30 January 2013

Baby Bites: Raspberry Mint Puree with Yogurt and Quinoa

When I started introducing solids to Nerd, I couldn't wait to make her purees that featured herbs from our garden. So once we were in the "all clear" zone in testing for allergies with berries, I turned to my most proliferative herb: mint. I like putting fresh mint in my tea or water in the summer. But I quickly discovered how perfectly its flavor compliments dishes featuring berries. Before Nerd turned one, her purees of berries and mint were quite simple. Only two ingredients and served over yogurt or rice cereal. Now that she's a toddler, I've added the wonder grain quinoa. It's packed with calcium, iron, and even lysine. Nerd will eat quinoa straight up, but in case your little one isn't a fan, this combo will hide the ingredient well.

Ready to be swirled together.

  • roughly 1 cup cooked quinoa, refrigerated
  • 1 package (roughly 14 oz.) frozen raspberries, thawed (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and/or cherries would work, too--I'm just partial to raspberries)
  • 10-15 fresh mint leaves, washed
  • 1-2 tbsp honey (ONLY if your child is over 1!!!)
  • natural yogurt (I used Stonyfield's whole milk vanilla yogurt)
Dump the thawed berries, mint leaves, and honey into your blender or food processor. Either chop or blend, depending on how smooth you want your puree to be for your little one. It's ready to serve.

Note: If your baby happens to be early in the stages of food introduction, you could add the quinoa to the ingredients in the blender and run it altogether. The photo above shows it being added in its whole cooked form added separately from the puree.

Grab the 4-6 oz. storage containers you use to hold baby food. Start scooping a couple of spoonfuls or yogurt into each container, followed by similar amounts of quinoa and berry puree until you run out of something. I ran out of puree first and stored the remaining quinoa for lunches and yogurt for breakfasts. Because I liked the puree so much myself, I ended up portioning a few containers of this combo for my own eating so I wouldn't have to freeze any of these for later use. Yeah, Nerd and I have had this for breakfast together for the past couple of mornings.

The puree is good enough to serve on its own, but remember to omit the honey if your child hasn't hit the age of one yet. It would also be a great spread on bread or crackers or as an alternative to syrup if you're serving pancakes or waffles.

23 January 2013

Write-A-Caption Wednesday

So when the hubs called to say he wouldn't be home for dinner (stupid meetings), I had to put away all the ingredients I had just laid out on the counter. I heard splashing, and this is what I found:

Exhibit A.

The super intelligent Mommy Nerd that I am gave her a paper towel to wipe herself up (because she knows how to "wipe her face"). And then this happened:

Exhibit B.

Can't wait to read the captions for Exhibits A & B. :)

16 January 2013

Baby Bites: Couscous with Tilapia and Veggies

It's been a few months since I last attempted making a couscous dish for Nerd. She liked it before, but I just keep trying Italian pasta dishes instead of giving couscous a fighting chance. Why? I think it's because the traditional version is so small, it can give your toddler couscous butt. What the bib doesn't catch ends up in the high chair and stuck here:

Hey, it's better than getting tomato sauce on their pants, right?

Aside from the potential mess, couscous is such a great food! It's the fastest pasta you'll ever cook (no joke--5 minutes from turning on the heat to fully cooked). I made this recipe while Nerd ate her breakfast and played with stacking cups in her high chair. Couscous also serves as a great base for whatever floats your flavor boat. For the grown-ups around here, we love it with sautéed asparagus and red bell pepper. In this on-the-fly recipe, I go for the bright aromatics of mirepoix (yeah, I'm going French on ya today) with a mild whitefish to satisfy the body's need for omega-3s.


  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 green onion or small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup frozen sweet peas
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked, unflavored couscous (pearl couscous isn't as messy, but as you'll see by my photos, it's not what I had in my cabinets...)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 filet tilapia or mild whitefish (NO BONES!)
  • tiny pinches of dried thyme, basil, black ground pepper, and parsley (fresh will work, too, but it's currently winter and they're not growing in our garden...and I hate paying for them in the grocery store...)
Boil the water in a pot and add the couscous. I always cut the heat and remove the pot from the eye as soon as I add the couscous. It doesn't really need to "cook", just soak up all the water. If you find it on the dry side, add more water or even a little bit of flavored broth.

Heat half of the oil in a small skillet on medium/medium high and add the chopped fresh veggies. Allow to sauté to release their aromatics, and then add the frozen peas. The veggies should cook until they are soft enough for your baby's bite. (Note: Toddlers will be able to handle chopped veggies. If your baby is younger than 12 months, you always have the option of putting them in the blender after removing them from the heat.)

This combo of veggies is great for any season.
Add the veggies to the cooked couscous. Using the same skillet for the veggies, pour in the remaining olive oil and throw on the tilapia filet. Cook it through, maybe 2-3 minutes on each side. Flake it with a fork (I did this on my cutting board) and mix in with the veggies and couscous. Stir in the dried herbs. Serve warm.

A little golden oil left from sautéing the vegetables will give the fish a beautiful color.

Aaaaannnnnddddd LUNCH!

Store up to 3 days in the fridge. I'm a little unsure about freezer storage (I just made this today, so we'll see if couscous stands up to the challenge). We've never had leftover couscous before, and making this recipe obviously planned for several meals for Nerd. Here's to hoping it can live on ice.

