The other day I was consumed by a sudden burning desire to learn more about French food. It didn’t just spring on me out of the blue, I was watching “Julie and Julia” and just fell in love with the concept of the food she was cooking. I get that way sometimes, when reading a book or watching a movie with graphic food imagery. I get “the itch”. So I headed to Half Price Books with Simon on my hip in search of :
1) Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, because just out of curiosity I would like to read it (and by that I mean thumb through it) in all of it’s glory, and I also wanted to see if there was any glimmer of a chance of my actually cooking any of the recipes.
2) If said MtAoFC turned out to be, as expected, absolutely ridiculous and impractical, find another French cookbook with recipes that could actually be cooked without dismembering a lobster, making homemade puff pastry, or boiling a calves foot for five hours, etc.
But the beauty of a trip to HPB is that you just never know what you’re going to walk out of the store with, so I bought this:
Yep. Curries. Absolutely nothing to do with French food because they didn’t have MtAoFC nor any other decent looking alternatives. But since I got into making Indian food after I was hit with a similar “itch” last year, this looked perfect for me; quick, spicy recipes and pretty pictures. So I made the Chicken Tikka Masala, albeit a heavily edited version because I WANT IT THE WAY I WANT IT, damnit!
And it was da bomb, thankyouverymuch.
And here we are, finally getting to the point of this post; discussing the beauty of that which a fine cookbook can present; POSSIBILITIES.
Cookbooks are my own personal version of porn (in case you hadn’t picked up on the sexually charged first paragraph). When I look through a good cookbook (and I mean a good one with well written intros and professional photographs, not the typewriter written, spiral bound church cookbook with pot pie and brownie recipes)it’s the same concept as when a man looks at a nudie magazine. It presents the possibility. Yes, dude, that beautiful woman actually exists somewhere in the world, and just IMAGINE what you can do to her (or what she can do to you)! To me, I stare at that gorgeous casserole dish I would just love to own, filled with the perfectly baked mac ‘n’ cheese covered in crispy browned and buttery bread crumbs with just a bit of crumbled bacon on top and I can see that little bit of browned cheese juuuuust falling off the edge of the dish that I would just looooove snatch up and devour because noooooobody would know, and it’s probably going to fall off anyways when I move the dish……mmmmmmmmm…hmmmmmmmmm..
….um….where was I?
Oh yeah, possibilities. Despite my admitted love of cookbooks I actually own very few. I don’t bring a book home just for viewing pleasure, I only buy books for a purpose. Because that’s what I do, I cook food with PURPOSE. Cultural, sentimental, seasonal, whatever it may be, I like to make food you can feel; food with a story. I bring home books that present me with the possibility of achieving this purpose. And then I make them my own by rarely actually following the recipes perfectly. Hence the adjustments to the Tikka Masala.
Unfortunately possible does not always mean probable. I bought “Cooking for Baby” after having fallen in love with the idea of the book in the store.
HUZZAH!! ALL THESE WONDERFUL FOODS I CAN MAKE FOR SIMON!!
Yes, I can possibly get Simon to eat all of these lovely foods…
…but it’s not very probable. Because thus far Simon has rejected anything that:
1) Isn’t sweet
2) Isn’t sweet….wait, I already said that.
3) Isn’t sweet….dammit!
All of these enticing recipes and he won’t touch any of them unless I mix them 1:2 with pear puree. Shit, I could probably get the kid to eat dirt if it was mixed in with pear. It’s his nectar. His ambrosia. Pear = love for Simon.
But I keep holding onto the possibility of him suddenly and inexplicably starting to eat the food I cook for him. I keep thumbing through my cookbooks, coming up with ideas. And I keep cooking for him, despite the endless rejections. Because it’s just 18 more years until he leaves for college. I have time. But for now I just cook for two. For now.
And by the way, I ordered Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” online after a heart thumping encounter with it at Barnes and Noble. Gorgeous book, but shiiiiit, Ina, $35? Thanks Amazon used books! $16.99! I’ll let you know how it goes…
So after a week of madness, i.e. moving to San Antonio then going on a road trip with my parents and sister to northern Louisiana for 5 days and then returning to Houston and then back to San Antonio….we were exhausted. Poor little man was NOT a fan of riding in the car for that long and sleeping in his Pack and Play. We both ran off of very little sleep and were not happy. But now that we’re home he is SOOOOOOO much better. He just about wiggled out of his skin when he saw the dog! I have actually never seen him so happy. Ever. It was insane.
