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Archive for February, 2010

When it came to successfully getting food into The Child as an infant and toddler, I benefited from nanny experience in my college years.  At 19 and feeding someone else’s kid, my priorities were very different than the exhausted thirty-something mom with my own kid.  In those years of experimenting on other people’s children, I learned a few things:

It’s best to go fast. Keep it coming and get the calories in them before they get distracted.  I’d shovel it in until the kid turned their head or waved off the incoming spoon.  Keep rags handy for the inevitable urpsies, but for the most part it will stay down.

Two choices are better than one. Once the first option was waved off, switching to another dish helped.  Getting into a rhythm and setting up subtle patterns (one of this, two of that) would catch a kid’s interest as well.

Don’t worry when it doesn’t work. Once the kid has waved off all the options, the meal is over.  Even if I had just sat down, I would get up and put it away.  Remember, at 19, I was less concerned about understanding if the little one had satisfied their hunger, if they were conveying a preference, or if it had been a simple exertion of will.  Curious, sure, but I certainly never lost sleep because someone else’s kid did not want to eat today.  I just got up and put it away, if they were hungry again they would let me know and not throw it on the floor this time.

No toys at the table. Sorry kid, but eating time is about eating.  You don’t get to draw, you don’t get to play, you don’t even get a freaking teething ring.  If you are hungry you will eat and when you are done we’ll clean you up and you can play, or chew on the teether, or have a cuddle.  Toys simply prolonged the process when my primary motive was to get lunch out of the way and be off to the park or the playroom to burn off some energy.

No playing with your food, and no you do not get the spoon. If the kid could not physically handle what I was giving them it just meant washing someone else’s kitchen floor…  again.  I was the kind of nanny the left the place far cleaner than when I arrived, but I wasn’t stupid enough to make more work for myself.  If the kid could not reliably manage utensils yet, I made finger food or I ran the spoon.

Either lower your expectations or don’t make it a big production. There are going to be special days when family is gathered round, there are paparazzi, there are fans cooing from the sidelines.  The kids wouldn’t eat as much those days.  They would melt down sooner than expected.  They would remind you there is a cost for being your performing monkey.

Basic Lifeguard and First Aid Training. ‘Annie Annie, are you okay?  Keep coughing, keep coughing.’  No matter your speed, kids are going to have near-miss choking incidents all the time.  I never walked away from the bathtub, because I knew what could happen.  And the same went for supervising infants and toddlers with their food.   My teenage first aid training always kicked in when something went down the wrong pipe, the calm keep coughing, keep coughing encouragement without hovering always seemed to reduce panic.  The basic concept is that if someone is coughing then they are breathing, so you calmly encourage coughing without commencing treatment until they cannot cough anymore.  In hindsight, reinforcing this habit helped me more than The Child – – because the first time a kid chokes for real, you are going to freak out and panic on the inside, but the reflexive habit of keep coughing, keep coughing will kick in and help the situation all around.

These are not guidelines, but rather a reflection in hindsight of why eating issues may have been less fraught for us than say sleep issues and the non-napping-child abyss we were in for years.  I never had any practice disengaging on the sleep frustrations.  I could have used someone else’s Raising a Napping Child blog back then…  but I digress.

My philosophical point here is that the kids I nannied for turned out just fine.  And in hindsight, many of the instinctive (and perhaps self-serving) judgments of my youth were reflected in the way I approached feeding The Child when she was wee, albeit with a little more context and caution. So when feeding The Child got hard, I’d attempt to channel my inner preoccupied, disengaged teenager and try again later.  At least, when my exhausted, worried brain remembered to disengage.

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The last two weeks have been jetlag, and headcolds, and broken dishwasher, oh my!!  The last thing I felt like doing was cooking and making a mess of the kitchen.  Times like these I tend to throw together what I can with what I’ve got.  Sweet potatoes and carrots are both on my standard weekly order from spud!, and I usually have some homemade stock.

This is more of a technique and less of a recipe.  Sauté veggies and seasonings in a pan, cover with homemade stock, and purée.  That is pretty much it.  But the concoction evolved from the months of baby food mush into a more developed and complex set of flavors, and it has consequently became a new tradition of comfort food at our house.

I love this recipe because it was something that The Child could eat early on.  As an infant, she always gravitated to food more when it was  spooned into all of our bowls.  In those early months of mush, this preparation became a foundation for introducing new foods for allergy screening without isolating that particular food like it’s some big production.  We know she loves sweet potato purée?  Let’s sauté it with onions first, and then purée.  Next week let’s add a little garlic, or ginger, or carrots, or *gasp* cayenne.  That’s right… We used some pretty powerful spices in small increments early on.  But that’s another post.  As the repertoire of new cleared foods grew, we could introduce foods in their own right without the added pressure of hovering over her looking for an allergic reaction at the same time.  This technique separated the “does she like it” from the “is she allergic” question, which may have cut down on mealtime drama or stress from the outset.  Although, that may simply be the benefit of hindsight.

These are the ingredients used recently. The organic sweet potatoes were tiny, so I used them all. Use about half the ginger shown unless you like ginger as a primary flavor.

I attempted recently to document the preparation.  The results are different every time since the ratio of overflow veggies is always different.  Use quality homemade stock, and you cannot go wrong.  When it comes time to purée there are several options, but I prefer the food processor, at least when my dishwasher is functioning.  The broken appliance meant resorting to a potato masher this week.  It certainly was not visually refined, but the flavors were great and my family didn’t mind the stew-like texture.  Garnish with plain yogurt or sour cream, or sprinkle a handful of fresh cut herbs.  Leftovers typically go fast in our house, and back in the day the purée was frozen into ice cube trays for easy baby meals to come.

This sized chop worked well for the potato masher, but when using a food processer 1" - 2" chunks shorten prep time.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

Large onion, rough chopped
2-3 Large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3-4 Carrots, peeled and cut into similar size lengths
Leftover white wine
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Penzeys Turkish Seasoning (flake salt, cumin, garlic, half-sharp paprika, black pepper, Turkish oregano, sumac, cilantro)
Homemade stock

1)  Heat oil in a saucepan over medium to medium high – enough heat to get a sizzle when sautéing the onions.
2)  Add carrots and sweet potatoes.  Season liberally with Penzeys Turkish Seasoning and stir.  When things start to caramelize, deglaze with a little white wine (or water) to get any brown bits up off the bottom of the pot.
3)  Add enough stock to nearly cover veggies.  Turn heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until sweet potatoes and carrots are just fork tender.
4)  Taste for salt and add more if necessary – often I leave it out at this point and top individual servings with Parmesan or goat cheese later.  I do not add salt when doing the first sauté because the saltiness of my stock varies by batch, depending on which roast beast it came from.  There is also salt in the spice blend already.
5)  Purée in food processor, garnish individually, and serve while hot.  If you choose to purée in a blender, let it cool first or thermodynamics will not be your friend…  be careful you don’t blow the lid off!  The Spouse prefers the immersion stick blender, but I can never get it totally smooth.  Nor can I manage that thing without making a mess.  This time around with the potato masher it worked well as a stew served with basmati rice.

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