My Big Scare

Mason choked. It wasn’t the little sputtering cough-like choke that happens when babies drink their milk a little too quickly – it was an honest-to-God, can’t breathe, flapping the hands, red in the face kind of choke. It was only a split second, maybe less, before he threw up and then laughed hysterically, but it was the scariest moment of my life. Just writing this post, weeks after it happened, makes my heart beat faster.

Mason moved on fast. He promptly squeaked for more food and gobbled up the sweet potatoes I fed him with shaking hands. I was so traumatized I called the pediatrician even though it was a Saturday afternoon. I’m not sure what I expected her to do. I suppose I just needed an expert to assure me that I wasn’t The Worst Mother in the World because my babe choked. In fact, she assured me that Mason was fine as long as he was breathing and acting normally (he was and he did). She added, “It’s really scary when that happens, but it happens. Don’t worry about it.”

Since that awful Saturday I’ve been extra careful about the consistency of Mason’s food. He’s old enough that he can have chunkier food but “chunky” in baby food speak is still smooth – think a few ripples here and there versus actual chunks. Texture gets especially tricky when it comes to pureeing meats. I just made a batch of Chicken-Apple Puree and even with lots of cooking liquid it was still too chunky to serve. I blended in pre-made formula until I finally got a creamy consistency. When I reheat the stuff, I always add more formula — it seems to get chunkier after being frozen — so it’s very creamy before serving.

Chicken-Apple Puree

The recipe:

Ingredients

2 organic Gala apples
1 organic chicken breast
Breast milk or pre-made forumla

Directions

1. Poach the chicken until tender (about 35 minutes).
2. Rinse the chicken under cold water then shred. Set aside.
3. Peel the apples, dice, and cook until tender (about 15 minutes).
4. Combine apples and chicken in a blender or food processor. Add formula or breast milk. Blend until creamy.


Even with lots of cooking liquid, the puree is too too chunky to serve.


The puree, blended with formula, all ready to eat.

Have you had any scary moments while feeding your babe? What do you do to help prevent choking?

1 Protein + 2 Veggies + 1 Fruit = 4 Meals

As a food editor I spend hours studying current food trends — which foods are the new superstars, how people are eating today vs. yesterday, and so on. Of course, not every trend is surprising. We all know that people are cutting back on what they spend these days so everyone is looking for creative, fun ways to cook inventive, delicious meals for less. Tonight I applied that same principle to what I was cooking for Mason. How could I take just a few organic ingredients and come up with several different yummy purees that were simple and nutritious?

For starters, I surveyed what we had on hand. The three organic sweet potatoes on the counter looked good. We had four organic Gala apples fresh from the, um, grocery store. Chicken was already thawed in the fridge so that was in. A solid, six-month-old-friendly protein. A hearty winter veggie. And a versatile fruit. I was set.

The first puree that I made was a no-brainer —  I’ve made it before, and it’s super easy:  Chicken and Sweet Potatoes.

Chicken-Sweet Potato-Apple Puree

Next I thought about the combination of food my hubby and I like to eat.  We like texture, contrasting flavors, fresh seasonal fruits and veggies. So I decided to add a little apple to the mix to create Chicken-Sweet Potato-Apple Puree. When combined, the apple added sweetness to the mix, while the sweet potato was smooth and mellow. And the chicken fit right in. Mason hasn’t tried this little number yet, but I assume he’ll like it. After all, he likes the three ingredients alone.
Sweet Potatoes and Apple Puree

From there I moved on to classic Sweet Potatoes and Apple. I wanted a blend that would be a  lovely balance of fruit and veggie. It would end my daily debate about whether Mason was getting an equal balance of the two, and there’s something so scrumptious about sweet potatoes topped with warmly spiced fall fruit. Mason’s variation wasn’t spiced, but it was equally good. I loved that it blended into a rich orange color– I used a bit more sweet potato than apple simply because that’s what I had on hand. Normally I’d do an equal balance of the two. I loved that the mixture was smooth and easy, with just a hint of sweetness. I loved that it was packed with beta carotene, vitamin C, and lots of other good stuff.