So here is my new kitchen. Well, it’s the apartment kitchen, but it’s really nice, apart from the crappy electric coil stove…
My apologies for the quality of the photos, somewhere in the move I misplaced our camera charger and haven’t uncovered it yet, so it’s iPhone photos for you today.
Now that we’re all settled in I can start cooking for the Monkey again!!! We stopped at a roadside farmer’s market and picked up some fabulous produce. You can see it above; peaches, plums and some beautiful yellow squash. As I mentioned in my earlier blogs, for some reason Simon has suddenly decided that all of his food doesn’t have to be perfectly pureed and smooth! He’s letting me add texture and it’s really exciting! He’s also eating little bits off of my plate, like teensy pieces of chicken and green beans. I think it’s all related to the fact that he is starting to wean and is learning to satisfy his cravings elsewhere.
So here are a few examples of a few of the meals I have put together for him. It’s tough, because he still likes things to be sweet, so I have to play with texture and flavor to find just the right combination:
I overcooked some whole wheat penne pasta and chopped it up into little bits. I then mixed it with butternut squash and ricotta cheese.
The lumps still take him by surprise…
But he ate the whole thing! Here he is, you can see him rolling the pasta around in his mouth…
He now likes bacon. I stuck a piece in his mouth the other morning because he was fussing and he shut up and sucked on it for a good 20 minutes. So. Bacon. Definitely his mother’s son.
I cooked up a piece for him and then crumbled it up finely. I then sauteed the crap out of a yellow squash in the bacon grease, mixed it all together with the bacon, whirled it in the Magic Bullet and then mixed in some apple.
It was delicious! Sweet and smokey at the same time. The first time I gave it to him I think it was too lumpy and too unfamiliar. It didn’t go so well.
The next day I pureed it a little more and he seemed to accept the flavors more readily! Sorry about the photo quality…
So there you have it! Experiments happen daily, so I will keep you posted!
I have a confession to make, dear readers. I must tell you this or it will hang over my head….
I bought store bought baby food.
I KNOW!! I KNOW!!! I feel like Ali Larter in Legally Blonde when she tells Reese Witherspoon she had liposuction and Reese gives off this absolutely fantastic half gasp/half scream of dismay!
OK, so I know that I never promised to be 100% homemade or anything, but I thought you ought to know this new development anyways. In my defense, we are moving to San Antonio tomorrow and I realized that it would be a hell of a lot easier on me if I could just pack his frozen food in an ice chest and not worry about it while feeding him out of a jar all day. So…here it is…
Seriously though, this s**t is expensive!!! Those baggie thingies were like, $1.89 each at Target! Thus further justifying my homemade baby food efforts. Seriously, a whole head of broccoli costs that much, a whole bunch of spinach or a pound of apples…sigh. Convenience if expensive! Especially since on any given day now he eats three meals of 3 oz or more each and one of those things is 3.5oz. That would add up fast!! Seriously…I say seriously a lot. Seriously.
P.S. I promised you spinach and it just hasn’t happened…but it will!! I’m still wanting to try introducing leafy greens, so that plan will go into action when we’re settled into the new apartment.
P.P.S. I must also express my excitement over Simon’s sudden and inexplicable reversal of his views on lumps. LET THERE BE LUMPS!!! Chopped up overcooked pasta!! Whole cooked quinoa! Cantaloup scraped right out of the fruit in chunks! Watermelon diced up into small bits! I’m so proud!
If you are what you eat then Simon is definitely a blueberry. OK, so not JUST a blueberry, a blueberry with some blackberry thrown in and a spoonful of pear. Mix in some plain Greek yogurt and there is Simon’s favorite meal. If I fed that to him at every meal he’d be perfectly happy. He gets at least one serving of that exact combination every day. He’s baffled by my attempts to try to feed him those ghastly vegetables like peas and carrots, etc, so I am getting quite skilled at hiding vegetables in his fruit. For instance, pear masks green beans quite well, and berries mask carrots. Sweet potato and butternut squash are somewhat acceptable depending on his mood, but he always welcomes some apple mixed into that. He has developed the art of expressing his opinions and isn’t afraid to do so. Sigh…it was only a matter of time.
