Friday, February 27, 2009

By Day in Queens

She pulls books off the shelves indiscriminately, but every once in a while, a particular volume catches her eye and she won't let go. Today it was Roberto Bolaño's By Night in Chile. She has good taste, my little girl.

Her taste in food is expanding, too. She moved on to chick peas this week. I made hummus out of them, adding a little olive oil, garlic and lemon juice (just a dash) to the puree. And tonight she tried spinach, disguised with some mango and pear. We've been working our way up to one of my favorite tapas combinations- chick peas and spinach.

Butternut squash risotto, however, didn't go over well. I gave her a little taste from my own plate and she frowned as soon as her lips touched the spoon. This was attempt number two with the butternut squash, but I'm not giving up all hope yet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

9 month birthday

Malanga Baby is nine months old today. Nine months seemed infinite when I was pregnant, but I've practically got whiplash now looking back on the day she was born.

To celebrate the day, I took her to yoga class and bought her a "lap top." There she is above, looking as busy as her mami does on the computer and playing with the "mouse." I also took her to the pediatrician for a check-up. She is in the 95th percentile for height right now at 29 & 1/4 inches.
Feliz cumplemeses, querida!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Coconut Woman

Long before Malanga Baby was born, I had a CD with the song "Coconut Woman." The lyrics have been going through my head this week, especially the part that says,

Get your coconut water,
Man it's good for your daughter,
Coco got a lotta iron,
Make you strong like a lion!

This is because I gave Malanga Baby her first taste of coconut water a couple of days ago and she has been drinking a couple of ounces of it every day since. The thing about Malanga Baby is that at nearly nine months, she still hasn't gotten the hang of drinking water. Her sippy cup is pretty fascinating to her, but not any liquid we put inside it besides milk. When she came down with a stomach virus recently, I started despairing over ways to hydrate her sufficiently. I was reduced to mixing pedialyte in with her pureed food, not an ideal long-term solution.

So, I took a cue from a Brazilian woman in NYC who told me that Brazilians start giving babies coconut water at 6 months. I did my research, too. Coconut water is high in electrolytes and potassium. Plus, according to homemade babyfood, it's "high in lauric acid, which also happens to be the main fatty acid found in breast milk. Lauric acid is what makes breast milk so digestible and is believed to protect the body from infection and boost the immune system."

Fresh coconuts are hard to come by in New York this time of year, so I bought the Vita Coco brand, which has no additives or preservatives. A box of delicious, nutritious Vita Coco is pictured above with the trilingual Señor Dragón, one of Malanga Baby's favorite toys.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Beautiful Lentils

"Las lentejas te suben lo bonito."
- a Sevillano, circa 1995

Lentils make you pretty, that's what they told me when I studied abroad in Spain. My señora made steaming, thick lentil stews the whole year I was there and looking back at the photos, I think I did look rather radiant.

I introduced lentils to Malanga Baby this week at the same time that I introduced a third meal per day- lunch! Both were a resounding success. And I must say, Malanga Baby is looking prettier by the minute.

I made a batch of lentils for the first time Tuesday night and tried again tonight with some modifications. Here's what I've done so far and as an added bonus, I have a recipe for adults as long as you're putting those lentils on the stove.

Baby Lentil Method- BASIC

- I use brown lentils, which tend to get mushier than green lentils. The Goya brand is good, but so is Vitarroz and probably any other brand.
- Soak the lentils for about 1.5 hours-2 hours. They really start falling apart after 2 hours.

- Bring a pot of water to boil, then add lentils. Bring to boil again, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

- When draining the lentils, RESERVE some of the water for pureeing.

- Let lentils cool, then put in food processor with some of the water.

- You can use a sieve/strainer if you want to make the puree even smoother.

Notes on the basic method:
- Using a sieve is a big pain. I did this on Tuesday and it added another 10-15 minutes of cooking time. I also lost a lot of my lentils. I got about 5 ounces of pureed lentils out of 1/2 cup of dry lentils.

