Grilled Lemony Kale

Makes as much as you make

grilled kale

I’ve been talking about missing kale since I left the States back in January.  Now that we’re back in the Hudson Valley for the summer, I’ve stopped talking and writing about it because I’m far too busy cooking and eating it!  What sweet joy it is to be reunited with kale…Tuscan Kale, Curly Kale, Red Russian Kale…keep it coming!

I had been eager to get Claire to try kale chips since, I have to admit, she isn’t very keen on her dark leafy greens just yet.  (Especially raw greens 😦 ) I wasn’t very eager however, to turn the oven on.  In addition to being reunited with the diverse bounty of the region, we were reunited with humidity.  Kind of makes me wish for the dry, desert heat.

So, when it’s too hot to bake or roast, it’s a perfect time to grill.  Just as I would do for kale chips, I lightly dressed these leaves, still attached to their stems, in olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper. That’s it.  But really, that’s all you need.  This kale is from Blooming Hill Farm, located 20 minutes from where I’m staying.  You could still taste the sweet Earth in every bite and the nourishment is the bonus.

Kale is a super food.  It’s not a trendy super food that will die out to the next trend.  Kale sets the bar for other trends, plain and simple.

Let’s start at the beginning.  Kale is a member of the Brassica family, cousins with Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli.  This is a special family of vegetables, responsible for a whole host of health benefits such as promoting detoxification, protecting against cardiovascular disease, and kicking several cancers’ a**!  Excuse my French, but kale really does perform when it comes to prevention and even treatment of various cancers.  The antioxidants, especially lutein and beta carotene, are responsible for this special power.  Kale also has what are called glucosinolates which are specifically “anti-cancer nutrients”¹.  Throw in the potent anti-inflammatory properties that kale possesses and you’ve got a winning recipe to combat oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, 2 main causes that lead to most diseases, including cancer.

Kale is also a super detox food.  The goodie nutrients help protect you from the toxins floating around whether you’re actually doing a detox or not.  Then there’s the fiber and specific sulfur compounds that actually aid in the detox process.  It would be wise to eat steamed kale or throw it into a smoothie before, during or after your detox/fast.

I would be remiss for not mentioning the abundant stores of Vitamins A and C (also antioxidants) and Vitamin K, calcium and iron. That’s a lot of muscle for a dark leafy green.

Ready for the cherry on top?  Claire loved these kale “chips”!  (Hint, hint to you moms trying to get some dark leafy greens into your kids’ tummies!)

You’ll need:

  • 1-2 bunches of kale (depending on how much you want to end up with)
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 healthy pinch of sea salt or my new staple Himalayan pink salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, optional
  • 1 t lemon zest (from an organic lemon), for garnish

To make:

  1. Turn the grill on and keep setting to low.
  2. Wash and dry the kale leaving the leaves and stems intact. Then drizzle with olive oil and turn to coat the leaves.  You don’t want to use too much oil or the leaves will simply get limp.
  3. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper if using.
  4. Arrange the leaves to line up next to each other on the grill.  After about 2-3 minutes, turn leaves over.  You may need to do this a couple of times until you reach your desired level of crunchy to wilted ratio.
  5. When done (5-6 minutes, really), remove and place in a bowl.  Garnish with lemon zest.
  6. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy all summer long!

¹http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38

Culture Shock, Over Easy

IMG_0822

Right now I am in a state of shock at my culture shock.  I’ve traveled and lived in other countries before, but this recent move to Al Ain, the green oasis of the UAE, has jolted me to the core.  As most definitions of culture shock will attest, everything I know, believe, think, expect is being challenged.  I am WAY OUT of my comfort zone.

The thing about culture shock is that it’s a cocktail mixed with a bunch of other things. It stirs up emotions you didn’t think you had, fears that were previously unknown and prejudices you thought you were too open-minded to have.  Yet they’re all there and they come up when you least expect them to and they push you to overcome them. Everyday.

