Baby Led Weaning – Weeks 7 to 10

As I mentioned previously, one way that we are having fun with solids, is that every week I buy one fruit and one vegetable that I would not normally buy in an effort to expand our horizons, and continue to introduce Baby Boy to new foods. I have had some challenges in introducing food groups other than fruits and vegetables, which I will write about in other posts.  Here, however are our latest fruit and vegetable successes:

Plums and collard greens – Plums were straightforward – I just cut them into wedges, and Gus ate away. Many of our vegetables of the week so far have been root vegetables, because for some reason I typically stay away from them in the grocery store. I’m more of a leafy greens person, so leafy greens are usually well represented in our diet. However, while we eat chard and spinach by the bucket (not to mention all types of salad leaves), I only remember ever buying collard greens once or twice before. This time around, I made the collard greens by sauteing them with olive oil, chopped onion and garlic, some chili flakes, a pinch of sugar and some sesame oil.

I thought they turned out quite well. The texture is definitely tougher – more like seaweed than other greens I’m used to. My husband, however didn’t like how oily they tasted  since we usually steam/boil our greens (though every collard greens recipe I found included some kind of oil). Gus, as always enjoyed the new food.

Golden melon and parsnips – Golden melon is similar to honeydew, and I served it the way I always serve melon to Gus – cut into cubes/small wedges, with the skin left on so it is easier to grip. Melons have been a big hit, and golden melon was no different. The parsnips turned out to be a hit for the whole family, so much so that I have since bought them several more times and incorporated them into our regular meal rotation.

The recipe I used for parsnips is very straightforward: peel the parsnips, slice into wedges/fingers and toss with oil and herbs, then bake at 450 for 20 minutes (or even longer, until they brown nicely). We lived in upstate New York for a year, where we bought our groceries at Wegman’s and fell in love with quite a few of the Wegman’s (aka Weggers) store brand items. Probably my favourite is the Wegman’s basting oil, which is a grapeseed oil with some herbs and spices mixed in. It’s great for meats, fish, and of course roasted vegetables. So this is what I used on the parsnips, and they turned out delish! If you leave them in the oven a bit longer, the sugars come out and they become almost caramelized. My husband couldn’t believe how good they tasted without me adding all sorts of crazy unhealthy ingredients to them. In case you’re wondering, Gus enjoyed them too.

Red bananas and rutabaga – this particular week I had a tough time picking a fruit. My friend had recommended starfruit, however the only starfruit left in the store was pretty sad looking. The red bananas were tiny little bananas, and based on the description in the store were supposed to taste quite sweet when eaten like a normal banana. The first time I tried the banana however, it was quite woody tasting. I soon realized that there is a reason that they are called red bananas – when they look black or brown they are not yet ripe and don’t taste good at all (this is the complete opposite of “normal bananas”). However, when the skin turned bright red, the banana inside was wonderfully sweet, but the taste was not as cloying as a ripe, sweet “normal” banana would be (the banana also stayed firm, unlike a ripe normal banana). Gus is a big fan of bananas, so he happily gobbled the red bananas.

I continued our trend of buying root vegetables with a rutabaga. Rutabaga looks like a giant turnip, and has a similar taste and texture. After reviewing a few rutabaga recipes, I chose one for rutabaga fries – cut the rutabaga into spears, toss with olive oil and minced garlic and herbs. If I remember correctly, I tossed them with some paprika too. This turned out well, and was a hit all around.

Pumello (Pomelo) and turnip – Pumello is a citrus fruit that looks like a giant grapefruit (and is about the size of a small melon). I was planning on doing something fun with it, but I wanted to serve it dessert style, and I kept finding recipes for pumello mains and salads. In the end, I just served it in slices. The pumello was pink on the inside, and had a very thick pith. The pith is apparently quite bitter, so you want to make sure you clear it all away from the flesh before you serve it. The taste was similar to grapefruit, but sweeter, and Gus seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. As a general comment, I should mention that citrus is one of the types of food that can be allergenic/harder on the digestive system, so if you are just starting out, it should probably not be among the first foods introduced.

