During a recent visit with my old pal Teja and her darling ten-month-old, I was amazed and delighted at the foods she prepared for her little one. I just so happened to taste a little bit of baby's breakfast: persimmon, pear, rice and cardamom puree, and I had to pause, narrow my eyes and nod my head several times cooing, "Oh yeah," — the flavors were so harmonious. This baby mush was like a mellow version of South Indian pudding. It was fantastic and baby E ate it with the gusto of a hound dog puppy. Today Teja shares with us her tips for making baby food and a few of her daughter's favorite combinations. My friend Teja is a busy working mom with a serious interest in the quality of food she gives her child. What's interesting to me is that this is the same friend who in the not–so–distant–past used her oven as storage for non–edibles such as high heels and vintage casserole dishes. One evening I even found the remains of a quiche, covered in a downy, soft, uniform, black layer of fuzz. I had made this quiche for her birthday party about six months earlier. My discovery elicited riotous laughter, a guffaw so silly I still jab her about it.
So the fact that Teja is cooking, usually twice a day, is certainly a new development. Lucky for baby E, and the whole family because Teja's passion for flavor, freshness and home-cooked meals is changing the whole family's eating habits for the better. Here Teja answers a few questions and shares her daughter's favorite foods.
Why make your own baby food?
• The bonding factor. As a working mom who breastfeeds, as my daughter got older and started eating food, making her food is a way that I'm there for her even when I am away.
• Exposure to new tastes. Like many pregnant moms, I took to reading a lot of baby literature, talking to friends, etc., and as I was reading about early nutrition and how baby's palates are formed, the tastes in her world are something that I was extremely interested in exposing her to. Because of my desire to expand her palate, it has spilled out to the entire family and I find myself trying out new spices and herbs with some of our standard dishes and experimenting with entirely new foods.
• It turns out, it is pretty fun and easy. There's the idea of knowing exactly what is going into her food, which gives me a certain level of confidence when I am asking her to trust me and eat up. Also, you can inspect and taste all the foods as you combine them and the end result which is actually really enjoyable for me. Cooking for her has become inspiring and introduced me to new foods and healthy combinations for the family.
Baby E's Favorite Dishes
Bok Choy Chicken Delight
1 to 2 baby bok choy clusters
about 1/4 cup of rough chopped pre–cooked (baked or roasted) chicken breast or thigh
Cooked rice (amount to your child's liking)
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ginger
Steam bok choy and ginger for a few minutes, till the leaves begin to wilt (for me this generally happens in about 5 to 7 minutes). Puree the bok choy and ginger with the chicken and rice to desired consistency.
Persimmon Pear Puree
1 Bosc pear
Peel the fruit and dice into chunks. Put in food processor for a light chop. Add a few leaves of mint, cardamom, and oatmeal to child's liking. Baby E likes this dish a little pudding–like so we add a lot of oatmeal (sometimes rice) for a thicker consistency.
ZAMCOT (Zucchini. Amaranth. Millet.)
Follow cooking instructions listed on amaranth and millet packages. Cook and set finished grain aside. Cover. Sauté the zucchini, carrot, tomato, and onion. Add vegetable mixture to cooked grains. Stir around gently and you're done.
• Visit Teja's Site: Either Or And
• Teja uses the Beaba Baby Cooker for E's meals
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross: Photos of Teja and baby. Fruit and tofu/veggie in pan images provided by Teja)