When you’re uncomfortable, you seek comfort wherever you can find it.  It may be in a stranger’s smile or a song you hear.  It may be a Starbucks you spotted or a re-run of Modern Family.  It could just be the sunrise and the sense of possibility of a new day.  That’s what it usually is for me.  That and breakfast.  On our 3rd morning at the Hilton, Claire and I went down for breakfast and were greeted by the organic section of the buffet!  Organic!  Little surprises like these go a long way.  Now that we’re “home” in our apartment, it’s a cup of tea with 2 eggs over easy over rice and sauteed spinach (at home, in the USA, it would be kale).

In the quiet morning, with a delicious breakfast, I can gather myself and prepare to start fresh, again.  It’s what’s required when you’re in the midst of culture shock because all things, large and small, are different.  And, you notice them all!  It’s also a time of slowness and when I can really watch Claire.  It has been incredibly helpful to be with a child.  Claire notices things are different (she hasn’t seen many women wearing abayas or men in dishdashes before) but she doesn’t judge anything as good or bad.  She notices and she looks (sometimes stares in a way that only kids can get away with) but then quickly returns to whatever is occupying her attention at the moment.  When she hears the prayer calls, she simply does her sign language for “music”.  Music!  That’s exactly what it is, that’s all it is.  When she hears our cab driver speaking in Urdu, she laughs.  And he usually laughs back.

Little by little the differences are overcome by the similarities.  It seems impossible now because as soon as you walk out the door everything is hard, but it happens.  I know it does because it’s happened before.  It just takes time, patience, some laughter and deep breaths and lots of the tea you’ll find below!  Then, allow yourself to be surprised and you will be.

A few days ago we went to one of the malls, (much nicer and with so many of the same stores as back home), and I spotted a woman covered head to toe in her black abaya and hijab (head scarf), but with her face visible to all.  She was also wearing TOMS, just like I was.  As they say in Vietnam, “same, same but different”.  Indeed we are.

Miracle Tea*

1/2 oz. each of dried chamomile flowers, dried lemon balm, dried catnip leaves and dried lavender flowers.  Combine all the herbs and seal in a mason jar.

To prepare:

Place 1 T of the mixture in a glass jar and cover with 1 C boiling water.  Steep for 15 minutes and ENJOY!

*This tea has helped me plenty.  It’s from Aviva Romm‘s book, Naturally Health Babies and Children.  She calls it “teething tea” which we’ve used several times and has done wonders for as well.  It’s soothing, comforting and positively dreamy.  I re-named it Miracle Tea because it is miraculously calming!  Thank you, Aviva!

Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter

(with a touch of nutmeg)

Makes about 1 C

honey cinnamon cashew butter

I’ve already learned a few things this year:  1.  Recycled resolutions are just as good as new ones, 2. Writing your goals down is a good practice, 3. Starting the New Year without any kind of hangover is the best way to go and 4. Claire Berlin has a food addiction.  Her addiction is to cashew butter.

I made a bunch of these Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butters as host/hostess gifts over the holidays and was lucky to have a few jars left over.  Now that Claire is past the 1 year mark, nuts and honey are foods that have moved to the OK list.  She seems very pleased with that!  As far as food addictions go, this one isn’t so terrible.  It makes a great nutritious snack with some celery sticks or apples, for babies and adults alike.

Cashews are the lesser known nut in the nut butter melange.  Peanuts obviously, but then almonds took over as the go-to nut butter.  And for good reason!  But cashews, oh cashews are mild, sweet and delicate in flavor.  They are so rich, too.  Cashews are MY go-to nut, especially when I’m making nut milk and butter.  Have you ever tried ice cream made from cashew milk?  It’s heavenly!

Cashews are originally Brazilian though we do get cashews from East Africa as well.  Have you ever noticed that you never see cashews in their shell?  It’s because their shell contains a toxic oil called cardol, which like its relative poison ivy, burns the skin if you touch it.¹  So, they roast the cashews, crack off the shell and roast again and voilà, they’re safe for consumption!

As far as nuts go, cashews have much less fat than other nuts and, most of its fat is unsaturated.  Cashews’ fatty acids contains oleic acid which promotes good cardiovascular health.  They are also high in antioxidants which may seem surprising.  Cashews are high in copper and magnesium.  Copper “plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin“²  Likewise, magnesium is responsible for several functions in the body including balancing our calcium intake, as well as regulating nerve and muscle tone.²  And, contrary to what many believe, nuts help you lose weight, NOT gain it!  (Any resolutions coming to mind??)

