So I’m sitting here at the Tijuana airport waiting to board a flight headed to San Luis Potosí because every summer, Fau goes to camp somewhere in México (please refrain from the “is it safe” question. If the answer was no, do you think I’d send him?). But yes, the things we do for our children to give them what we think is the best life. Anything. Everything. Too much, probably. Not enough? Who knows… but every day I just have to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can and know that those kids are truly loved and that should be enough. That’s why when people comment about how they don’t have the time or the energy or the means to cook an organic meal for their kids, my response is simply, “don’t worry, nothing nourishes more than love.” They’ll live.
But this, my first post about baby food (which is actually more about the family meal), is a culmination of months of research, recipe testing, and conversations with moms and my pediatrician that were a result of not only my in-conformity with the flavor combinations of baby food on the market, but with this really strong need that I’ve been having lately to lay off on the work and be more with my children, a luxury that I couldn’t afford myself for almost a decade, and a luxury that most women don’t have. I do love what I do - I’ll probably never stop doing it - but nothing I could ever find or accomplish in my career comes even close to the satisfaction of knowing that I was HERE with them. Yes, they’ll learn about the working mother and the working woman. They will respect us more because they saw me work like a dog. Anna will set high goals, not to please us, but because she’ll be told every day of her life that she can accomplish whatever any boy can accomplish because we are equally capable and deserving. All of that is such an important part of their formation. But, yeah, I just wanna be home for a little bit and make their lunch and puree the baby food and roast a chicken for dinner. Not every day, maybe, but enough times that they’ll remember that I did and that it was so good.
But I digress, as per usual. This is about baby food. (I mean my mom guilt will inject itself into every post, no matter what it’s about. I might as well put that out there now). BUT BABY FOOD. There is WAY too much to write on the topic... too much to read… too many contradictory opinions. It’s how we nourish our little ones! And nothing gets us more into mama-bear mode than when our decisions as moms are being questioned or challenged. So here’s my disclaimer… Copy it, paste it, remember it; This is what I cook for MY daughter after doing MY research and speaking to MY pediatrician considering MY child’s specific needs and testing every recipe on HER. We cool? I’m the lady that makes enchiladas on TV for a living. I can’t tell you how many ounces your munchkin needs per meal (I let Anna decide that for herself anyway) and I certainly don’t know your child’s sensitivities, so PLEASE consult with your pediatrician before making any changes or addition to your child’s diet.
Why did I create these? Well, I simply didn’t like what was out on the market or on the blogs that I ran across. Honestly, maybe I missed a few, but instead of continuing the search, I just created the recipes because, well, that’s what I do. All that good money my mom paid so I could attend the Ritz-Escoffier Cooking School in Paris is now going into good use. Seriously!
Anyhow, the goal wasn’t to create crazy concoctions or dabble in too many super foods... I just wanted to introduce the flavors that appear regularly on our dinner table into Anna’s food because I wasn’t sure why herbs and spices rarely made it into the purees at the store, and to add in more healthy fats and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. Here was my mission, in a nutshell: 1. To get more nutrients into each meal. 2. To introduce her to more flavors right from the beginning of her little life. 3. To try to make sure that the emotional connection she made with the foods of her childhood were healthy ones.
And like I said, there’s way too much info to give it all to you in just one post, so let’s go little by little. I found it fascinating how certain foods, for example, are high in magnesium… which is great for a good night’s sleep. Doing fiber-rich in the morning gets the poop going (Yes, there will be many mentions of poop. We’ve talked about this. It’s a mother’s obsession. Leave us be.). Also, my friends out there making baby foods weren’t bringing in the power foods of my ancestors: beans, nopales, chayotes, epazote, cilantro, jalapeño (JUST KIDDING… NO CHILES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!). But yes, the minerals and vitamins and nutrients in those foods are very significant. I just had to, for example, do like my ancestors did and pair the pinto beans with the epazote (a carminative-gas reducing herb) to make sure little Anna wasn’t serenading us with the trumpet mariachi 20 minutes after her meal.
In short, it’s been so much fun and a little too easy because there is nothing that this child won’t eat. Nothing. At close to 8 months, she’s had almost every herb, veggie, and fruit in my garden or in the market. I always source organic for her. Always. We can get into how it’s pricey and not accessible, but I won’t lie to you. Ever. It’s always organic and it’s always fresh. Next post I’ll get into the dirty dozen (most pesticide-contaminated fruits and veggies) as well as the clean 15 (least pesticide-contaminated). But for Philip and myself, food is THE most important investment in our children. And God knows what’s gonna happen with health insurance in the future, so we might as well try and give them super powers now!
For this first recipe, I wanted to tackle a problem that’s oftentimes associated with the actual making of the baby food. What the heck do you do with the 6 cups of leftover, chopped up butternut squash? Well, you make it into your dinner! Get everybody on the same foods! Here’s the deal: I don’t have the time or the patience to create a dish for every age group. I put everything on the table and, if they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat it. Fau has been eating mostly proteins, cheese, and tortillas for a year. I have no intention of shoving vegetables down his throat; he gets them here and there. Same for David. So now that we’ve added Anna, it’s been super fun to try and create a meal for her with the same ingredients I’m using in the meal for everybody else. And, voila! No leftover ingredients!