Chicken and Carrots

Three purees down but with some chicken left, I pulled out a couple of jars of carrot from the cupboard (remember, carrots have a high nitrate content so you shouldn’t make them on your own) and mixed up a Chicken and Carrot blend. Plain, straightforward,  nutritious. Mason won’t complain. He enjoys this combo, although it certainly doesn’t have the pizazz that the Chicken-Sweet Potato-Apple Puree does.

Not a bad night of cooking — and I ended up with 25 servings of baby food for about $12, including the carrots. How do you make the most of your kitchen staples when making your babe his/her food?

The recipes:

Chicken-Sweet Potato-Apple Puree

1/3 cup boiled, shredded chicken
1/2 cup cooked, diced apple
1/2 cup cooked, diced sweet potato
Water

1. Poach chicken for about 35 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Shred a cup’s worth, and set aside.
2. Steam 1-2 diced apples, depending on size, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside 1/2 cup.
3. Steam a sweet potato for about 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside 1/2 cup.
4. Combine all three ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add cooking liquid or water until you reach your desired consistency. (Think smooth but without being watery.) Freeze extras for up to three months.

Sweet-Potato Apple Puree

1 sweet potato
1 apple

1. Dice apple, steam for about 15 minutes
2. Dice sweet potato, steam for about 15 minutes
3. Combine the two in a food processor or blender. Add cooking liquid or water. Blend until smooth. Freeze extras for up to three months.

Chicken and Carrots

2 chicken breasts
6 oz jarred baby carrots

1. Poach chicken for about 35 minutes. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Shred.
2. Combine chicken and 6 oz of carrots in a food processor or blender. Add cooking liquid or water and blend until your desired consistency. (Think pretty smooth without being watery.) Freeze extras for up to three months.

*Appropriate for 6 months and older

Going Commercial

Mason flew on a plane for the eighth time this past weekend. Fortunately for us, the kid loves to travel. He gets excited when we hop into the cab to go from our apartment to the airport. The characters we encounter once we’re there delight him. He flirts with the flight attendants, and he manages to charm even the most disgruntled seat mate. Best of all, he generally falls asleep for the better portion of the trip so we haven’t had to face our fears of whether we can soothe him if he starts screaming inconsolably 30,000-feet in the air (yet) — I mean, who wants to be those people on the plane?!

Our trip this past weekend meant that we had to go commercial with our baby food.  I doubted I could carry enough food to last us the weekend, and I’m not so sure it would made it through airport security. So I decided to go with Earth’s Best. After all, it’s the organic brand we use for our carrots (a veggie that you can’t make for baby yourself due to its high level of nitrates), and Mason enjoys it very much. Our picks: chicken and sweet potatoes, squash and apples, banana, apple, and the same brand of baby oatmeal we use at home (Gerber).

Luckily, Mason loved it all.

True, a little piece of me felt crushed. I feel as passionate about giving Mason homemade food as some mothers feel about breast feeding. (I realize my feelings are totally illogical, but still.) So it felt like defeat to have to go the store-bought route. Sort of like I was cheating, taking the easy way out. But while I can’t deny the little thrill that I felt when I tasted the store-bought sweet potato-chicken blend and concluded that it wasn’t quite as yummy as my homemade variation (although it was very close), the pleasure that I felt from watching Mason enjoy another meal was far greater.

I also experienced his newly discovered passion for yogurt. The Yobaby that I had planned on giving him as his first yogurt was at home in our fridge in New York, so I mixed Greek yogurt with a generous helping of Earth’s Best apples. Totally delish! It was definitely a close second to Mason’s beloved oatmeal for breakfast — he was giddy between bites. Isn’t it amazing how babies have the ability to relish even the smallest things and make them feel exciting to us again?

By the end of the weekend, I realized I had learned something. Instead of staying up until midnight to make all of Mason’s food, or scrambling to get it all done before work, I should cut myself some slack. (Those parenting books are right! Perfectionism really doesn’t have a place in parenting!) The world won’t end if there’s a meal now and again where he eats commercially prepared baby food instead of homemade. Instead, I’ll focus on enjoying Mason’s reaction to the food rather than whether I was the one who made it.