So that’s where we stand right now. He love fruit. LOVES it, as long as it’s completely pureed with absolutely zero texture. Oh yeah, did I mention that LUMPS are a HUGE INSULT and will result in INSTANT TERMINATION OF THE MEAL!!!! Sigh….so we’re back to square one on texture, but we’ll get there, we’ll get there. Perseverance is key!!!
Speaking of fruit, berries are ripe here in Texas. Most specifically, blueberries and blackberries. Both are recommended for babies of his age, so I went ahead and bought several pints of each. My first attempt at blueberries I followed these instructions at wholesombabyfood.com. In short, they have you boil the blueberries in some water for a few minutes, pull the berries out and puree them. Well, it didn’t really work out so well. I only boiled the berries for about 3 minutes and they burst and let their insides run into the water and I ended up with about 3 cubes of solid blueberry puree and about 10 cubes of blueberry juice. I’ve been using the juice to thin his oatmeal, so it hasn’t gone to waste, but the second two pint container of blueberries were processed like this:
Take two pints of washed blueberries and place in blender. Blend. This part was awesome. I had no idea you could just puree blueberries without any water. But they are so soft and have so much liquid already they just squished right up into this thick and beautiful purple paste. Kind of the consistency of thin yogurt.
I then put the puree in a saucepan and heated it to a boil for about two minutes. I let it cool and I was done! Ice cube trays, freezer, etc etc, you know the routine. And he LOVES them with yogurt. LOVES them. Did I mention he LOOOOOORRRRRVES blueberries and yogurt? Once or twice? OK, so you get the point.
I also bought two pints of these beautiful blackberries. This was super simple as well. I just washed them and tossed them into the food processor and gave it a whirl. They had the most stunning color once pureed.
Then, due to his mild dislike of texture (MASSIVE UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT!!), I took a spatula and pushed them through my strainer to remove the seeds. There are a lot of freaking seeds in blackberries!
Ice cube trays, freezer, etc.
Next up, I bought a big bunch of organic spinach! AM I CRAZY?? I just might be!! I’m going to experiment with incorporating/hiding spinach in his food. I’ll keep track of the attempts and let you know how it goes!
Let there be teeth! Or rather, let there be tooth, singular. We cut our first tooth last week! I’m so proud! He now has the tip of his bottom left incisor sticking out of his gums! I was so elated to see his tooth for about 2.5 seconds. I had flashes of him chewing away at all the interesting textured foods I am going to make for him; smearing it all over his face and smiling up at me. Then I snapped back to reality and realized that, oh shit, he’s getting teeth, and the thing he chews on the most right now is ME since he is still nursing. So now the fun begins…::wince::
An interesting side effect of his first tooth popping in is that he quit eating for about a week. I mean, flat out, cold turkey, QUIT. He went from 1/3-1/2 a cup of whatever veg/fruit/grain/yogurt mix was being served to not letting the spoon pass his lips. He clamped those suckers shut and wouldn’t budge.
So you can see why I haven’t been very inspired to cook this last week. Hence the dearth (yay SAT prep vocab words) of entries and the title of this blog. You’re going to have to take a rain check on my next blog entry. I mean, who wants to cook for a baby who won’t eat? Don’t get me wrong, I faithfully defrosted or mashed him his breakfast/lunch/dinner all week and tried to feed it to him like it was no big deal, but he just kept saying no. Thankfully though, the tooth is coming in now and he has started to eat again. Is this going to happen with every new tooth?
Next up is blueberries! The Texas blueberries are ripe, so I’m going to run out and buy a bunch and cook them up for Simon! Because everybody needs a purple baby!
For now, enjoy….
…and unseasoned ground turkey cooked in a frying pan and then pureed into a funky gray paste really does suck that much.
