Chopped :: Introducing Finger Food

After introducing solids at the age of 5 1/2 months, we’ve moved to the next culinary adventure in baby land: self-feeding and fingerfood.

"Sooo...how do I get those Cheerios out?"

I’m thankful to say that Emma has not rejected any food or category so far nor has she developed any allergies. Actually, she even added food categories like books, paper, plush toys, and mommy’s arm to her diet. She also doesn’t really mind whether her meal is warm or not. She has pretty much been devouring anything we have ever served her including:

  • Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini, peas, black beans, green beans
  • Fruit: mango, avocado, blueberries, nectarine, banana, pear, apple, peaches
  • Meat: chicken
  • Dairy: baby yogurt, salt-free cottage cheese
Unconventional combinations:
  • Cinnamon carrots with chicken
  • Chicken with cilantro and apple sauce
  • Black beans with avocado and cottage cheese
  • Guacamole

Emma is demonstrating excellent motor skills.

Recently we started project “I Can So Eat By Myself” which takes meal time to a whole new level. First of all, the splash mat we put under her high chair to protect our carpet is no longer large enough to cover the danger zone. I do have to say though that she is not really a messy eater. She even picks up the food she drops into her lap. Secondly, meal time now takes at least twice as long – from prep to feeding to cleaning up afterwards. Third, I am once again swerving between sadness to see my baby grow up to get more and more independent and pride that she’s developing so well.

  • Fingerfood: cheerios, veggie puffs, Monterey Jack cheese (cubes), whole wheat bagel (cubes), broccoli (small pieces of florets only). assortment of easily gum-able fruits, chicken
I also put a bowl with mashed sweet potatoes in front of her, gave her a spoon and asked her politely not to spill it everywhere. Not much landed in her mouth but she will have plenty of time to figure it out.
I am committed to using organic produce and fruit for baby’s meals. If I can’t find organic apples, she’ll get organic peaches. Meats are organic only. Same goes for Mama since I’m still breastfeeding (well, pumping).

Hot Crab Dip

Photo: Kraft

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s what’s for dinner tonight: Hot Crab Dip based on this recipe by the lovely Paula “Ya’ll-need-to-add-at-least-three-sticks-of-butter-to make-it-taste-reeeaaal-good” Deen.

Ingredients

  • Crabmeat from Trader Joe’s (You could get it somewhere else but I think you should buy it at TJ’s.)
  • Lots of mayonnaise
  • Couple of dollops of sour cream
  • A bit of cream cheese
  • Heaps of grated Parmesan
  • Some minced onions – green, white or red
  • Half a red bell pepper
  • Some garlic based on how smelly you want to be later
  • A tad bit of Worcestershire sauce
  • A bit more lemon or lime juice
  • A bit less hot sauce
  • A dash of dry mustard
  • Salt and pepper to your liking (I have to defer to Trader Joe’s again: they have this new delicious Lemon Pepper. Perfect.)
  • Some grated Asagio cheese
Directions
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Finely chop garlic, onions and bell pepper and saute in frying pan with a bit of olive oil.
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir until thoroughly mixed. Scoop the mix in a casserole dish and sprinkle with grated Asagio cheese.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot with fresh toasted artisan bread.
Delicious!

Basil Garlic Butter

Inspired by one of my new favorite food blogs Love and Olive Oil, I thought I’d join Lindsay for “Basil Week”. Also, my organic basil plant has been growing like weed and wanted to be used.

Photo: Organic Spark

This is not a fancy culinary adventure. This is a simple, easy, quick recipe for a delicious (bread) spread. Since I use recipes for inspiration only and never follow the measurements, you won’t find exact measurements in this recipe below either.

  • Melt unsalted butter so it’s soft enough to be mixed with the other ingredients.
  • Finely chop a bunch of fresh basil leaves.
  • Press or mince garlic cloves.
  • Mix everything in a bowl.
  • Add a few grains of coarse sea salt and ground pepper.
  • Put in freezer or fridge until firm.
  • Serve with toasted fresh artisan bread or add to pasta, seafood dishes and veggies. Oh, heck, use for everything you can think of.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Bar :: Food Porn

So, um, I found a new addiction. A brand-spanking new item at my favorite grocery store – Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's amazing Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt (left side)

Here’s how I made my decision to purchase a bar of Trader Joe’s new Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt bar: I loved the package design. Yeah, that’s how I shop. Then I saw the price – $1.99. Deal, done.