So, jump start your resolutions and/or goals this year with a spoonful of this sweet, creaminess!  Your heart will thank you, your bones will thank you, your cells will thank you, your waistline will thank you and your taste buds will simply adore you.  Not a bad way to start the new year!

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year, friends!

You’ll need:

2 C raw, organic cashews

3/4 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t (scant) nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible

2 t honey

2-3 T organic coconut oil*

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it resembles nut butter.

2. This sounds easy but it takes some time.  You’ll have to stop the food processor several times to scrape down the sides and bottom.  You may also have to adjust the oil for a creamier texture or add more nuts if you want a chunkier, thicker butter.

3. Place in small jars to give away or save it all for yourself!

4. Enjoy, Enjoy!

*Because of the use of the coconut oil, the cashew butter will get hard after it’s been in the fridge for a while.  It can be made without it, but the texture will be much thicker.

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=98

Pumpkin Oat Waffles

Makes 12 waffles

One of the pluses of all this crazy weather is that there’s plenty of time to use up all that fresh pumpkin puree sitting in my fridge AND freezer!  I’ve had my fill of pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies.  It’s pretty amazing all the places pumpkin sneaks its way into!  I needed a more creative way to use my pumpkin puree and waffles for breakfast was the answer.

One of the things about pumpkin in everything is pumpkin spice.  There are many variations but most have varying amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves.  I took a slightly different route and added ground cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg.  For me it made a world of difference and really woke my tastebuds up!  The other thing that made a difference is FRESH pumpkin puree.  It’s a bit of work, but if done ahead, you’ll have a ton of it for all your recipes, for a while.  And, as always, the hard work is worth it.

The yellow/orange color of pumpkin screams of carotenoids.  Carotenoids are a group of organic pigments found in plants and are responsible for the yellow, orange and red color of vegetables and fruit.  The most popular of the carotenoids are beta-carotene (alpha and gamma, too), lycopene and lutein.  How are they good for us?  Well, carotenoids are powerful anti-oxidants, protecting our cells from free radical damage.  They have anti-cancer properties and play a significant role in inter-cellular communication.  “Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention.”¹  Carotenoids also enhance immune function as well as reproductive processes.  All good reasons to incorporate these colored vegetables into your diet!  (Start with these waffles!)

I also made these waffles for Claire.  I opted for coconut milk and a blend of gluten-free flours (1/2 C oat flour, 3/4 C all-purpose gluten-free flour and 1/4 C coconut flour).  I diced a waffle and topped with fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of coconut oil.  She LOVES this breakfast.  She’ll eat both the GF/dairy-free version as well as this recipe below with the same enthusiasm.  Yay!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C rolled oats

2 T coconut sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t ground cardamom

a pinch of sea salt

1 C milk (or buttermilk if you have it!) – Any nut milk will also work well here.

3 large eggs, at room temperature*

1 C fresh pumpkin puree

2 T coconut oil

1 t vanilla

To make:

1.  Preheat oven to 180° (to keep waffles warm) and prepare your waffle iron.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend well.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir gently until you reach a smooth batter.

5.  Lightly grease your waffle iron with some coconut oil (or butter if you’re going in that other yummy direction) and add about 1/4- 1/3 cup of batter and spread it to the corners.  Close the lid and let waffles cook until they’re golden brown, until the light on your waffle iron goes off, or roughly about 3-4 minutes!  (It’s best to follow the directions for your specific waffle iron.)

6.  Put waffles in the oven to keep warm while you repeat the process.

7.  Top the waffles with spiced fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream) or have some over easy eggs with them.

8.  Enjoy!!

*If you have the time and are so inclined, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the other wet ingredients.  Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer (or whisk if you’re brave!) until soft peaks form.  After you mix the egg yolk/pumpkin mixture with the flour mixture and get the smooth batter, fold in the egg whites.  You’ll get a fluffier waffle!