- I forgot to reserve the cooking water and in fact, didn't add enough water at all while pureeing. I ended up adding some breast milk to the lentils just before serving.

Baby Lentil Method- VARIATION

Even though I added a dash of cumin to the basic recipe above, the lentils still tasted kind of bland to me. I served them with some plain yogurt to make the whole meal a little tangier. Tonight, I played around with adding some fried onions.

- Follow basic method above. Add an "onion pique" (a bay leaf attached to a peeled onion using a clove as a tack) to the boiling water for extra flavor. The lentils will absorb the flavor as they cook.

- After draining lentils, fry a few slices of onion in olive oil in the cleaned out pan you used for the lentils. Add these to the food processor along with the lentils and puree.

Since I was making lentils again tonight anyway and needed to use the rest of the onion, I decided to make myself one of my favorite lentil recipes (copied out of a book of which I don't know the name).

Lentils for adults


- 1 cup lentils
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 small crate cherry or grape tomatoes- halved or quartered
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sumac (a Turkish spice)
- sea salt and black pepper to taste


- Boil lentils as above in basic method.

- Drain lentils, clean out pan and fry onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil.

- Add the lentils, tomatos, sumac, remaining olive oil, salt & pepper and mix together.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tools of the Trade

While I have been using and a lot these days to look up the preparation of guavas, passion fruit and the like, there are a few basic things I couldn't do without in my baby food-making kitchen. These are:

My OXO steamer basket. It's the perfect size for the amount of fruit or veggies I need to steam for several days' worth of puree. I like that it's collapsible and super easy to clean.

Baby Cubes. I have them in one and two ounce sizes for easy mixing and matching of meals. Make sure you don't fill them above the line or they'll pop open in your freezer when the liquid in the fruits and veggies expands. To defrost, I either leave them in the fridge overnight or put them in a pan of boiled water for about 10 minutes.

My mini food processor. No link here as any food processor or blender will do, but I bought a mini because I can keep it on my counter top. My regular food processor is too large for this and also has many small parts that I still haven't quite mastered.

Lisa Barnes' The Petit Appetit. Great ideas for different foods to try by stage.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Malanga Baby Gets her Groove on

Here's a video of Malanga Baby dancing to the album "Si Para Usted" to get your weekend started right.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


For the second night in a row, she ate the piwi! That’s pear mixed with kiwi. I have to admit that I didn’t make up the term, but it’s perfect. The pear is a great way to cut the kiwi’s acidity. I wish I had thought of this with the guava last week.

Last night, I scooped the kiwi flesh into the food processor and made it as smooth as could be before combining it with some pear puree. Tonight I just mashed it into the pear puree with a fork. It turned out well both ways. Malanga Baby was positively riveted by all the little black seeds in her plate.

My favorite baby food site warned that kiwi could cause diaper rash, or worse still, a rash in the mouth. Happily, we haven’t had any of that.

Banana supposedly mixes well with kiwi, too. Would that make it biwi?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Of Maracas & Manzanas

I made two discoveries recently. One is that maracas make for great diversion while out to lunch with Malanga Baby. Her Leap Frog Learn & Groove Counting Maracas allowed us to eat at a local Peruvian restaurant today where the service is on the slow side. These maracas light up, play music, count and sing the colors out in Spanish and have a plastic surface that is easy to clean. While I kept fearing Malanga Baby would smack herself over the head with them, no such thing happened.

My other discovery is that apples are the secret to making everything palatable to Malanga Baby. She will eat most things, but wrinkles her eyebrows or screws up her mouth when she's not as excited about a certain food, like carrots. Freshly steamed carrots are such a beautiful thing to behold that I refuse to give up on them. Tonight, I was inspired to try them with some apple mixed in and voila, she ate them without complaint. Apples go well with blueberries and sweet potato, too, combinations Malanga Baby gulps right down. This week, I think I'll try to mix apples in with butternut squash, a veggie she rejected outright on Thanksgiving and hasn't tasted since. Here's hoping...