Our (root) vegetable of the week was turnip. I’ve been roasting a lot of my vegetables, so was looking for something other than a roasted (or mashed) turnip recipe. I found one for caramelized turnips, which sounded pretty awesome, but I don’t think really turned out for me. The recipe calls for cubed turnip to be sautéed with some water and a chicken bouillon cube (I skipped the bullion cube, though I may have added some low sodium vegetable broth – I can’t remember now) for 15 minutes or until the water evaporates. Then you stir in some butter and sugar, and after cooking for another 10 minutes the turnips are supposed to get brown and sticky. Mine never did get brown and sticky; they just got really soft, so I was pretty disappointed with how the recipe turned out. But, it was good enough for Gus and we were able to cross another vegetable off our list. I think I will give this recipe another try in the future, as  it sounded so yummy and I suspect I screwed it up somehow.

That’s it for now!

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Baby Led Weaning – 6 Weeks On

Yes, two food posts in a row! This is not intentional, just a function of what happens to be on my mind today. If I had gotten the chance to write yesterday, you would be reading a post about sleep, and if it had been a few weeks ago, it would be a post about childcare and/or me going back to work soon. But Gus is down for a rare morning nap, and I am seizing the opportunity to write a long overdue blog post.

Six weeks in, I am loving BLW and we are all having so much fun with it!  Gus loves to try new food, and I’ve noticed that anytime I present him with a few options, he always grabs at the new food first. So far, he pretty much has enjoyed everything, with yogurt (plain yogurt with home made blueberry sauce mixed in) being the only thing that he seemed ho hum about. I still feel self conscious from time to time that we are doing something that is strange or different to a lot of people, but the more I hear of the challenges that other people are having with the traditional approach to introducing solids, the more I feel that this has definitely been the right approach for us.  Now, I realize that BLW is not for everyone. The two situations that come to mind are babies with weight concerns (too small), and very large babies with voracious appetites. In both these cases, a benefit of introducing solids is that the babies can consume a lot more calories than they would get from breastmilk or formula alone, and BLW just will not deliver the caloric punch that the traditional method will.  But for most situations, I really think that BLW is the superior method. I’ll get off my soapbox now, and get back to what we have been doing.

New Foods for the Whole Family

As I mentioned in my last post, one way that we are having some fun with solids, is that every week I buy one fruit and one vegetable that I would not normally buy in an effort to expand our horizons, and continue to introduce Gus to new foods. Here is a list of what we’ve hit so far:

Papaya and eggplant – The papaya was pretty easy – all three of us enjoyed it sliced. I kept the skin on Gus’ slices, so that it would be easier for him to grab. For the eggplant, I did an “eggplant french fry” recipe. My husband is not a big fan of eggplant, and I thought the recipe would be a different way to enjoy eggplant, plus if it worked out I thought that it would be a fun way for Gus to enjoy eggplant when he’s older. My husband and I got the full eggplant fry recipe (strips soaked in Italian salad dressing and rolled with egg, parmesan and breadcrumbs, then roasted in the oven). However, when it came to Gus’ portion, I chickened out about introducing wheat, eggs and dairy all in one go, so I just soaked his pieces in the salad dressing, and softened them in the microwave. Gus enjoyed his eggplant very much, but the eggplant french fry recipe was a disappointment.

Mango and broccoli  – I served the mango like the papaya: sliced, with skin on for Gus, and skin off for the adults. For the broccoli, I made a stir fry with garlic slices and sesame oil for the adults, and steamed it in the microwave for Gus (as I wanted his broccoli to be softer than ours). This was a success all around.

Kiwi and green beans – For the kiwi, same treatment as the mango and papaya. The green beans were super easy. Our grocery store sells them in a plastic bag, with the ends already cut off. All you have to do is pierce the bag a few times, and steam the beans in the microwave for a few minutes. I then tossed our beans with some butter, and salt and pepper, and served them to Gus plain (and again, steamed a little longer than for the adults).

Tamarillo and butternut squash – Tama who? I discovered tamarillos in the exotic fruits section, after having already picked through the usual suspects of mango, papaya and kiwi. They look similar to roma tomatoes, though are more purpley/orange, and aren’t quite as soft. I figured I could serve them in wedges. After getting home, I did some research, and realized that tamarillos are not usually served raw since they are too bitter, but rather baked, steamed or poached in some fashion. I decided to bake them with sugar and vanilla, but was less than pleased with the result (I think I added too much vanilla extract), and in the end never ended up serving them to Gus. The butternut squash, however was a success! I found a recipe for a butternut squash and apple puree which sounded delicious. In addition to the squash and apple, it called for cumin, some vegetable stock, olive oil and salt and pepper. I did not add salt, and replaced the vegetable stock with extra olive oil (also to avoid salt) to make the dish more baby friendly, but even with these changes it was delicious!