Philly Food Memory


As I mentioned yesterday, I’m on a work trip until Wednesday night so I won’t be cooking for my babe until Thursday. (Our next dish will be Minty Peas — more to come!). While I can’t cook for him right this moment, I can reminisce  about one of my favorite memories of Mason and food.

We want our babe to love food as much as we do, so my hubby and I have been taking him to restaurants since he was just a few weeks old. We live in New York but love Philly so we took a day trip there last November during my maternity leave. At that point, Mason was close to three months old and we decided to visit Jones restaurant, recommended by Joy Manning, a friendly acquaintance, Philly resident, and author of Almost Meatless.

Mason loved the place. It’s cool and retro. There are lots of artful light fixtures everywhere. The waiters are bouncy and engaged. The patrons are friendly and adoring of smiling babies. And the food is delish. We went early, around 4:30, to avoid the dinner rush — we’re sympathetic that restaurant patrons don’t want to deal with a screaming baby. Mason doesn’t scream a lot but when he does he screams. Luckily he was a gem the entire time.

But all of this is all background, an FYI. The point of this post is my favorite memory, and it goes like this.

Mason was sitting on my lap when the waiter dropped off our dishes. My dish was succulent roast chicken and mashed potatoes cooked in pan juices. Chris and I had been coaxing Mason to smile for the camera just before our food arrived, and my hubby finally captured a smiley Mason (above) just as the waiter set my dish in front of me. Seconds later, a delighted Mason dipped his hand in my mashed potatoes, smeared them across the table, and laughed hysterically. We like to say that the adorable smile in the photo is Mason plotting his move. I smile every time I see his delight in that photo, and I can’t wait to return to Jones. Will we be able to recreate the same kind of moment? I hope so. It was magic. Once just wasn’t enough for me.

What’s your fave food moment with your baby?

Chicken 'n' Sweet Potatoes


Chicken and Sweet Potato Puree

Best for Babies 6+ Months Old

At Mason’s six-month check-up on Tuesday, our pediatrician said to start experimenting with new textures and flavors. I was thrilled. No more boring one-veggie/fruit purees — this would be the beginning of savory veggie-meat blends, sweet fruity mixes, and so much more!

That night after work, I whipped up a batch of sweet potatoes combined with chicken. I decided to give Mason his first taste of the stuff for lunch today — hoping it would be better than our recent avocado-banana fiasco.

As it turned out, I was in luck. Mason loved this classic combo.

On the advice of my mommy friend Karyn, I poached the organic chicken to retain moisture then pureed it. Poached chicken that’s been pureed looks, well, disgusting. And it’s bland, which is why I mixed it with one of Mason’s faves, sweet potatoes, keeping the texture pretty smooth (like you would see from Level 2 commercial baby food), and it actually looked yummy. I tasted it — I’ve vowed never to make Mason eat something that I wouldn’t — and it was surprisingly tasty. Good enough that if I ever found myself home alone with no desire to eat takeout and nothing in the fridge, I would microwave some for dinner. Seriously.

I buckled Mason into his Joovy high chair (I mention the brand because we love it — the whole thing can go in the dishwasher!!), fastened his plastic bib (the Best Invention Ever for babies eating solids), and fed Mason his first bite. The portrait of him smiling above is what I got. My heart melted. He made my day, and maybe I even made his with this deliciousness.
Ingredients:

Organic chicken
Organic sweet potato

Directions:

1. Trim fat from 1 package organic chicken breast.*
2. Poach chicken for about 30 minutes.
3. Rinse chicken in cool water, slice, and puree.
4. Peel, dice, and cook three sweet potatoes under tender.* Rinse with cold water.
5. Puree sweet potatoes with chicken. Blend until smooth.
6. Divide into 2-ounce portions. Cool. Refrigerate two portions, freeze the rest.

Appropriate for 6 months and up

*I’m a working mama, so I always make extras and freeze.

C’mon mamas and daddies, what’s your latest baby food victory?