Spice Up Your Life: Baby Food 101

I haven’t posted enough recipes on here for you all to know how much I love to cook, but I do! Cooking is my solace. The kitchen is where I go to find peace of mind, and pig out to my hert’s content. Ok, so I don’t really pig out anymore, but this girl can eat, and rightfully so, we’re still breastfeeding over here, so I’m eating for RJ and myself. But, the kid is also starting to try more and more new food, which means eventually that journey will be over. It will be bittersweet when that time comes because I have enjoyed my nursing journey and the bond i’ve created with my baby, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

For now, I’m just trying to let him explore his palette and discover new textures. I’ve mentioned it before, but we’re doing a combo of purees and baby led weaning for RJ. Some foods like avocado, baked sweet potato wedges, and steamed cauliflower are perfect for his little fingers. (We also tried boiled green beans, but he wasn’t a fan). Other foods, work better as purees, not only for the mess factor (I’m talking ’bout you broccoli), but also for his personal preference. Green beans were much better received as a puree. But in all of this, my goal is to make food fun for my babe. I make a great effort to make exciting dinners for me and the hubs. Last night I made honey walnut shrimp with steamed rice and sesame roasted broccoli and tonight’s menu was Salisbury steak with a beefy soy gravy, roasted potatoes, and brown butter green beans. I traverse the globe and various eras with dinner each week because I not only love eating a variety of foods, I enjoy using a variety of techniques in my kitchen, too. I make nearly everything from scratch and I put a whole lot of TLC into it. (Here she goes, tooting hr own horn again). Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m lucky that my man is taking on a whole lot of financial responsibility while I care for our son, and in turn, for him and I’m proud of that, so yes, toot, toot, toot!

But hey, if I could get paid to cook for other people, I definitely would. My friend’s can attest to the deliciousness of my cooking. There’s levels to this!

*And really you just need a little confidence*

And now, I am working on the newest level, making baby food exciting. In my initial baby food research, there was a lot of talk about plain pureed veggies or plain steamed foods. Or even if you’re buying it pre-made, a lot of it is just plain, and it doesn’t need to be. (If you purchase pre-made food, you can still consider these tips by adding things in prior to serving your little one:)

BORING! Baby food does not have to be boring!

Yes, those first foods are important to narrow down any allergies, but if you don’t have a history of allergies and have gotten the biggest allergen culprits out of the way (nuts, eggs, soy, seafood, whet, dairy), then by all means, go for the gold in introducing your child to new flavors. Though our pediatrician recommended waiting until 9 months for dairy (cheese and whole yogurt is what he will eventually try here), she simply said “Be Smart”. Just use common sense, if it’s something that can get lodged into their throat, don’t do it. If it’s something too spicy, don’t do it. Don’t add salt, don’t add sugar, and DO NOT add honey. Follow those rules and you should be just fine.

Spices and herbs though, they are literally the spice of life, and not only have a range of health benefits, but can also help ease your little one into flavors that your family already loves.

*Ok really, the Spice Girls are the “spice” of life, but I digress.

For me, I try to recreate meals The Man and I eat regularly for RJ, by baby-proofing them. For example, the sesame roasted broccoli I mentioned above. I put some aside for RJ that did away with finishing salt, and pureed it to make a nice little mash. Sesame oil and olive oil are great for your baby (of course not in excessive amounts). Sesame oil is high in Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps ward off free radicals and prevent cancer and Vitamin K, which helps blood clot. Olive oil is also full of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and can help keep your baby regular, which is a godsend when feeding them new foods. They have a tendency to get a little backed up, so using some oil will help keep them running like a well oiled machine.

Usually when I roast vegetables for our adult dinner, I put some to the side for RJ’s next couple of meals and depending on how soft they become, I will either give them to him as finger foods or puree them down for spoon feeding, which he is also really trying to learn on his own.

Another baby friendly recipe I developed, “Baby Risotto” is also a fun way to mix up your rice cereal or any other grains/porridges you are giving baby. I mentioned earlier, we aren’t iving cheese yet, so this isn’t a real risotto, but it’s a fun take on a recipe I like to make for the big people. Simply make your rice cereal as normal. I ground up some well-rinsed brown rice in my nutri-bullet to make ours. While heating that up, sautee some finely diced onion and mushrooms (garlic too if you’d like), in olive oil. Heat until very soft and then mix in with your rice porridge. I add black pepper and call it a day. I will be completely honest and say this one probably won’t be your kid’s favorite, it wasn’t for RJ. He gave me the most disgusted look on the first bite, but after a few “train rides into the tunnel”, he was more of a fan. Remember, your baby won’t like everything at first, the point here is to introduce them to the things they will be eating later. Another thing I’ve come to realize actually works with baby, is making mealtime fun. We got the planes and trains growing up and now I see why. A quick little plane ride apparently makes anything on the spoon taste good, or at least makes baby more receptive to trying it.

Now, I repeat baby food does not have to be boring. Whether you are home making or buying pre-made, you can customize the flavors your child experiences to expand their palette early on.

Here is a quick list of a few more inspired baby food ideas so your little one can experience a little bit of the world from his/her highchair:

  • Turmeric spiced cauliflower or tofu – simply give a light sprinkle of this wonder spice onto foods for improved digestion and strengthened immune system. (Beware of the possible staining though!)
  • Curry powder is another great add-on for cauliflower or lentils or tofu. Check the ingredients to make sure there is no salt in the powder, and don’t add so much that it becomes spicy.
  • Add ginger to give an Asian flare to veggie combos. Our favorite is carrots, bok choy, and ginger. That combo comes with it’s own song. You can pay me $5 to have it recorded on your voicemail 🙂
  • Cinnamon pears or sweet potatoes – Cinnamon is a great spice that pairs well with the natural sweetness of both of these, as well as apples. This is a more traditional flavor that your child will grow to love come Thanksgiving. Get ’em started with you pumpkin spice obsession early and throw it into some pumpkin soup.
  • Roasted veggies with sesame oil – sesame oil goes great with broccoli, green beans, and spinach and also another way to introduce your child to familiar Asian flavors.
  • Nutmeg is another great spice reminiscent of the holidays. It pairs well with the usual suspects, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, and apples, but try it in green beans for a twist.
  • Quinoa makes a great instantly healthy add in and give a fun texture to otherwise not so fun textured things like bananas.
  • And, if you aren’t working with a seafood allergy, try some salmon with a splash of lemon and dill. I made a filet for adult dinner and put some aside for baby. Mashed it up and added the lemon and herbs and he loved it.

As RJ gets older, I’ll be sharing more recipes of dishes that translate well for mommies, daddies, and baby so stay tuned for more adventures from my kitchen.

Up next for us, Kimchi! I’ll let you know how that goes.





The Black Mama

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