Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hayden eats salad!

I feel like I have gotten a major victory, Hayden eats salad! The first time I gave Hayden lettuce, he took it, chewed it and then looked at me like he didn't know what to do with it next. He didn't believe me that it was food for the longest time! Each time I offered it, he did the same and then couldn't seem to convince himself that he should swallow it.

I refused to give up, salad was a staple in my home growing up and has been in my home since I have been cooking for my family (friends and other visitors) at SDSU. I cooked for everyone, and loved it. I was even (reluctantly) given the title of mom from my friends. But there was a rule, you don't eat if you don't eat salad too (by the way, the rule still stands when you eat at my house).

Salad is on the table every night here and I have been committed to Hayden eating it too, in his own time of course. He loves Honey Dijon and Caesar dressing and even eats raw spinach now with the Honey Dijon. His favorite lettuce is romaine and he doesn't care for baby greens (I think they are still a little bitter for his taste).

Salad of the week in our house

1 head Romaine lettuce
1/8 cup Toasted almonds
1/8 cup Feta cheese
1/4 cup Mandarin oranges
Sliced red onion
Honey Dijon dressing

Honey Dijon Dressing

1/2 cup EVOO
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp champagne vinegar (or rice vinegar or lemon juice)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together, add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with salad.

What can I feed my baby?

As Hayden approached four months, I was starting to think more seriously about solid foods.  Asking myself, my mom, his pediatrician and my mom friends, "What can I feed my baby?"  I was so afraid, I wanted to do everything right and make his transition to solid foods fun and drama free.  I quickly learned this was the wrong approach, it was so limiting.  So I took a new approach, "What can I not feed my baby?"  The list my pediatrician gave me became my guideline for planning, preparing and serving meals.  

The list included:
  1. Peanut products
  2. Strawberries
  3. Tomatoes
  4. Fish
  5. Shellfish
  6. Honey
  7. Egg whites
  8. Citrus (diaper rash)*
This new approach was so liberating because the question went from what to how.  How could I prepare his foods safely and make them enticing?  Almost everything in the kitchen became fair game and I got creative.  Mixing purees and preparing soups, lentils and couscous with different veggies and meats.  I wanted to introduce Hayden to foods from around the world and I did.  I pureed in the beginning and kept his meals mild, then gradually increased the texture as Hayden learned to chew and the flavor as his palate became more sophisticated.  He loved it, introducing new food was exciting and he ate it all!

I remember setting up Hayden's dinner at a family gathering and my brother-in-law was amazed that I was spooning hummus onto his plate.  He couldn't believe a baby would eat hummus.  My response was, "Why not, the only way he would know it is weird that he eats hummus is if I told him."  I don't shower Hayden with praise for eating his veggies or trying something new, I expect him to do that.  I thank him for eating well (if he does) and encourage him to use his utensils but if he prefers his hands, I don't mind the mess.  I truly believe kids will eat when they are hungry and they will eat what you give them.  Food is not a punishment or a reward, it is fuel for the body and mind that can be delicious and fun too.

I didn't plan on getting on the Soap Box today but it seems that is what happened, hope my soap box speech is helpful.

*  Between 9 and 12 months, I had gotten the okay from his pediatrician to introduce all of these foods and the instruction to feed him what we are eating on his first birthday (my plan already as soon as I got the okay).  

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Penne with Spinach

This is a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis on Everyday Italian.  When I saw it, I immediately wanted to recreate it, but what recipe from Food Network doesn't look delicious?  There were three things I really liked about this recipe, there is so much spinach in it, you can use it in place of a salad, you don't have to cook the sauce and it exposed Hayden to unusual flavors like goat cheese without being too overpowering.

Penne with Spinach Sauce


1 lb whole wheat or multi grain penne
3 garlic cloves
2 oz goat cheese
1 oz reduced fat cream cheese
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tbs freshly grated Parmesan


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Add the penne and cook until it is tender but firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Mince the garlic in a food processor.  Add the goat cheese, cream cheese, 3/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, and half of the spinach leaves.  Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Set the cheese and spinach mixture aside.

Meanwhile, place the remaining spinach leaves in a large bowl.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Spoon the pasta atop the spinach leaves in the bowl.  Scrape the cheese and spinach mixture over the pasta mixture and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten.  Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the Parmesan over and serve.

Granola bar anyone?

I am a big Jon and Kate Plus 8 fan, I have been watching ever since I learned about the show soon after Hayden was born.  Whenever I thought my day was hard, I could watch the show and regain perspective.  This past week, Emeril visited the show and made some amazing looking food for the fam.  Since then, I have been recreating the recipes.  I started with granola bars, because who doesn't love granola?  I made a few changes to fit what I had in my kitchen and they were delicious!  Emeril's recipe called for a combination of dates and raisins, I replaced those with dried unsweetened blueberries and then used almond extract instead of vanilla.  They were delicious and a big hit with the kiddos at the park!  (always a big compliment!)

Emeril's Homemade Granola Bars


2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8- or 9- inch square baking pan and line with parchment. Lightly grease the parchment and set aside.

Place the oats and almonds on a large baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F.

While the oats are toasting, combine honey and butter in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted and honey is hot.

When oats come out of the oven, transfer to a large bowl and add hot honey, dates, raisins, brown sugar, salt, and almond extract and stir to thoroughly combine. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking pan.

Cut a piece of wax paper and place on top of the granola mixture. Using your hands, press the granola mixture very firmly into the pan. Remove wax paper and discard.

Bake the granola for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Remove from the pan by pulling up on the edges of the parchment. Using a sharp knife, cut into 10 (or desired number) even bars.

Wrap in plastic wrap until ready to serve.

Yield: 10 to 20 servings, depending on the size of the bars

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Breakfast Quesadilla

I am not a big fan of sweet breakfast, so when we got a new cafe in town that served unique twists on breakfast, I was so excited.  I tried their breakfast quesadilla, loved it and started making it at home for Hayden and I.

Breakfast Quesadilla


2 flour tortillas
1 egg
1 tsp of milk
cracked pepper
1/2 tomato, diced
1 tsp of chives, roughly chopped
1 tbsp of cilantro leaves
1/4 cup of grated jack cheese
1 slice of bacon or turkey bacon, cooked and broken up into pieces (optional)
black beans
salsa (I like fire roasted tomato salsa)


1. Heat griddle and lay one tortilla on top.  Cover with cheese, tomatoes, chives, cilantro and bacon.
2. Lightly beat egg with milk and cracked pepper.  Slowly pour egg onto tortilla in the center, letting is creep to edges.  Cover with second tortilla.  Flip after the egg begins to set.  Cook until egg is done and cheese is melted.  Severe with black beans and salsa on the side.

Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa


5 tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1 yellow onion
1/2 bunch of cilantro
salt and pepper


1. Roast tomatoes, jalapeno and onions on grill or on griddle
2. Puree with cilantro until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.