This is a good opportunity for a sidebar about purees. While the divide between the traditional approach to introducing solids and BLW is often framed as pureed food vs. non-pureed food, there is certainly room for purees in BLW. One significant benefit of BLW is that it introduces babies to a variety of textures early on, and as one of the food websites that I follow pointed out, puree is also a texture. My rule is that if a dish would be served puree style to adults, it’s an option for us (with any baby friendly modifications required). So, this squash recipe, and my mother in law’s carrot turnip puree were perfect. Where I do have an issue with purees is with some of the commercial baby purees that throw together a strange combination of fruits and vegetables that we non-babies would never enjoy in combination.

As to serving the purees, I pre-load spoons for Gus, and as eats them, I load more on until he is done.

Cantaloupe and beets – Cantaloupe (see mango, papaya and kiwi above). I like beets, and they are actually a significant staple in my Eastern European heritage’s cuisine. But, I have always been scared of cooking with them myself, due to the mess, and also because they seemed so hard to get at. The recipe I chose was a beet salad with feta, dill, parsley and a dijon and red wine vinegar salad dressing. The beets were roasted in the oven first (skins on, tops chopped off, and wrapped in foil), and when they came out, the skins came off very easily. I made sure to wipe any beet juice quickly, and was happy to find that even though it was a very intense colour, it didn’t really stain quickly and was easy to clean off. My husband and I enjoyed the salad in its full glory, and Gus got beet wedges on their own.

Passionfruit and cauliflower – While I have tried many passionfruit flavoured foods, I have never tried passionfruit in its natural glory. Passionfruit is purple on the outside, and has an orangey pulp filled with small black seeds inside. The pulp is very sweet when the fruit is ripe, but the seeds are a bit bitter. After I sliced the passionfruit open, I hemmed and hawed about whether to give it to Gus, as I was worried about the seeds. I read some stuff online about serving passionfruit to babies, and even came across a recipe for passionfruit puree which called for pushing the passionfruit through a sieve to remove the seeds. I tried this, and managed to get a tiny bit of sweet pulp without any seeds to it. There was so little of it, and it was so slippery that I ended up serving it to Gus on my finger. Passionfruit gets wrinkled looking as it ripens, and is actually tastiest when it looks quite wrinkly and gross, and this morning I served Gus the pulp (including seeds) or our remaining wrinkly, sad looking passionfruit. This time, I pre loaded spoons for him, and while a lot of it slipped off, he quite enjoyed the bits that he managed to eat.

I have to admit that I am not a big fan of cauliflower, so I was looking for a different, innovative cauliflower recipe. While cauliflower with cheese sauce was tempting, I was hoping for something healthier, and came across for a recipe for cauliflower roasted with dijon mustard and garlic slices. The recipe also included small slices of bacon, but while that sounded delicious, I omitted it due to the salt content.  Overall, the recipe turned out well! It was still cauliflower, but definitely something I would try again.  I don’t think I ended up actually giving any of it to Gus though, as the cauliflower always seemed a bit too hard for my liking no matter how many times I microwaved it, and there were always lots of other foods around for him to try. I had previously served him some cauliflower and apple puree soup in a restaurant though, which made it easier to skip this time around.

With each “new” food that we’ve been buying, I have tried to introduce it (or a variation) again within a few weeks, so I get more comfortable with cooking with it and it does not fall off my radar. For squash, I have now also bought and cooked buttercup squash (wedges roasted with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar), and acorn squash (quarters roasted with butter and brown sugar), and this week I bought some yellow beets to try some of the other beet recipes I dug up on beet week. I have also bought broccolini a few times now, as a friendlier alternative to broccoli.

I meant to touch on other aspects of BLW in this post, but seeing as it’s so long already, I’ll save those thoughts for another day, and finish off with some pictures of Gus enjoying his food.

Gus enjoying some kiwi and mango (and cucumber in his mesh bag).

Gus enjoying some kiwi and mango (and cucumber in his mesh bag).

The mango shot!

The mango shot!

Baby Led Weaning – Week 1

As I mentioned in my last post, we took some baby steps with solids last month by sporadically introducing rice cereal when Gus was five months old. However, ever since I first learned about baby led weaning shortly after Gus was born, I decided that would be our primary method of introducing solids. For those who are unfamiliar with baby led weaning, the basic premise is that your baby feeds himself and eats what you do. That’s really all you need to know, but it is explained in more detail here: http://www.babyledweaning.com.