Nerd thoroughly enjoyed this meal at lunch today. For every pea she saw in her bowl, she excitedly exclaimed, "Ball!" and either shoved it in her mouth or smushed it with her thumb. Lunch and a show for this mom. Taste-wise? Nerd believes that this meal was worth getting couscous butt. ;)

  • Other combos your toddler may like atop their bed of couscous: asparagus, red bell pepper, and garlic; carrot, edamame, and leeks; chickpeas, cucumber, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese; shredded chicken, roasted tomatoes, and Parmesan.
  • Try using pearl couscous for a food that's easier for toddler fingers to grab if they like eating off of their tray. Each "piece" of pearl couscous is larger and therefore easier to get on a fork or spoon.

Write-A-Caption Wednesday

10 January 2013

Baby Bites: Stracciatella

We love preparing soups in the winter for a little soul-warming. Come to find, Nerd loves soups, too, which inspires me to get creative with recipe experimentation to meet her nutritional needs. One recipe that the hubs and I truly enjoy is straight from my Giada de Laurentiis cookbook: stracciatella. It's similar to egg drop soup in the way beaten eggs are carefully poured into hot stock to form silky strings. The recipe for stracciatella is simple and basic, opening up a world of possibilities in how the final product will look and taste. In this post, I share the combo of ingredients I used for a veggie-packed, toddler-friendly version of this grown-up soup. The edamame is the perfect addition to this soup with its protein power, and it's a great way to vary the fiber intake in your child's diet. And, as usual, I featured an ingredient from our garden. This time, it was Swiss chard!

Nutritious and colorful, just the way Nerd likes it.

  • 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large handful of Swiss chard, washed well and finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup shelled edamame
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 cups veggie stock (I used my homemade veggie stock--very tasty and low in sodium)
  • fresh thyme, leaves plucked from 5-6 strands
  • pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet or sauté pan. Add the garlic and carrots, sautéing them until they are soft and slightly golden. This brings out the sweetness of these aromatics. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the edamame. Allow to boil on high for roughly one minute, and then cut back the heat to medium-low to allow the edamame to simmer for the next 10-15 minutes. I left the pot uncovered while it simmered. Check the firmness of the edamame before the next steps, making sure they are soft enough for your toddler's bite.

Once the edamame has reached the desired softness, add in the sautéed garlic and carrot. Give it a minute or two before adding in the Swiss chard and fresh thyme. Stir well. The chard will wilt almost instantly. Throw in a dash of pepper. Finally, get the stock spinning in the pot by stirring forcefully. When you let go of your stirring spoon and the stock spins on its own, slowly add the beaten egg. It will cook as soon as it makes contact with the stock, forming those silky strands I mentioned earlier. Remove the pot from the heat and pour into a bowl for your little one. I let Nerd's bowl sit for a few minutes so that it was served to her warm, not right-from-the-stove hot. She liked her soup with a Ritz cracker crumbled into it.

This soup will keep in the fridge for 3 days. It freezes well, too. Don't keep it longer than 3 months in the freezer. And remember to thaw carefully in the fridge before heating up for your toddler's consumption.

Nerd shows us how much she loves a dish when she leans over her tray for the next bite.
With this soup, she grabbed the bowl and tried to drink it down.

  • Don't make your own stock? No worries. Opt for a low-sodium stock, preferably chicken or veggie in nature. If you don't have low-sodium stock in the house, use 3 cups stock and 3 cups water.
  • Have your toddler on a vegan diet? Then go for the veggie stock and leave out the egg. Tofu sautéed along with the garlic and carrot would be a great alternative to the egg, even though it won't have the same stringy effect.
  • Not sure about edamame? Or Swiss chard? Try using veggies with which you are more comfortable, like peas and spinach. Or lima beans and broccoli florets. You could even add a small chopped onion and celery stalk to the sauté pan with the garlic and carrot.
  • Don't let herbs limit your recipe. I used thyme because I had it from a previous recipe I made earlier in the week. Basil, oregano, and parsley would be great alternatives or would taste great in combination with one another. Fresh herbs usually taste better, in my opinion, but dried herbs will work, too. You usually have to use more when cooking with dry herbs.

04 January 2013

Baby Bites: Avocado and Cream Cheese Rollups

Nerd used to be an eater of all-things-made-by-Mommy. Now, all she wants are crackers. Morning. Noon. Night. In the back seat of the station wagon. *sigh*

So I tried making this ridiculously easy meal for her a few days ago. Even though she wouldn't eat it without me smushing it across the top of a Ritz, it still made it into her belly. Mommy wins.

  • a flour tortilla
  • cream cheese
  • avocado slices

Seriously, this might be the easiest thing I've ever made for the Nerd. I smeared a light layer of cream cheese across the entire flour tortilla. Then I arranged some avocado slices on about a third of the cream cheese layer. Finally, I rolled it up sushi-style and wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap. After a few minutes, I unwrapped it to reveal a nicely-set avocado roll that was easy enough to slice.

And like I said, the Nerd wouldn't eat it straight up, but it is easy to mold and manipulate with your fingers once cut into slices. It was perfect for topping those dern crackers!

02 January 2013

Write-A-Caption Wednesday

Welcome to Write-A-Caption Wednesdays 2013! I took these after the Nerd's nap this morning. You know what to do in the comments section, my comrades. Happy New Year. :)


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