When the recipe book said the consistency would be “paste-like” I should have known. But all the baby food I have made so far has been so tasty I usually end up scraping out the last bits of it from his bowl with my finger when he’s done eating. So how bad could it be?
I bought a pound of ground turkey. Look at it, all packaged up and innocent looking, ready to be cooked:
So I tossed it in the frying pan with 1/2 cup of water as directed by the cookbook and sauteed the crap out of it until it was completely cooked.
I then tossed it in the food processor and whirled it until it was, well, paste-like. I found I had to add a little water to think it enough to puree properly. It ended up being this gray, gritty goo. Here it is, frozen into cubes with last night’s dinner removed from the center:
It really tasted like crap. Seriously. Super bland meat; unsalted, no crispy browned bits, no fat to add flavor. Just bland bland meat. But I guess I consider something bland as crap. And it didn’t necessarily taste BAD, there was just very little GOOD. So I decided to feed it to Simon anyways. So I mixed it 1:1 with pear puree and fed it to him using the usual method starting with rice and slowly blending in the rest. He liked it decently well, so I will keep serving it to him just to teach his guts to digest meat. But I think I’ll try roasting his next meat to give a little more depth of flavor.
On another note, I just figured I would give y’all a little overview of how all of this comes together on a daily basis. So here are a few photos of some of Simon’s recent meals:
Prunes and pears with plain Greek yogurt.
Rice cereal and turkey/pear puree.
Blueberries and barley cereal
Pea/mint/pear puree and barley cereal
Thanks and gig’em!
Last week we finalized our move to San Antonio, which means we are putting our house on the market next week. Consequently I have been ruthlessly and obsessively decluttering and cleaning our house from top to bottom in preparation to show. It’s amazing how I can overlook so many little things that need to be done until I realize that, oh my god, people are going to be walking around the house critiquing everything! So the shower has been re-caulked, the kitchen cabinets have been washed and oiled, Simon’s closet has been cleared out so that you can actually WALK into the walk-in closet (fancy that), and numerous other small details have been taken care of. Not to mention all the general cleaning that has to be done when you have a house with three people, two cats and a Golden Retriever. Thank goodness I had lots of Simon food already made and frozen! Score one for buying, cooking, and freezing in bulk.
My initial obsessive outburst of cleaning, etc, has faded and I have found that my frozen food supply is dwindling down to those last few cubes of each food (with the exception of butternut squash because apparently two large butternut squash make more baby food than you will ever need). So this week I have been whipping up more baby food in between household tasks and trips to Home Depot, Target and IKEA. Honestly though, none of the food items is worth an entire blog post. Most of the recipes were just about as mind numbingly easy as Paula Deen’s English Buttered Peas recipe or Rachel Ray’s Pineapple Wedges, except unlike these to exceptionally worthless chefs, I won’t call this a “recipe”, I’ll just tell you briefly how I did it and leave it at that.
Raw food is the easiest:
Peel banana, mash in bowl with fork until creamy. Feed to baby.
Cut avocado in half. Remove pit. Mash avocado and feed to baby. You don’t even need a bowl!
But cooking food is easy too:
Put bag of frozen peas in microwave. Nuke for 6 minutes. Puree in food processor.
Peel carrots. Cut up carrots. Steam carrots for 5 minutes in steaming basket. Puree in food processor.
We also had some repeats of previous recipes:
I stewed more prunes.
I also made dried apricots by the exact same method I used on the prunes.
His favorite thing is pears, so I steamed another big bag of pears.
I also made applesauce exactly the same way I made the pear puree.
You get my point.
Although I must add, I did get a little fancy and add a big bunch of mint from my garden into the peas. I also didn’t cook the carrots til mushy, just until I could pierce them with a knife. That way they wouldn’t puree into a paste. They held some texture for him to experiment with. Asparagus was also a nice addition to his vegetable repertoire , but “wash, cut, steam and puree” asparagus doesn’t make for an exciting blog. I mixed it 1:1 with pears and he gobbled it right up!
Next up is something REALLY EXCITING!
I bought a pound of ground turkey! We’re introducing MEAT! Because his poop just isn’t gross enough already….
So stay tuned!