Brown rice is a healthy, easy way to get babes used to food with texture as they transition from smooth purees to chunkier purees to finger foods. I use brown rice to make Mason’s fave cheesy casserole with peas and it’s a great side with so many dishes, including veggie-filled meatballs, baby cheese sauce, chicken-apple soup, and roast chicken. Rice is certainly a snap to make but I was delighted to discover this whole-grain brown rice that heats up in the microwave in 90 seconds — perfect for those nights when I’m really tight on time. It’s all-natural and it packs 5 grams of protein per serving. The caveat is that it has more sodium than the boil-in-a-bag variety from Uncle Ben’s, but Mason only eats about 2 ounces at a time so the amount of sodium that he’s getting per serving is still very low. We generally have four Mason-size servings left so I freeze the leftover rice. It thaws overnight in the fridge and keeps in the freezer for up to three months. What are some of your fave ways to serve rice to your babe?
Last weekend Chris and I took Mason and my Mom to one of our fave neighborhood restaurants, Sage General Store. We live in Long Island City, which is in the New York borough of Queens, the most diverse community in the US. (Every announcement in our subway station is posted in Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and English.) The neighborhood is 10 minutes from Manhattan by subway and it’s very much in transition, filled with abandoned warehouses and sketchy characters in some pockets, but it’s also home to cutting-edge art galleries, a melange of luxury apartment buildings, and great restaurants. And that’s where Sage comes in.
Sage is known for a few ultra-decadent dishes, most notably its three-course bacon brunch–bacon sampler, bacon brunch pizza, and chocolate-bacon brownie. We arrived early and were fortunate enough to get a table. The place is always packed. Mason sat in a vintage highchair and had his first taste of bacon marmalade. (He loved it!) We had planned on ordering him Sage’s ultra-decadent mac ‘n’ cheese but they were out of it so I served him my Cheesy Rice Casserole with Peas instead (yes, I called ahead because the place is so popular they frequently run out of stuff).
This casserole is one of Bug’s favorites, and it’s very simple to make–a mixture of brown rice, baby cheese sauce, and smashed peas. You can also add shredded chicken or small pieces of tofu to the mix for more protein. It’s rich and delicious but it’s also healthier than the typical casserole because of the brown rice and peas. Bug gobbles it up and I think your babe will like it too. Try it out–and ping us with your feedback!
Cheesy Rice Casserole with Peas
Organic peas, frozen or fresh
Milk or formula
Chicken or Tofu (optional)
1. Cook brown rice according to package directions. Set aside.
2. Cook fresh or frozen peas until soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside.
3. Prepare cheese sauce from kids cookbook author Annabel Karmel’s (she makes it with 3 different cheeses, I just use cheddar).
4. Combine 2 ounces each of brown rice and peas with 3 ounces of cheese sauce.
5. Serve. Freeze extras for up to 3 months.