Claire’s Breakfast

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=116

Amaranth and Apple Pudding

Makes 1.5 C

These cool mornings have quickly brought with them the craving for creamy oatmeal for breakfast.  While preparing some for my husband and I, I also had some amaranth cooking for Claire.  (Quinoa was her first ‘grain’ and this would be her second.)  Experimenting in the kitchen is always fun.  Experimenting with recipes for Claire doubles that fun!

Amaranth is still somewhat of an obscure grain though it enjoys a very rich history.  While quinoa was the sacred, power food of the Incas, amaranth was the sacred, power food of the Aztecs.  (Not surprising, quinoa and amaranth are distant cousins.)  When the Spaniards arrived, they forbade the cultivation of amaranth, mostly because it was often used in sacred, religious ceremonies.  This was inconvenient for the spread of Christianity.  (Food permeates every aspect of life!)  Still, amaranth was resilient and its spread around the globe proved inevitable as its name indicates.  Amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos, “one that does not wither,” or “the never-fading.”¹  (You’ll think about this “never-fading” again, when you’re cleaning up after your baby dines on this goody!)

Rebecca Wood writes that, “the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has encouraged the use of amaranth since 1967 because wherever amaranth is consumed there is little or no malnutrition”.²  That’s a bold statement for the health properties of this poppy seed-like “grain”.  Like quinoa, it is a protein power-house, at about 14%.  It also contains more protein and calcium than milk.  Go ahead and read that sentence again.  This is one reason why amaranth is such a perfect food for pregnant and nursing moms and for children.  It’s also what makes it ideal for babies since babies are well equipped to digest proteins.  Amaranth contains lunasin, a peptide thought to have cancer-preventing benefits and preventing inflammation that accompanies chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.¹  It’s also naturally gluten-free, which is really just a bonus.

Amaranth can be added to thicken soups, it can be popped and spiced up as a snack or it can be added to baked goods.  It’s tiny, it’s versatile, it’s nutritious and yes, it’s delicious in all its wild nuttiness!  Your body will do cartwheels in gratitude for adding this to your diet.

Needless to say, we traded in our steel-cut oats and that morning, we all ate this amaranth and apple pudding for breakfast.

You’ll need:

1/2 C amaranth, soaked in 1 C water and 1 T lemon juice

1/2 C coconut milk

1/4 t sea salt

1 t vanilla extract

3 T raisins

1 T unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil

1/4 C stewed apple, diced (bananas work lovely wonders here, too)

sprinkle of ground cinnamon

sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg

To make:

1. Place amaranth with its soaking water, coconut milk and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer.

2. Add vanilla extract and raisins and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid has gotten thick and creamy.

3. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil.

4. Serve by scooping some of the pudding into a bowl and topping with apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. Enjoy!  (And if you’re feeding this to a little one, don’t be put off by the mess.  Just be prepared to find amaranth EVERYWHERE – remember it’s “never-fading” – and know that it’s well worth it!)

¹http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

Baby Palate, Baby Tummy

It’s a mystery how our little gourmands work.  If only they could talk and tell us how they feel and what they feel like eating.  I’ve run into many moms at the supermarket, the farmers market, at yoga, where this is a hot topic of conversation yet everyone leaves with a question mark still sitting in their heads.  I know their frustration. There isn’t a ton of (good) information on what to feed babies, how much and when.  What there is, is often contradicting.  What are we newbie moms to do?

We are left to our own devices and instincts to introduce our babies to the world of food.  It’s a big task!  Giving our babies a sound nutritional foundation from which to spring is key to their health for the rest of their lives*.  We are responsible for setting a good example.  You’ll definitely think twice about having that danish for breakfast when you’ve got a little one beckoning for some of your food!  Parenting is the most reflective practice I’ve experienced yet.

Baby Palate

Contrary to what we adults may think, babies have surprisingly open-minded palates.  Not to mention a keen ability to “chew” food even if they lack the hardware (a full set of teeth) to perform such tasks. When I was living in Japan, I was astonished to see babies snacking on dried fish and sea vegetables.  Kids took bentos to school for lunch, filled with rice, fish or other protein, natto (fermented soybeans), etc.  As if kids just want candy.  Of course, if candy were constantly available, what kid wouldn’t eat it.  We’re hard-wired to crave the sweetness.  We’re not, however, designed to eat it round the clock.  Nor are we designed to eat processed sweets or processed anything.

