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10 Tips to Help Your (American) Kids Eat Everything


Growing up, it was a running joke that any extended family gathering revolved around food.  A long and late breakfast was followed by a multi-coursed lunch, and shortly after was a gourmet dinner, either cooked at home or eaten out.  Indians take food seriously, and I actually think I've never in my life been to a gathering with one or more at which there wasn't some sort of food.

My mom also made most of our meals completely from scratch about 6 out of 7 days a week, and I always loved the assortment of flavors (I was totally that kid who refused to take sandwiches for lunch in favor of unattractive flatbreads and sauces; Indian food is not known for presentation).

So of course, it's become extremely important to me to a) eat well myself and b) have my family, especially my children, eat well.

I read Bringing Up Bebe a while back and was supremely annoyed with it.  I thought the author seemed like a total ditz, and so much of what she wrote felt blatantly stereotypical - and worse, having lived in France myself, inaccurate - that I wrote off the rest of it.  I recently read French Kids Eat Everything and at first, I feared it would be the same issue.  Rather, I surprised myself by totally loving it.  I still felt a bit defensive of American parents, thinking "No one in real life does that," because we don't.  Until I realized that perhaps we're the ones with the weird eating habits.  I still don't believe that many of the things these authors mention are solely "French."  They may as well be Indian or Brazilian or most places other than the US.  But I realized that most of these habits are not actually practiced by most people here.

I hesitated for a long time to write this post because we are no where near perfect.  When I'm chopping carrots for dinner and Nat really wants some, I let him have them.  I eat breakfast in the car on the way to 9am church more often than I'd like to admit.  We have generally cooperative little eaters with no sensory issues and the like. We often forget to bring things to the dinner table, resulting in much jumping-uppage and distraction.

(EDIT: After a comment from a sweet friend, I feel the need to make my disclaimers even stronger.  In no way do I ever think you should force your kid to eat!  Some kids really have special circumstances and/or issues with certain, or all, foods.  That's okay.  It doesn't make you a bad parent, or him/her a bad kid.  While I DO think these tips can be helpful for the average kid, I do NOT think they work for all kids.  Obviously, you're the one who knows best how to help  your child.)

What we have done is found ways to adopt some FrancoIndi-whatever-other-traditional-way-of-eating habits into our American childed lifestyle.  These are things that have worked for us, and that I hope will help you, too.


Behold, 10 tips that have helped us in getting our kids to eat everything:


1. Start Young: Obviously, this isn't always possible if you have an older child, but if you can, start when they are little and impressionable.  Make veggies - and better yet, diversity in general - a staple.  We do sort of a modified baby-led weaning with our kids; we do still feed them (too messy for me to let them entirely feed themselves!), but just whatever we are eating.  This may horrify some people (also, please don't try this at home and sue me, etc.), but when nat was little, Dan would grind up nuts with his teeth and give him some thoroughly chewed up bits.  Gross as that sounds, nat adored it (and we went one nut at a time).  To this day, the child would probably subsist on nuts if allowed.

Even 10-month old kina eats whatever we are having; yesterday included oatmeal and banana for breakfast, leftover homemade pizza with pesto/kale/fresh mozz/zucchini/caramelized onions/fennel for lunch, and roasted veggie & black bean enchiladas for dinner.  She loved it, and so did we.  I just try to give her soft things and make sure there are no choking hazards (e.g., I smush the black beans with my fingers before feeding them to her).  But beyond that, I puree nothing, I purchase nothing special, I use no special dishes, I store nothing special.  My lazy bone loves this.  It is also great because it gets them used to all kinds of things when they are still interested in everything, and then by the time they have more opinions, it's all just standard, familiar fare.

(Another disclaimer: no history of allergies at all on either side of the fam, etc. etc.  Know your own kid, yada, yada.)