The chocolate itself is wrapped in aluminum foil. After I took my fist bite, I knew why: The caramel filling is soft and liquid-y. None of that crunchy-I-just-broke-a-piece-of-tooth kind of caramel. More like Dulce De Leche. The dark chocolate is pretty thin and therefore not too overwhelming. The caramel has just the right pinch of black sea salt complementing its sweetness.

Needless to say, I devoured the whole bar within seconds. With saliva drooling down my mouth I ran to the next Trader Joe’s to get more. “What do you mean ‘sold out’? Sir, you’re playing with your life!”. I guess the secret new item was no longer a secret. Dang it!

I suppose I’ll have to drive to another store on the hunt for more Dark Chocolate Caramel with Black Sea Salt. With a price of only $1.99 for exquisite candy I’ll make sure to buy a case for our pantry. Just won’t tell my DH…’cause I ain’t gonna share!

Let Them Eat Cake :: Introducing Solids

When Emma started grabbing our forks, plates and whatever we couldn’t get out of reach fast enough while sitting at the dining table, we thought it may be time to move on to the next Big Thing – solids.

"This organic whole wheat rice cereal is delicious, Papa!"

Emma is almost 6 months old and every time we eat or drink something she just stares at whatever travels from our plates to our mouths. The AAP recommends that an infant should not be started on solid foods until after 6 months of age.  Many pediatricians still start babies on solids around 4 months of age. I’d say with 5 1/2 months we’re right on track.

Geez, Emma is growing so fast, it’s making me almost sad (insert deep sigh). Soon enough she’ll be wanting to pick out her own clothes in the morning. Oh well.

Here are some other signs that baby is ready f0r solid foods:

  • Being able to sit up with support.
  • The eruption of teeth (in some cases).
  • Improved hand-eye coordination.
  • The ability to hold his/her head steady.
  • The ability to keep food in his/her mouth and swallow.
  • The ability to grasp objects with his/her thumbs and forefingers.
  • Your baby might also stare at you while you eat, trying to reach for your food and attempt to imitate your eating behavior.

So, yup, Emma can cross off everything on this list. Now, let’s do this.

Since Papa is a very hands-on daddy, we wanted to share the experience of feeding Emma solids for the first time. Hence, Father’s Day seemed pretty appropriate to start Emma’s culinary adventure.

Apparently, you’re supposed to offer the solid foods after breastfeeding as this will maintain your milk supply. And you avoid that baby is too hungry (read ‘easily frustrated). After nursing her, we prepped her for the second course: bouncy chair, towel under bouncy chair, fashionable bib, BPA free baby spoon, chic Anthropologie bowl with delicious organic whole wheat rice cereal mixed with breast milk – ready.

Available at Target and Whole Foods.

Emma loved it!

She finished the whole bowl and seemed to still want more. When we gave her the spoon, she tried to put it into the empty bowl, then shoved it into her mouth.

We’ve been feeding her rice cereal for dinner every night for almost a week now. No signs of allergies, no gas, diarrhea or rashes. One more week with plain rice cereal and I’ll get out that Magic Bullet, eat all the ice cream clear space in the freezer and start making my own baby food – avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, pears.

Bon Appétit, mon cherie!

My Friend Joe. Trader Joe.

I heart Trader Joe’s. I did not realize how much I loved it until I recently discovered and fell in love (again) with the following food items.

By the way, all of these are new-mom-proof which means, they are affordable, quick’n'easy to prepare, tasty and can even suffice to impress dinner guests or your hardworking husband.

Best prepared in a frying pan for longer than indicated on the bag.

  • Mandarin Orange Chicken: Certainly better than the Chinese take out you can get in my neighborhood. The orange sauce is not sweet, the chicken is tender with a crispy breading, and with its prep/cook time of less than 20 minutes total (if you make rice as a side), it’s one of our all-time favorite family meals. Since my husband loves it too, it can happen that I serve that dish twice in one week.

Probably my favorite frozen dinner entree.

  • BBQ Chicken Teriyaki: I was so surprised about the taste and that dark chicken meat could be so delicious. The prep is even easier. Nuke for 4 minutes. Heat sauce separately in microwave for 30 sec. Mix. Done. Serve with rice. And steamed green beans.
  • Fresh Field Salad w/Grilled Chicken, Israeli Couscous, Currants, Bell Pepper and Asagio Cheese: The dressing is the best! Unfortunately, TJ’s doesn’t sell it separately. Crunchy and filling enough for a healthy lunch.
  • Uncooked Chicken Sausage w/Tomatoes and Asagio Cheese: I usually do not like Italian sausages. The worst is pizza with Italian sausage. But I like these ones. They got some spice to it, too.

