Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baby Soup

We find ourselves in our household in that in between foodland where infants can eat real table food, but they can't eat everything. Or at least not all the fare we older people prefer.

Thing 2 now has 2 half-teeth. They have been coming in for a couple weeks now (like 7 weeks), but they haven't come all the way out and there is no sign of any others. But I won't let that stop me. Before I had children I thought teeth were necessary for eating, and while they are certainly helpful, they are by no means necessary. In fact what has brought us to this middle food earth, so to speak, is that Thing 2 has fully learned to chew. That's another thing that I didn't understand before I had children. Before eating one must learn to push pureed food to the back of the throat to swallow it, then one must figure out that he can chew toothier foods to get them to that baby food consistency before continuing. And I always thought that all that behavior was part of the standard operating system, not so. Furthermore, this is not something that you can teach your child. No flashcards will work here. They just have to figure it out on their own, so I suppose the experts would say that it's a developmental milestone.

Without teeth there are a great many foods that one can eat. Most cooked vegetables and soft ones like avacados, soft ripe fruits or stewed fruits, well-cooked pastas, cooked grains like oats (even steel cut oats or barley if they are cooked soft enough), soft breads, or the interior of hard crusted breads (though Thing 2 did just fine with a spelt baguette this weekend, I just kept my eyes on him to make sure that he didn't break off any chokable chunks), meatballs made from ground meat, beans, lentils, and my personal favorite, baby soup.

This is the ultimate convenience food for a busy working parent! No disrepects to the lovely Food Netwok chef that creates delicious meals in slightly more than 29 minutes, but I don't have 30 minutes to cook when I get home. In that amount of time, Thing 1 would be piling up all the toys trying to climb up to open the china cabinet all with a couple of cap-off markers in his hands, while Thing 2 would be knocking over baby chairs and finding old pieces of popped balloons to savor (just kidding-we do pick all those up before he can get them!). No, my children need more supervision than that. I need a meal that takes 10 minutes to prep and 20 to cook on the stove. Because before dinner babies have to be nursed and toys put away and well, tv can be a good thing, but there comes a time when you have to turn it off for everyone's sanity. But to accomplish this you must be prepared with partially cooked ingredients or in this case, a meal that is cook once and eat several times! I love saving time!

This is by no means a tip from the annals of rocket science, but it is a sure fire way to get the kids to eat veggies as they grow up and get comfortable with food. And as an added bonus-no frying, no oil, just 20 minutes and soup's on! We started Thing 1 on this around 8-9 months too, and he still likes it, well, usually.

Baby Soup
Take a small pot of water (I would use 3-4 cups of water, but I never measure, so that's just a guess) and get it warming up. You don't have to wait for the water to get hot, but throw in very small diced veggies and some chicken boullion. Let them cook until very soft, usually 20 minutes. I regularly use carrots, zucchini, potato, and broccoli. I also like finely shredded spinach, celery and green beans and have even used turnips, celeriac and, when he gets older, corn. This is an amazing thing to get rid of leftover CSA vegetables! My only reccomendation, and I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but baby carrots never seem to cook soft enough, so I ditched them years ago in favor of their unpackaged older cousins. And I am not a peeler, what is so wrong with that thin carrot skin? Just wash it off thoroughly, but that's another entry for another day.

When I get the veggies soft I will throw in some of the turkey meatballs I keep in the freezer. And I throw in some orzo. It is a full meal in a bowl. It is completely flexible to the seasons. It is just vegetable soup. And best of all, 10 minutes of chopping and then leave it on the stove. But if you have young children, put a timer on so you don't get sidetracked and forgetful. Trust me folks, I have learned from experience.

I have realized while typing this that I really do blame myself that Thing 1 eats such a short list of foods. I knew the toddler years would be tough, but some days he refuses an entire meal or two and I feel he is just skin and bones. He was so good on this soup, and he ate it for a long while, like until he was 18-20 months old. At Thing 2's current age you really have to cook everything for it to be consumable for him. Baby food doesn't have enough bulk now, and I am not so much in favor of baby food in a jar anyway. It is a necessary thing early on, but around 9 months my kids always started disliking the repetive flavors of baby food. And there is something to each kid seeing that the food on his plate (or tray) is the same as mommy and daddy's. But when Thing 1 got old enough I began to favor foods that were easier to prepare. I got re-pregnant when Thing 1 was only 15 months old. And I could not believe how tired I was. I had to work all day, and sometimes take work home, and once I got home the toddler marathon would begin. Don't get me wrong, all for the best, but to get through it, I stopped prepping all my ingredients on the weekends, and weeknights became pasta city! Or chicken nugget junction! That's not a town I want to reside in now.

But as I looked at Thing 2 last night as he munched on his mashed black beans, I thought to myself that I owe it to him to keep this pace up all the way through the toddler years, even when things get tough. Even when he goes on hunger strikes (though I am having a hard time imagining that with his chubby tummy hanging over his diapers). This is something I have to do for the well being of my family.

Post Script: I don't eat a lot of the above soup even though the kids like it, I am not as into in. An adult version that I love contains shredded cabbage, carrots, green beans, corn, zuccini, celery and a can of tomato puree. But anything that is laying around works. I happen to like this combo better, but Thing 1 doesn't care for the cabbage or the tomato puree. And you can make these soups without the boullion (duh) and they would be totally vegan. Enjoy!

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