2. One Meal: This piggybacks right off of baby-led weaning, but there is one meal, one option.  I will sometimes give nat a choice between two things for breakfast (e.g., oatmeal or scrambled eggs), but lunch and dinner are all me.  I figure, I'm doing the cooking, so I get to make things I want (also, things that use up allll the CSA veggies).  I've heard of some people saying that if their kid doesn't like what is being served, then they can eat something they can make themselves (e.g., a sandwich).  We don't do that as an option.  You don't eat what is offered, then you don't eat.  There have only been a handful of times when Nat has flat out refused to eat something (notably, a cabbage dinner salad I made a few weeks ago), and we didn't push it.  We just figured he wasn't all THAT hungry and that he'd be fine for one night.  There is no cajoling, no punishing.  I ask if he is done, tell him that there will be no more food before bed, and let him be finished if he is.  He was fine, we were fine, he ate a lot for breakfast the next morning.  The end.  (And then proceeded to have seconds of the exact same salad for lunch the next day.  Seriously, familiarity.)  Also, he must be sitting down to eat.  If he eats very little but says he's done, that's okay - some days just aren't hungry days, and others are.  Although it's hard, I try my best to let him manage the quantity intake.


3. One Spoonful:  We've had this rule basically ever since Nat started eating people food - you must try at least one spoonful of everything.  If you really don't like it, that's okay.  But (far) more often than not, it's the unfamiliarity that is scariest.  I can count on one hand the number of times Nat has taken a bite of something and NOT wanted another.  Of course, everyone has things they truly don't like, and we don't push that - for instance, kina seems to just not really like avocados, which boggles my mind.  We keep offering them, but we don't force it if she really turns away.  Still, the one spoonful rule gets them at least trying a variety of things.  Going along with this, he can't just fill up on one part of the meal that he loves (e.g, no seconds on waffles until he's eaten some veggie strata, too).


4. Variety: Dan's mission mom had a rule that every meal had to have at least 7 colors.  I love this idea of diversity within a meal, as well as diversity of flavors.  Indian food is fantastic for being really, for lack of a better word, flavored.  The tastes and smells are strong and definitive.  But much as I love my parents, and as much as they love their varied Indian food, their palettes aren't really accustomed to a lot of other things.  While Indian may seem adventurous to many Americans, my parents are not at all adventurous about trying other cuisines.  But I don't want my kids to be limited to one type.  Over the course of a week, we'll do Indian, Mexican, some homemade pizza, and maybe some breakfast-for-dinner, Thai, and Italian.  This is not only interesting for easily-bored-by-meals-me, but is great for exposing them to different spices and preparations.


5. Snacks: Oh, snacks, you are the very hardest thing to deal with in American culture.  We've never been big on snacks, but it wasn't until I became a little stricter with it about a year ago (when Nat stopped eating much at lunch) that I really noticed just how MUCH most kids snack.  We tend to do playgroups/playdates in the mornings, and other kids almost always have a snack.  I just don't bring one.  Nat sometimes looks on curiously or if they are good friends, he may try to mooch a bit, but I try to limit it and can usually distract him with some sort of ride-on toy.  I'll also explain that it is not OUR snacktime, and that we will be having lunch soon - he's usually more okay with and understanding of those differences in schedule/lifestyle than I gave him credit for at first.  If we have an earlier breakfast, nat may request a mid-morning snack, and if he asks several times after I've told him to wait a while, I'll give him some fruit or cheese or something.  But most days, we don't do a morning snack at all and he's just fine until lunch.  I try not to give him a snack at the first sign of hunger, either.  If I can have him wait just a little bit to the next meal, I do, by telling him what is coming soon.

Yesterday, we finished breakfast around 9 or so.  We didn't get home from the park until about 12:30 or 1.  Both kids were ravenous, but then they sat totally still without getting up from the table once (our biggest hurdle with nat - he is always getting distracted by some book or something) and Nat wolfed down 3 slices of homemade pizza and kina had a full one, and both kids took lovely 2.5-3 hour naps.  Worth a little hunger.

If the kids wake up early enough before dinner, they get some sort of afternoon snack.  This will often be fruit and nuts, yogurt, cheese or even something a little treaty, but I usually try to make it a little more substantive.  Like the French "gouter," Indians have "tiffin," which is really more like a light meal than a snack.  I find that tends to stave off the pre-dinner munchies best.  I do try to leave at least 2 hours in between snack and dinner, though, otherwise they don't eat a good meal then.