I know that that sort of menu planning is not fun for a lot of people. After all, that’s the number one complaint: you run out of ideas. But that’s why I’m here! I have too many ideas! In fact, I have so many that I wrote them all in a notebook that is starting to look like a book and a business venture… but again, I digress. Here it is, in all its glory… my first recipe for baby food… and, using the same exact ingredients (plus a few more staples), a recipe for roast chicken for the teeth-bearing members of your family.
Like I said, more info is coming. Anna is close to 8 months now so that’s what is relevant for me… but in later posts, I’ll circle back to what I introduced first, what I combine, and what works for us. Your feedback is ESSENTIAL to me but, like I said, this is how I feed my family. I’ve tasted and LOVED every single puree. We, in fact, liked a few of them so much they became the base for a margarita (I didn’t want to start with a baby food/cocktail combo because, well, that’s insane and I didn’t feel like being judged. Ha!!!) Please tell me more about what you’d like to learn. Gracias, familia!
Initial notes on my guidelines for Anna’s food *I only use organic and fresh ingredients. *I serve with in 24 hours and freeze for up to one month. *I tested every ingredient individually before I fed her combinations. *I started with minuscule amounts of herbs and spices and worked my way up. *I cleared everything with Anna’s Doc. *I only store in glass jars and cover with plastic wrap. *I always transfer food to separate plate before feeding to not double dip (and contaminate) what’s in the jar, in case there are leftovers. *Anna eats like a grown man. No joke. The servings for Anna may be huge for your baby. I say look for cues but, if you’re not comfortable with that, ask your Doc for recommendations. *I taste every single puree and if I don’t like it, it’s gone.
So that’s a lot for now. Once I have more recipes on the site I’ll break them down into different categories, for now just enjoy either the delicious puree or the roast chicken or the photos of Anna or all of it combined! I have to go!
Flight is boarding… Gonna go get my Fau!
Butternut Squash-Chayote Puree with Rosemary and Olive Oil2 meals worth (for Anna)
There are a few different methods to get food to soften. I prefer to boil, covered in a very small amount of water so that I don’t lose nutrients. I can’t tell you how much water because I have no idea what size pan you’re using, but about half of an inch of water up the sides of the pan is usually enough. Just watch it and add a little more if necessary. I prefer boiling to steaming, especially with first foods, because they tend to be softer and more lump-free than with steaming, especially sturdier vegetables like long beans and chayote. All ingredients are organic or from my own garden.
1 cup chopped, peeled butternut squash (1/2-inch pieces)
1 chayote squash, peeled, pitted chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1-inch sprig rosemary (that’s about 10 of the elongated leaves but start with less on your first try), leaves removed
Place squash and chayote in small sauce-pot with enough water to come ½ inch up the sides of the pan. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft. Add rosemary leaves and olive oil and simmer 30 seconds. Cool slightly. Puree with enough water to soften, but don’t add all of it if not necessary. Transfer to glass jar. Cover with plastic wrap and poke hole into plastic wrap to release steam. Let stand 30 minutes and serve warm or up to 1 hour until room temperature. Transfer to fridge and serve within 24 hours. If freezing, wait until room temperature to transfer to freezing container of choice. Freeze for up to 1 month (most books say 3 to 6, but I figure by then the kids will be in a different stage anyway, so what’s the point?).
Roasted Rosemary Chicken with Butternut Squash 4 Servings
2 cups chopped peeled butternut squash (rinse the seeds and roast with olive oil, salt and pepper)
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken, gizzards removed
1 whole yellow onion, one half quartered and the other half sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped rosemary
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°
Rinse chicken and cut off any excess fat. Pat the chicken dry. Tuck wing tips under back of chicken. Tie the end of chicken legs together with twine. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with quartered onion and lemon slices. In a small bowl combine butter and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Brush the chicken all over with rosemary butter. Make sure to coat chicken generously and season again with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a cast iron skillet with olive oil and place chicken in skillet. Roast for about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours. Baste chicken with the juices remaining on the skillet twice during roasting. Remove chicken from oven and transfer to rack. Let stand 10 minutes. Remove lemon slices from cavity of chicken. Meanwhile, place with remaining juices on stove on medium high heat. Add cooked lemon slices and remaining sliced onion. Cook until onions are translucent for about 5-7 minutes. Add butternut squash to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes to coat the squash. Transfer chicken to platter and serve with butternut squash mixture.
Eat with your familia while the baby eats the puree!
Chayote and Zucchini Salad4 servings
I like raw veggies and maybe you don’t. Here’s the secret though; when they are very thinly sliced, they are lest sturdy and more palatable. That’s why they call them “carpaccio’s” now on fancy menus. Use a mandolin if you have one, they are worth every penny. You don’t need a fancy one, I have a plastic one I’ve has for a while and it works wonders. As for the veggies, I suggest fresh and in-season ingredients for something like this.
1 Chayote Squash, peeled, pitted, cut into paper-thin slices
1 Zucchini, halved crosswise, cut into paper-thin slices
¼ cup coarsely chopped, fresh basil
¼ cup parmesan cheese shavings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Place squash, zucchini, basil and cheese in medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and toss to combine. Season heavily with coarse sea salt and gently toss to combine. Serve adding more oil or lemon juice if desired.