We are lucky that we get our produce from an organic farm that is about 1 hour away.  Local AND organic is a luxury that is difficult to find despite increasing numbers of farmers markets.  Organic food is nutrient dense, it is real food and it is very important both personally and professionally, but that importance multiplies exponentially when I think about Claire eating.

The produce from the CSA is slightly more bitter overall.  It’s stronger in flavor and tastes like it just came from the Earth.  It did!

She eats whatever we get each week in our cherished box.  She’s eaten most vegetables; beets, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens from escarole and dandelion greens to spinach and chard, squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, peas, etc.  She also eats most fruit (no citrus or berries yet) and animal protein.  Claire just isn’t into purees so I dice her veg and steam.  For greens, I steam and then put them in the food processor.  I then add a drop of olive oil or coconut oil to increase the bioavailability of the fat-soluble vitamins.  She loves it.

Getting into food combos has been fun.  Her favorites have been:

  • chicken and avocado (I put a few pieces of roasted chicken in the food processor till it was fully shredded and found that I can then form little balls with the soft chicken.)
  • beets and potatoes
  • spinach and carrots
  • nectarines and chard
  • ground beef and spinach
  • egg yolk and parsley (or cilantro)

I haven’t yet introduced grains but plan to in the next few weeks.  I’ll probably start her on amaranth and quinoa.  She also is not consuming any kind of dairy.  (The question of dairy is for another post entirely…maybe 2!)

Baby Tummy

Up until a couple of months ago, Claire’s only food had been mother’s milk.  Her food has been raw.  It hasn’t even been exposed to air. Needless to say, the introduction of food can wreak havoc on a developing digestive system.  I noticed this especially after giving her lentils, therefore I haven’t pushed any other beans or pulses.  (Processed foods are much harder for baby’s delicate digestive system to digest.)

After a worrying amount of time in the constipation doldrums, I called the doctor’s office.  The advice I got from the nurse was, “don’t give her toast, make her bran muffins, if it doesn’t get better, give her corn syrup.”**

None of that advice was applicable to us, so I went to work.  I began to give Claire raw coconut water daily.  I gave her prune juice diluted in water.  She ate plums for breakfast.  I then made a prune and apricot compote (see recipe below).  These all gave mild results.  It wasn’t until I began giving her cod liver oil that her system got back on track.  It honestly worked like a charm!

I started by adding a 1/4t to her food which she ate with the same enthusiasm.  Now she takes it by the spoonful (still 1/4t) before she eats.

Introducing your baby to food can throw you for a loop.  It threw me for one!  There are so many rights and wrongs, so many opinions, comments, comparisons.  What I have found is that following my instincts has served me well…so has following tradition.  Claire eats the same food I eat.  Bitter greens?  Yup. Sweet vegetables and tart fruit?  Yes.  Astringent vegetables, salt?  Uh huh.  I’m not sure that you’ll find what I’m doing in a book, then again, maybe you will.  I’m just interested in maximizing Claire’s nutrition as well as giving her ample opportunities to explore different flavors.  I’m not interested in “kid foods”.  If we’re having salmon for dinner, she’s having some version of it, too.  So far, so good.  She loves meal time and kicks her legs and waves her arms in excitement as she sees her plate being prepared.  I’m told this will change.  Like all else in parenting, there is no such thing as linear progression and there will always be a ton of surprises!

Let us know what you’re doing, what’s working and what isn’t.  New moms can use all the support we can get!

Enjoy your food journey with your little ones!

Prune and Apricot Compote

Makes 1 C

You’ll need:

1/2 C pitted prunes, roughly chopped

1/2 C dried apricots, roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

To make:

1. Soak the dried fruit and cinnamon stick in a sauce pan with enough (filtered) water to cover, overnight.

2. Remove the cinnamon stick and place saucepan over medium heat, bringing to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the liquid becomes thicker and syrup-like.

3. Let cool and serve 1-2 T per sitting to baby.  You can also mix with other foods such as sweet potatoes or spinach.

It’s also great for you to top your yogurt or granola;)

Camera shy but loving that peach!

*If you haven’t seen HBO’s Weight of the Nation, please do!

