Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On the road with Malanga Baby

I always thought that living in New York was my way of bringing the world to Malanga Baby, but it turns out that I couldn't resist the travel bug and just had to bring Malanga Baby to the world. So off we went to Horsham, England and Paris, France, where I conveniently have friends with small children. That means I was able to get out of here with just our passports, some clothes, an Ergo (especially useful for the airtrain ride to Kennedy airport and for the Metro in Paris), a lightweight stroller and enough diapers and wipes for the plane ride. Really, that's it! I carried it all myself to the airport on public transportation.

Malanga Baby had a fabulous time exploring the sand pit at a local park in England, cooing over my friend's two-month old baby and playing on the trampoline in my friend's backyard. She also adapted very well to the demands of Parisian life- lots of crowded subway riding (the NY subway is a haven of wide open spaces in comparison, even during rush hour), lots of croissant-eating (I believe she may have ingested her weight in butter- oops) and some stroller napping while Malanga Mama shopped. Malanga Baby also thoroughly enjoyed the communal bath experience with my Parisian friend's 5-year-old and 8-month-old.

The only thing I didn't get to do enough on this trip was write down all of my thoughts, but I'll try to give the highlights of what I learned along the way here:

- Sainsbury Grocery Store chain in England has a fantastic Eco-Friendly diaper line. I wish I could find these in the US!

- Boots Pharmacy in Horsham has an entire floor dedicated to baby products- cute clothes, Fisher Price toys with a British accent, not just one, but TWO lines of organic baby snacks (including Minky Moon Crescents, which Malanga Baby gobbled up) and more stuff than I could ever successfully cram into my tiny suitcase.

- If you're ever planning to take your child to Paris's Jardin de Luxembourg, make sure your pockets are heavy with Euros because it all comes at a cost. The children's park has an entrance fee. If I remember correctly, it's 2,60 euros for children and 1,60 for adults. There's a separate set of swings that cost 1,40 euro per 5-minute ride. Neither of these attractions is particularly noteworthy, but the Guignol (puppet show) was worth every penny. The shows are currently at 4pm every day and cost 4,50 euros per person, large or small. Malanga Baby was positively charmed by the show and by all the children sitting around her on the low benches.

- If shopping for the little one is your thing, head to the Rue Vavin, not far from the Jardin de Luxembourg in Paris's 6th Arrondissement. Sweet Petite Bateau onesies and pajamas are much more affordable than they are States-side. There's also a fantastic toy shop right across the street from the Petite Bateau store and lots of other baby stores up and down the same street.

- Petite Pan is another children's store not to be missed in Paris.

- Above all, children are more flexible and resilient than you think!!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Malanga had a little lamb

Have I mentioned that I just discovered Malanga Baby loves lamb? She can't get enough of it. The first time she ate it, I fed her a pretty basic dish that I like to make when we're having guests over. (Perhaps I should say when we used to have guests over since I haven't had any dinner parties since I gave birth to Malanga Baby.) You just fry up an onion and some garlic in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, throw in some strips of lamb (I buy the kind for lamb stew, but you could use any boneless cut), brown the lamb pieces, then add about 1 cup water of vegetable broth, sprinkle a little bit of paprika over it and let it simmer for about 30 minutes or so. 5 minutes before taking it off the stove, add the juice of 1 lemon and some chopped parsley. The lamb gets nice and soft for little mouths and is quite flavorful, too. You could serve some couscous or a lentil salad on the side for adults, but beware that the grains or lentils will end up absolutely everywhere if fed to a baby/toddler.

Encouraged by my little girl's enthusiasm for lamb, I broke out a recipe book last week that I bought in France in 2007 and had never used. (Shamefully, I buy lots of books on vacation that I somehow never get around to reading.) The book is called "Tajines & Couscous" and the name says it all. A sure place to find a good lamb recipe, and I did. So, since the lamb meatballs were also a hit, I am posting my translation of the French language recipe here, with some thoughts.

*Minty Lamb Meatballs* (Laurence du Tilly)

6 dried apricots
1 bunch of mint
1 egg
1 lb. of ground lamb meat
2 teaspoons cumin
1 clove of garlic
1 eggplant
1 tablespoon golden raisins
olive oil
1 box couscous


- Cut the dried apricot into small pieces. Throw them in a bowl and add the mint, finely chopped, the egg and the meat. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. (Note from Malanga Mama: DON'T skip the salt, like I did.) Knead it with your fingers until everything is evenly mixed. Make small balls about the size of a large nut. Put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

- Place the olive oil in a pan and brown the meatballs on all sides. Set aside.

- Chop the garlic. Cut the eggplant in cubes. (Malanga Mama says you might want to cut the eggplant and let it "breathe" for about 30 minutes to reduce any bitterness.) Put two tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot and add the eggplant and garlic. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little bit of salt then add the meatballs on top, cover, and leave cooking over a low flame for about 15 minutes.

- Prepare the couscous while the above cooks.

- Serve everything together with a little bit of fresh mint and the raisins.

Notes from Malanga Mama

The eggplant releases a lot of water while cooking everything together, this is what finishes cooking the meatballs through. If you choose to skip the eggplant portion of this dish and want to just make the meatballs on their own, try frying them in more oil like in the recipe below
I also found that the eggplant absorbed a lot of the olive oil at the beginning, so keep an eye on it.

While the meatballs were fabulous, I found the overall taste of this dish a little bland. That could be because I skipped the salt (oops!), but I think a little chopped onion tossed in with the eggplant and garlic would liven this up a little.