both savory and sweet dishes. My youngest really likes it mixed with an apple - spinach puree.

If you have older children they might love helping you grind up the oats in the food processor. Since you don't have to be precise with the measuring they can scoop out the oats and pour it into the bowl of the food processor themselves. My kids also really like seeing the cause and effect of pulsing the food processor.

Age: 4-months+
Store finely ground oats in sealed container in pantry.
Store cooked oatmeal in fridge for 3-5 days. May need to be thinned with water or milk when re-heating.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Creamy broccoli soup

My baby is 9 months old and right at the point where she is fully getting into eating meals. It really snuck up on me. She went from trying different foods every so often to wanting to eat actual meals multiple times per day. I absolutely love it. She's been gobbling up this creamy broccoli soup so I wanted to get the recipe written down as soon as possible. This can easily be creamy broccoli cheese soup or be dairy-free or vegetarian depending on your tastes and / or dietary restrictions.

Creamy broccoli soup
Ingredients*
 - olive oil
 - 1 small onion, diced
 - 3 carrots, diced
 - 3 celery stalks, diced
 - 2-3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (I use gold potatoes)
 - 6 small broccoli heads, cut into small florets (you could also do 3-4 full stalks of broccoli including the stems)
 - 1 quart reduced sodium chicken stock or veggie stock
 - 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional) (it must be sharp cheddar, mild and medium are not flavorful enough with the broccoli)
 - salt / pepper to taste

*Note all ingredients are organic whenever possible

Directions
In large pot heat olive oil. Add onions, carrots and celery (these should be cut in approximately the same size), cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes and cover. Stir occasionally, cook about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cover. When broccoli has turned bright green, about 5 minutes, add stock. Liquid should almost cover veggies. If it doesn't, add water or additional stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes and broccoli are tender.
Using an immersion blender (or transfer to blender or food processor) puree until smooth. If the soup is thicker than you would like, add water or additional stock. If it's thinner than you'd like turn up the heat and let it reduce a bit. If it's the perfect consistency, add the cheese and stir until melted.

Our whole family ate this with a crusty baguette from a local bakery. I left out salt intentionally since I was serving it to my 9-month old, but added it to our family's servings once it was done. This would also be good with crumbled bacon on top, garnished with roasted broccoli pieces and / or finely chopped chives or parsley.

This soup is just as yummy without the cheese if you wanted it to be dairy-free. The potatoes make it creamy without having to add cream or milk.

Age: 6 months+
Store in fridge for 4-5 days or freezer for up to four months. Favorite storage containers (this and this)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Welcome

My third baby was born 8 weeks ago, on her oldest brothers birthday. I have been wanting to create my own space on the web since we started him on solids, about 4 years ago. I have loved teaching my babies to enjoy food and I have been wanting a place online to collect our family recipes. Hopefully, this will be a place other families can use as a resource too.

I hope this can be a place to find inspiration for healthy meals, especially for busy families; for ways to teach kids about enjoying food; as well as ways to involve kids in the kitchen. This should not be a place to feel shame or guilt about giving your kids goldfish crackers or letting them eat a lollipop. What works for one family may not work for another. We all just want what's best for our family and sometimes that means pulling out a frozen pizza and counting the tomato sauce on it as that nights vegetable. We are all just doing our best.

A few nights ago, my 2 boys were getting restless before dinner. Involving them in cooking usually gets them calmer because they are focused and they usually get to taste test the ingredients. While my husband made dinner, the boys and I decided to make whipped cream. We had a pint of heavy whipping cream in the fridge. So we got out the stand-mixer and whisk attachment. My oldest (4 years old) opened the pint of cream and poured it into a measuring cup. My younger son (3 years old) held the measuring cup for him and then poured it in the bowl. I turned on the mixer and the boys watched the liquid cream turn into a solid whipped cream and then each took a taste. The boys had it for breakfast the next day with strawberries on top of their homemade whole wheat protein waffles we had in the freezer. I added a scoop of it to my coffee that morning. It made for a very decadent coffee.

Homemade whipped cream
Ingredients:
 - heavy whipping cream
 - vanilla extract or other extracts, lemon, almond, etc. (optional)

Directions:
Pour heavy whipping cream in stand mixer bowl. Add a very small amount of extract to the cream. We used 1 cup of cream and it was enough for breakfast the next morning and 3 coffees for me. :)
If you don't have a stand mixer, a hand-mixer will work just as well or you could whip it by hand if you want to get an arm work out in. (Note: whipping it by hand will take a long time). If you use a hand mixer, depending on their ages, the kids could take turns holding the hand mixer.
Start the mixer off on the lower settings and then slowly increase the speed so that it doesn't splatter everywhere. It's ready when it looks like whipped cream. It couldn't be easier. This can be stored in the fridge for a couple days.

I usually let the boys turn off the mixer and lower down the bowl on the stand mixer. I try to let them do as much as possible when we're in the kitchen together.

I know this is such a simple recipe and probably doesn't even merit a post, but these are the types of recipes and activities I need to be reminded of. What can be a hard time for us in the evening turned into a fun time together and resulted in introducing them to something new and delicious.

I enjoy simple, fresh food. In the past, I have really overcomplicated cooking but since having kids (and a lot less time) I've been learning that it's possible to create simple balanced meals with some thoughtfulness and intention.

Welcome to elle emme kitchen.

Homemade baby cereal

Food manufacturers have done their jobs well when it comes to baby cereal. We've come to believe that it should be baby's first food...