**I should note that we LOVE our pediatrician, who is also an acupuncturist.  There is a wide range of views held by the nurses in the office, however!

Gourmet Baby

Caught Red-Handed!

So, it turns out that my gourmet baby, Claire Berlin, prefers to dine on paper over any food I’ve given her yet.  She seems to have a preference for my Bon Appetit magazines, so at least I know we’re headed in the right direction.

It’s been about about a month since we started her on “solids”.  The egg yolk was our most successful attempt at getting her to eat food.  After that we moved on to sweet potato (not her favorite), banana (so-so), carrots (nope), a bite of avocado from my plate (she actually gagged), a chicken bone (she loved).  There is an explanation for this seemingly disorganized approach.  I haven’t read any parenting books on “how to” start foods.  I actually try to stay away from parenting books in general because the way my brain works, the “shoulds” would be stuck in there and I may second guess everything we’re doing.  So far things are good and questions and chats with other moms are working brilliantly.  But, the real explanation is that eating isn’t a science, it is more of an art.  And, there is much more involved in the “how” than in the “what”.

Claire Berlin has showed us an incredible interest in eating what we are eating.  She has no interest in the orange veg I put in front of her, unless we’re eating the same thing, usually.  I have presented her with mash versions of the veg + finger portions that she can pick up, play with, whatever.  As soon as she gets her hands on the mushy stuff though she looks at me with a quizzical expression, unsure of what to do and not at all pleased with this new feeling in her hands.  She also has no interest in being fed, either with a spoon or with my finger, so that stopped pretty quickly.

Since Claire is interested in everything I am doing or touching or drinking (she really loves drinking water or chamomile tea out of our glasses), I have let her explore with whatever I am engaged in.  Our most recent experiment was coconut milk.  She seemed to like it as she kept putting my finger in her mouth looking for more.  It occurred to me that maybe she’s not into bland vegetables.  After all, we don’t eat steamed veggies void of all other flavor.  Plus, the chicken bone experiment went pretty well and that particular chicken was seasoned and roasted for us adults.

With all of this information, we moved onto the next experiment.  Back to sweet potato.  This time I cut it into rods, large dice, and planks.  It got steamed and then it got a drizzle of coconut milk and a pinch of salt.  We all sat down to lunch.  She touched it, looked at us for some kind of expression and then got back to her food.  She mashed some of it, tossed some off the table, but then she got a hold of a rod and it went straight into her mouth.  She sucked it at first (coconut milk and salt!) and then bit down using her two brand new tiny teeth.  The taste is still new and she’s still working that out, but she went back for more.  This time she went for the plank.  It broke in 2 so she grabbed one piece and little by little she ate it.

Looking determined!

It’s been fascinating introducing food to our baby.  It has forced me to think of food in an entirely new way.  Small things such as the cut or the tiniest addition of fat or salt can mean a world of difference for a baby.  We’ve been taking it slowly.  I don’t want her overwhelmed and I would like for her relationship to food to just unfold as naturally as possible.  No pressure.  No charts.  No comparisons.

She just turned 7 months so we’ve done a lot and we’ve come a long way already.  I think we’ll keep revisiting some of these foods and throw in some other veggies as they turn up.  It’s a great season for fresh and diverse produce!  I have to say though that I am kind of looking forward to letting her gnaw on a little lamb chop.  I wonder how that will go down?

I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, please share your experiences with your little ones and food.  I’d love to hear about your journeys.

xo. Nathalie

Looking a bit more satisfied. This was day 3 of the coconut milk sweet potato.

P.S. Between writing and posting, I performed a Clara Davis experiment of my own.  I gave Claire some avocado to which she gave me an expression of an emphatic NO.  So, I put some banana next to it (both cut into rods) and after some hesitation, she went to town on it!  She even took some from my finger again!  There is no linear progression!  Just experimentation, play and discoveries!  Enjoy:)

Whole Food Baby

Imitation is amazing! She was more interested in the bowl than anything else this time.

