Friday, November 28, 2008

Breakfast cereal for babies who need prunes!

Ever since my daughter was an infant, we have battled issues of constipation. There is always something that is bound to stop her up, so we quickly integrated prunes into her daily diet.
I grew tired of buying baby food (especially when much of it came in plastic containers instead of glass). I read that you could cook prunes and make your own cereal, and that's exactly what I started doing


- large bottle of prune juice (I get Knudsen organic)
- prunes (I buy Newman's Own organic on
- cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
- frozen berries (I buy Cascadian Farms berry mixes)
- flaxseed meal

I basically start the recipe by boiling several packs of prunes in prune juice. You can alternately use another type of juice or just water. I add some cinnamon and either ginger or nutmeg - I guarantee your kitchen will smell fantastic while cooking this cereal!

The prunes are done cooking when they are soft and have absorbed some liquid. I allow the mix to cool on the stove, and then mix with about 2 bags of frozen berries (usually strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries). Because I am making a large batch to store, I don't need the mix to stay hot, and it's also been bad news to put hot foods in the blender (read, large mess - the lid doesn't stay on!). I puree everything together and it's set to go.

You can also add a dash of flaxseed meal in there if you feel comfortable enough for it to have little bits of flax in it (I would probably wait until your baby is more toddler age, so that they are comfortable swallowing the little bits). Flax adds a little bit more fiber and health benefit, but keep in mind you aren't supposed to cook/heat it, or it loses it's benefit.

I pour the mix into baby food jars, put in a tray in the freezer, and I am set for a few weeks.

As for consistency, I go for a thinner consistency. In the morning, I heat a frozen jar in my microwave, pour into a bowl, and mix with Happy Bellies cereal (I get from, as well as Rainbow brand Nutristart vitamin powder. The thinner consistency allows me to add the cereal and the powder. And we're ready for our day! My daughter enjoys the cereal and there is a lot of nutrition in it from each and every ingredient.

Sweet Potatoes or Squash (variations)

Sweet potatoes are an easy dish to prepare, make variations of, and freeze/store. It is also one of the less messy ones to feed, especially for toddlers learning to self feed.

You can bake sweet potatoes in the oven, but I generally just punch a few holes in them with a fork and pop in the microwave (on a plate). I use the potato setting which usually senses when the potato is done, although it is usually a few minutes short of being truly done.

The sweet potatoes stay pretty hot for a while, so it is best to let them cool for a little bit before trying to remove the skin. Usually I can just peel off the skin, but you can also scoop out the sweet potato with a spoon.

I mash the sweet potato with any of the following -
- ginger powder (fantastic for digestion, and it tastes great), cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.
- butter
- oranges (you can use mandarin oranges if that is easier)
- apples (cooked, or applesauce)
My most popular recipe is to add organic butter and some ginger - and that includes for myself and my husband, not just the little one!

I generally always just mash with a fork and I'm set to go, although if you use cooked apples you may want to mince or mash, depending on what your child can chew. If you feel the potatoes need to be watered down, you can add water, but I prefer fruit juice. Then it's right into small jars or bowls for storing in the freezer.

You can also use squashes instead of sweet potatoes - such as acorn squash, butternut, etc. Cascadian Farms makes a box of frozen winter squash that is great for a quick meal - I simply thaw/heat (I take it out of the plastic and put it in a glass bowl), and add some spices, and my little girl loves it!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Palak Paneer (spinach) for babies and toddlers

One of my favorite Indian dishes is Palak Paneer, or spinach curry. It is a creamy spinach dish that has cubes of paneer in it (almost like farmer cheese). It was my inspiration for this dish.

Frozen chopped spinach (I usually use a 10 oz bag)
Cottage cheese (16 oz)
Turmeric (if desired)

Preparation is really easy. I thaw out the spinach in the microwave until it is warm, and mix the bag in a bowl with the cottage cheese, sprinking with the cumin to taste. You may want to do less cottage cheese (like 8 oz), or you can try some sour cream instead. I use what is on hand, what is convenient - and with cottage cheese, my toddler will gladly eat the leftover cottage cheese.

Turmeric does not have a lot of flavor, and adds color - something you may or may not want to do when you have an infant or toddler that gets food on themselves. It stains! I add it out of habit from making Indian dishes for ourselves, but it has fantastic health benefits as well. An "authentic" palak paneer dish has more Indian spices and is often spicy, but for now I like to keep it simple.

After mixing the ingredients, I simply puree in a blender. You can puree to different consistencies, making the spinach pieces as small as you like depending on the age of your toddler or baby.

I haven't tried adding "paneer", but for a toddler you could easily chop tofu into small cubes and sprinkle in.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Every so often I cook some beets to get some different colors into my daughter's diet - like greens, reds, yellows, etc! Just remember that eating beets can definitely have an affect on what colors you see in your baby's diaper, so don't panic!

You can either steam or boil beets. I peel and rinse them, and cut them into slices first.

I used to do just plain beets, but I have also mixed them with oranges and turnips. I actually like the idea of turnips, because when I freeze the beets as meals, they tend to be very dark, and it's tough to distinguish the beets from other dark meals (like prunes or berries), so adding some lighter vegetables helps make them a little "pinker".

After cooking, I simply puree in a blender. You can add a little water if you need a thinner consistency, but I try to keep the beets as thick as possible so as they are the least messy - beets stain very easily and especially with toddlers (like my 20 month old that refuses to let me feed her). If you don't want to "water down" the beets you can use fruit juice, although the beets are generally pretty sweet on their own.

The beet puree freezes very nicely and heats up well in the microwave. I generally do a small side of beets with some other dinner foods (like grains or pasta).

Pilaf with Veggies

Today I made some pilaf, and started making it plain, but then had a change of plans! I start by using Kashi Pilaf, which is really convenient and easy to cook, but hard to find unless you have a really great health food store or decide to order online (sometimes sells it in bulk).

When my toddler was smaller, I made this plain, and then I started cooking it with my Organic Vegetable Better Than Bouillon for a little more flavor.

This time I figured I would use up some tomatoes that I had sitting around, and I diced them up and tossed them in, and then decided to add some peas and corn. Not only did it make a rather plain pilaf into something with a little more nutrition, but it is colorful and very tasty! I did mix in my vegetable bouillon to add flavor as well. You can do lots of combinations of adding veggies to the pilaf.

My toddler really likes her vegetable pilaf, and it makes a good dish to go along with some veggies.

The box for the Kashi pilaf recommends something like 2 cups of water and 20 minutes cooking time, but I cook for longer, which inevitably requires more water. I overcook the pilaf so that it is a little mushier. Some of the grains are a little firm, and just to be on the safe side, I cook it so it is on the softer side. This dish freezes and reheats well - I freeze in glass jars or bowls, and pop in the microwave when I need dinner for my toddler in a hurry!