This past week kicked my a#s. It was exciting and fulfilling and wonderful but exhausting. The first half flew by in a blur of deadlines and then I flew to St. Louis Wednesday night for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication‘s annual conference. I was part of a panel discussion about social media and magazines and I met some truly inspiring professors, including Jacqueline Marino of Kent State and Dr. David Abrahamson of Northwestern. I flew back to New York Thursday night, woke up Bug and covered him with kisses, stayed up late drinking wine and reconnecting with Chris, and worked all day Friday. Friday night was all about Bug. After he went to bed I unwound in the kitchen by chopping up veggies for a hearty pot of vegetarian lentils and watching old Sex in the City episodes. The dish was a hit with my family and I’m hoping it will be a hit with yours too. The lentils and edamame are a great source of protein and the veggies are healthy and packed with vitamins and minerals. Enjoy!
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 large carrot
1/2 cup edamame
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup peas
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 cups vegetable broth
1. Cook carrots and garlic in olive oil until soft (5-7 minutes).
2. Add edamame, broccoli, peas, and vegetable broth. (Start with 2 cups of vegetable broth; add in more if needed.) Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes. For firmer lentils, simmer 20 minutes; check the texture and continue to simmer if desired. For smaller babies, cool slightly after simmering then puree in a blender of food processor.
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?
Yesterday morning I made miniature meatballs for Mason. I mixed up the ground beef (you can also use turkey), shredded carrot, chopped spinach, homemade applesauce, onion, egg, and breadcrumbs Tuesday night after Bug went to bed and let the ingredients chill in the refrigerator overnight so that the bread crumbs could absorb moisture and flavor. Since Mason and I were up at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning, and he was fully absorbed in his new toy computer, I decided to shape and bake the meatballs before work so Bug could try one for lunch.
The recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens, where I work as a digital food editor, and it was inspired by the White House Kitchen Garden. I love that it’s super simple to make and that it’s an “all-in-one” meal with lots of veggies, fruit, and protein. I also love how versatile meatballs are. Next time I can make them with ground turkey and add in just about any veggie I like (sweet peppers, perhaps?).
Even babies as young as 8 months old can eat the meatballs. For Mason, who turned 11 months old on Tuesday, I cut the meatballs into tiny pieces that he could pick up and feed himself. If he were younger, I would have mashed up the meatball with a fork and fed it to him in small bites from a spoon. Mason enjoyed his meatball with brown rice penne pasta in tomato sauce. I couldn’t resist taking a taste — it was so yummy I think the whole family is going to have pasta and meatballs this weekend!
Below is my variation of BHG’s Mini Turkey Meatballs recipe. Do you make homemade meatballs? If so, what do you put in them? If not, what kind do you like to buy at the store?
Mini Veggie-Filled Meatballs
1/2 cup jarred or homemade applesauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup chopped spinach
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs
1. In a small bowl stir together the egg, applesauce, sweet potato, green onions, salt, and pepper.
2. In a large bowl combine turkey and bread crumbs. Fold egg mixture into turkey mixture; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. (This step is important for the bread crumbs to absorb moisture and flavor.)
3.Heat oven to 450°F. Shape turkey mixture in 1-inch diameter balls. Place meatballs on a foil-lined 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until no pink remains (170°F).
4. Serve meatballs with spaghetti and sauce or as a pizza topper.
5. For easy shaping, turn the turkey mixture onto waxed paper. Pat it into a 9×8-inch rectangle, then cut 36 equal-size squares. Roll the squares into balls. Or shape meatballs by using a small cookie scoop, occasionally dipping the scoop in water to prevent the meat from sticking.
Wash, peel, core, and dice apples. Cook until tender (about 12 minutes). Puree until smooth. Add water if needed. Makes 16 ounces. Freeze leftovers for up to three months.
*Shameless plug: For more healthy recipes for your whole family, check out the new Veggie Love tablet app that I helped create for Better Homes and Gardens. It has 50+ veggie-packed recipes, plus tips for how your kids can help make them.
The last week or so has been all about replenishing our stock of homemade baby food. Our life is crazy busy (like yours) so it helps to have several servings of healthy food in the freezer that I can just grab and heat up when mealtime rolls around. We’ve been traveling a lot so I haven’t had time to cook. Now that we’re home and things are settling down a bit, I’m loving all the time I have to cook. To help replenish our stock, I wanted to try something new — but I also wanted to make something Mason was sure to like. Since he loves yogurt, peas, and curry powder, Fraya Berg’s pea recipe seemed like the obvious choice (plus we loved her apple and cabbage puree with raisins).
This new twist on peas was a snap to make. I cooked organic frozen green beans, then combined them with full-fat Greek yogurt and curry powder in the blender (no more fancy baby food making equipment for me). I tasted the puree as soon as it was ready, and it was absolutely delicious. The peas were bright and beautiful, with a rich, creamy texture from the yogurt. The curry powder added a very slight hint of spice. Mason loved it.
If you haven’t introduced your babe to spices yet, this is the perfect recipe to start with. The spice is very subtle, even more so than in my curried lentils recipe, and the recipe is calcium-rich and chock full of fiber from the peas. (Just be sure to use fresh or fresh-frozen green beans — canned beans are loaded with sodium.) My variation of Fraya’s recipe is below. Try it out — and let us know what you think!
Curried Peas with Yogurt
Peas, frozen or fresh, 10 ounces
1/3 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1. Cook peas until soft, about 7 minutes. Drain and rinse.2. Combine peas, yogurt, and curry powder in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. For a thinner puree, add water.
Mason and I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to visit my family this weekend. Unfortunately Chris had to work so he wasn’t able to come with us (yes, I managed to get Mason plus three pieces of luggage on a plane from New York to Columbus and back — all alone!!). We missed Chris so much but we had a blast. Some of my favorite moments: spending time with Christy, a super close friend since middle school, and meeting her gorgeous little girl Lucy for the first time. Hanging out with my grandma, who I admire so much. Watching my mom and Mason play together; I love how much she loves my son. Getting a pedi with my twin sister and my niece, just us girls. Chilling with my aunt and uncle on the deck after dinner. But the best moment of all was when Mason tried a cupcake for the first time.
Mason’s first cupcake was nothing fancy. It was from a mix, just simple yellow cake with vanilla frosting. My Mom made the cupcakes to celebrate Bug’s first birthday early. (He doesn’t turn 1 until August 19 but she won’t be able to make it to New York for the big event.) She made them from a gluten-free mix so I could enjoy them too. Mason was tentative at first, gingerly licking the icing, looking slightly confused. Then he picked it up and shoved the whole thing in his mouth. I was snapping photos with my iPhone at first but it got so good I switched to video. I’ve watched it a hundred times, at least, and I just had to share the moment with all of you. It was so exciting!
How was your weekend? What was your favorite part? Any special moments with your babe?
Tasting the frosting, just before the video (above) was shot