Best caramel sauce I've ever had. I may like it even more than Dulce De Leche.

  • Fleur De Sel Caramel Sauce: Best. Caramel. Sauce. Ever. There is no coarse sea salt here, but there is a noticeable amount of salt in the caramel and the contrast of sweet and salty will definitely make your mouth water. That sauce can be used for anything: ice cream sundaes, I added it to my German Apfel Streuselkuchen, as a bagel spread on top of creme cheese, fruit salad, pancakes, and much more, I’m sure.

I could eat this for breakfast.

  • Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: Yummy. So good. I love marzipan and somehow the taste of this ice cream reminds me of marzipan. The contrast between the cherries (big chunks) and chocolate chips is divine.

Oh well, all this food porn made me hungry. I better quickly finish last night’s leftovers – chicken sausage and salad as noted above – before Emma wakes up.

 

Dinner For Friends

Last weekend we hosted our dear friends Ryan and Regina at our house for an intimate dinner.

The occasion: We gave them the gift of a home-cooked dinner for their wedding. We liked the thought of honoring them with a delicious dinner and quality time with good friends (how selfless of us, hey).

Over two years later, we finally set a date to redeem our gift.

The challenge: Everything I was going to serve was supposed to be whipped up from scratch. No boxes, mixes or canned food items.

After spending a couple of days browsing through my collection of Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, Better Homes and Garden magazines, several cook books and the usual online recipe sites, I finally came up with this menu:

Appetizer:

Main Course:

Tyler's Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Martha's Red Curry Sweet Potatoes

Dessert:

White Chocolate Mousse with Organic Raspberries (Image by Mark O'Meara)

Drinks:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Sparkling Apple Pomegranate Cider
  • For the dessert: Hot Chocolate with Peppermint and Marshmallows (and a shot of rum for the boys)

I could have gone with a side of risotto or grilled asparagus for the scallops but I wanted to add a touch of Thanksgiving to the meal. So I searched for sweet potato recipes – probably one of my Holiday favorites. I knew, Martha wouldn’t let me down: She offered a delicious recipe that turned out to complement the saltiness of the bacon-wrapped scallops perfectly. The feedback was almost overwhelming and Ryan and Paul were close to licking the dish to make sure they wouldn’t leave anything behind.

Besides the White Chocolate Mousse (it just wouldn’t get mousse-y) everything worked out perfectly. I may have to give the mousse another try some other time.

Meanwhile, I will be making the Mashed Red Curry Sweet Potato dish again for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration. And since we will be with Ryan and Regina this year, they just have to deal and eat that dish again. So sorry, guys!

The McRib Returns

Photo from Flickr: theimpulsivebuy

“But the McRib never left!” you say, my dear German readers. Well, that may be true for you guys since Germany is the only country where the McRib is available year-round. (Add another item to the list of things I miss over here…)

But in the U.S., the McRib hasn’t been offered at McDonald’s restaurants for 16 (!) years. Teenagers these days may have never experienced the taste of a McRib. Tragic!

When I saw the TV commercial last night, my excitement over the re-launch of the McRib probably surpassed my excitement about the Giant’s victory. So I asked Paul if he could please get one of those disgustingly delicious sandwiches for me. He refused.

Despite serious warnings from caring friends to please not put Baby Thrasher at risk with the consumption of the pork (or is it?)-patty-slathered-with-barbecue-sauce burger, I just returned from my prenatal yoga class (how ironic) with a hot McRib in my hands.

And be sure that more trips to Mickey D will follow as the McRib shall disappear from the menu again by December 5, 2010.
 

Stand Mixer :: Home Decor

One day, I will have one of these in my kitchen. And then I will start baking.

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. In Buttercup Yellow. $300. Available here.

Salads Only :: Day 3

I thought Day Three requires a bit more creativity. Here’s what I came up with last night. Come on, Julie and Julia would have liked this one!

  • boiled potatoes (red and yellow)
  • boiled eggs
  • breaded chicken strips
  • salad greens (whatever Paul prefers)

I whipped up another mayonnaise-based dressing with honey mustard, lemon juice and a few herbs. Mixed the potatoes with the dressing. Served everything on a bed of greens with the chicken strips on the side.

It was yummy!