It was not an easy decision to make.  But, in the end, tradition won over.  Last week we all had poached eggs for breakfast.  Claire dined solely on the (not so runny) yolk with the tiniest pinch of salt.  It was my first food as well as my mother’s and grandmother’s.  I figured there was a reason it was passed down the generations.  After some reading, especially on the Weston A. Price site , I learned exactly why. Before I get there, I have to emphasize just how difficult it is to NOT do what a doctor suggests, especially when it concerns your baby. Even though cereals are still widely prescribed as the best first food, for some reason it didn’t feel right.  Especially if it was coming out of a box!  Yet, mom after mom, health professional after health professional suggested it or did it themselves.  Some started with orange vegetables which was a close 2nd for us.  In any case, I’m not interested in being right or wrong or clever or different.  I’m just interested in what’s best for my baby.

I know whole foods are best.  I know this through my own experience with food and my body.  My body was chronically unbalanced and slowly it began affecting different systems.  I needed to heal and I needed to regain balance.  Food was my first step in that journey, a step that was critical to my getting pregnant in the first place.  Naturally, eating real, organic, whole foods was a priority for me.  I experienced the myriad effects of positive changes in my diet.  Yes, whole foods are best.  So, as much as was possible, Claire Berlin has been a whole food baby since she was conceived.

So why eggs and why not cereal?

It seems babies are well equipped with the digestive goods to effectively digest protein and fats, such as pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein and hydrochloric acid which also aids in the process¹.  They also have a special enzyme for absorbing cholesterol².  Cholesterol is essential in the production of hormones and brain cells.  What babies don’t have is amylase which is the enzyme necessary to digest carbohydrates.  (They do produce lactase which digests the lactose in mother’s milk.)  This is the science behind our choice.  It’s reassuring.  Still, that egg yolk was my, my mom’s and my grandmother’s first food was reason enough to let it be our daughter’s first taste, too.

All that thought and discussion that went into our choice and really there are dozens of wonderful first foods.  Just keep baby’s delicate digestive system in mind and there really is no wrong answer, as long as you’re feeding baby real, whole food.  There have been some fascinating studies on the subject.  My favorite is the Clara Davis experiment.  In this study, Clara Davis showed that babies really are so much wiser than we think and are able to make food choices that best suit them.  And, their palettes are varied and sophisticated!  We need not think that babies and kids need a different menu of “kids’ foods”. They should eat what adults eat, eventually!  (In most countries I’ve visited, there is no such thing as a kids’ menu.)

Food at this age is merely an introduction as the baby’s main nutrition will still come from mother’s milk or formula.  Baby probably won’t get more than a teaspoon of food in at each sitting during these first few weeks.  Still, that was the most exciting part about Claire Berlin starting to eat food.  Up until now, I had been producing her only food, a miracle I am in awe of daily.  Now she’ll be having her first bites of different textures and flavors, exploring her world in new ways again.  As we’ve been witnessing her personality unfold, now we will be able to witness the baby gourmet unfold.  We’ll get to see how her tastebuds develop and what she’ll love and what she won’t.  We’ll get to see how her relationship to food develops and how our values and ideas about food, health, the Earth and our impact on it change and grow as she does.

For now though we’ll just enjoy the firsts, the funny faces and the messes!

Is the parenting journey ever not amazing?!

Oh the places we found egg yolk! But with that smile, who cares!

¹http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/nourishing-a-growing-baby

² Nina Planck, “Real Food for Mother and Baby”

Another good source/good reading is KellyMom.

Whole Foods and a Baby

Tuesday was our first run to Whole Foods together.  Claire Berlin was very curious about everything she saw.  She’s an observant little one.  I, though excited to be doing some of the food shopping again, was a bit more nervous.  Would CB be OK?  Would she want to nurse?  What if she starts crying?

Then I see moms with 2 (or 3!) babies/kids and I realize I need to calm down.  Moms do this all the time…and they’re amazing!  Everything you used to do gets adjusted to how things are going to be now that baby is here.  Nothing is the same and really, who needs anything to be the same all the time?

People comment on what a good girl she is.  Of course she is!  Not wanting to tempt fate though I rush through the aisles getting a handful of things that I need.  As usual, Claire is cool as a cucumber and I’m a mess trying to get it all together once at the register.  But, we’re there on the express line and before I know it, we’re out the door.  Can’t wait till the next time!