We are now six days into doing solids the BLW way, and so far I am a huge fan (and more importantly, so is Gus)! Since everyone has their own spin on how they proceed with BLW, I thought I would share what we’ve been doing so far, and what I plan to do in the future. As seems to be the case with most people who do BLW (as far as I can tell anyways, it is still pretty new to me), from time to time, I will stray from the pure BLW approach.

Variety of Foods Offered

I have been offering 2-3 different types of foods per sitting, which is working well. I have introduced a ton of different foods (which I will list below), but after the first few days, I am now trying to have at least one familiar food offered at each sitting.  I think for the time being we will stick with some trusty fruit basics at breakfast (apple, pear and banana are what we’ve done so far), and introduce new foods at lunch/dinner.

As part of the BLW exercise, I have a goal of introducing Gus to every fruit and vegetable in our grocery store over the next 6 to 12 months (I actually don’t know what a reasonable timeline is for such a goal…6 months seems ambitious, but 12 months seems generous).  This goal makes the weaning process even more fun and exciting, and will be good for the whole family, as I know that there are certain fruits/vegetables that I stay away from buying, either because I don’t like them (hello brussel sprouts! hello okra!) , am not comfortable cooking with them (hello squash!), or just plain don’t know what to do with (hello persimmons! ). For now, the plan is to buy at least one fruit and one vegetable on each shopping trip that is out of the ordinary for us, so I started a few days ago by buying papaya and eggplant.

My overall plan is to focus on fruits, vegetables, meats and fish initially and stay away from breads and pastas as long as possible, mostly because I think there’s less nutritional value in the breads and pastas and because I’m not worried about whether he will like them or not (what kid does not like pasta?).

Complexity of Foods Offered

I bought the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook as my primary BLW reference, and it includes some fantastic sounding recipes (green curry chicken anyone?) for meal times with baby. For now though, I am keeping things simple and primarily offering one ingredient foods (raw or steamed fruits/veggies) or very simple preparations (salmon with a mustard/ginger/brown sugar glaze).  I look at what we are eating and select foods/ingredients that meet this criteria, so while Gus is eating a version of what we are eating, strictly speaking it is not the same meal. I think we will probably continue on this path for another week, maybe two before offering more complex meals.

Variations on a Theme

I am doing a few things which are not part of the BLW approach. The biggest deviation so far has been the baby cereal, which I started last month before Gus was old enough to try BLW. I started with rice cereal, and have now also done oat cereal. The plan for now is to give him one serving of baby cereal a day to ensure that his iron needs are met. Now, like everything else, there are several schools of thought on how necessary this actually is, however I feel like I am able to “check a box” by doing this and worry less about the risk that by doing BLW I am not meeting his nutritional needs.

I have also been using a little mesh feeder for certain foods (it’s a mesh bag that you put the food in, and then screw into a plastic top which has a handle baby can hold). It is a nice alternative for foods like apples which are hard and potential choking hazards, and as a bonus I can tether it to his high chair so when he throws it around, it does not end up on the floor like the other food. Since part of the BLW philosophy is that it gets babies used to different textures, mushing food through mesh does not accomplish this goal, but I have found this variation to be very helpful.

Lastly, I am planning to offer Gus soup in his bottle from time to time, since I have some soups that I think he would enjoy fairly early on.

Foods Introduced So Far

Gus has enjoyed the following foods to date:

Fruits – apple (in mesh bag), pear (in mesh bag and alone), banana (served as 1/3 of banana, nibbled like a cob of corn), stewed apricot, nectarine (cut in a wedge).

Vegetables – turnips (steamed and mashed with carrots – surprisingly like baby food, but actually part of my mother in law’s Christmas dinner), carrots (see turnips), asparagus (steamed way softer than I would normally do for ourselves and served in an individual stalk), basil (one giant leaf), beets (borsch soup in a bottle – I think this one upset his tummy a bit).

Meats – pork (marinated in Italian salad dressing and roasted on the bbq), turkey breast (part of Christmas dinner), salmon (broiled, with a brown sugar, mustard and ginger glaze).

Other – buffalo mozzarella (a big slice).

So far, everything has been a hit. He mostly sucks on things, but from time to time I will see him take little nibbles of stuff, so he is actually eating a tiny bit here and there. It’s been super fun watching him explore and shove food into his mouth, though it is also nerve wracking as I am constantly watching to make sure he hasn’t bit off a huge piece that he can choke on.

That’s the scoop for now. I had other thoughts I wanted to share, but since this post is sufficiently long as is, I’ll save them for a future BLW post.