Finally, there is no bedtime snack.  We had a couple day stint about a year ago when Nat would ask for some more food right as we were about to put him down to bed.  For a couple of days, we thought he was going through a growth spurt or something and would give him some cheese or whatever.  But when we got to the third and fourth day, we knew he was using it to a) not eat well at dinnertime and b) prolong bedtime.  So we explained to him the next day that there would be no more food after dinner and went cold turkey on it.  He wailed for a little while that night when he realized we really weren't going to give him any more food and then went to sleep and we didn't really have a problem with it after that.

Also, no juice.  It's just not worth it.  Nat will have it once in a blue moon at someone else's house or at a birthday party or something, but we just don't ever have it at home.


6. Don't Be Afraid: Grab a random new veggie.  Join a CSA.  Try a new recipe.  It will be okay.  This is where I think American culture is actually helpful.  We have so many things available (even seasonally/locally!), and the infrastructure to get it is improving.  There are food blogs and cooking shows and just so much at your fingertips to figure out any random vegetable (I was more than a little grateful for the Interwebs when kohlrabi first showed up in my CSA).  Additionally, I think Americans tend to be fairly adventurous, at least as adults.  Most people I know are willing to try food from a bunch of different countries/regions and it's a melting pot for a reason.  Go forth and melt.


7. Have Produce Available/More Is More: Again, join a CSA (see a theme?).  Buy a bunch at the grocery store (AFTER you meal plan what to do with it so it doesn't just go to waste).  Try to incorporate veggies and other good, whole foods into your daily diet as much as possible.  I grew up with a mother who never dieted a day in her life, and was convinced some fat was good for you (like in whole milk) looooong before it was trendy/scientifically-based to think so (one of the many ways she is brilliant).  Largely because of her, I have just never thought very highly of most "diets," in the restrictive sense.  What I am a fan of is A DIET, as in, a way of eating.  And something that helps us is thinking in terms of more, not less.  Still hungry?  Eat some MORE fruit.  Want another serving?  Try to add in another veggie.  Instead of cutting things out of the day, try adding in more to each day (are you getting at least 5-6 servings of fruit/veggies?).  This is much easier when you have produce to work with at home.


8. Make It Taste Good, and Get Your Kids Involved in Doing So: This seems rather obvious, but I'm always shocked by how terrible some veggies taste.  I mean, I don't exactly jump for joy at the prospect of plain steamed carrots, so I don't really expect my baby to, either.  Growing up, I never really understood when other kids would say they didn't like vegetables because they were such a basic component of our diet.  I mean, veggies were delicious!  In curries and palyas (sort of a vegetable stir fry) and sambar.  What's not to like?  I've also found that Nat loves to help with cooking.  And while it certainly take MORE time rather than less when he helps, I love seeing him get excited about food, and he really enjoys eating things he's had a part in preparing.  And when in doubt, roasting works wonders, always and forever, amen.


9. Integrate Veggies: Going along with veggies being a basic component of our diet, I try to do the same now.  With Indian food especially, veggies are never really a "side" - they're completely integrated into the meal.  If you don't eat the veggies, you basically don't eat.  It's either a main component to be scooped up with some sort of delicious flatbread or rice, or is diced into the meal itself - so much so that it is un-pick-out-able.  I try to do the same now; I'll chop kale up into a strata or make a veggie-filled soup or enchiladas.  No way around the veggies there.


10. Pick Your Battles, and Give Appropriate Praise: At family dinners, Nat is usually expected to stay at the table until we're all done eating.  Kina, on the other hand, gets super antsy sitting in her booster seat, so we'll usually let her down to crawl around by our feet.  And if we have friends over whose kids get up after they're done eating to go play, we don't make nat stay at the table and wait.  He has a snack at his little coop preschool and I don't sweat it.  My point is, be strict but not inflexible.  Also, we try to be mildly complimentary when Nat tries something new or express our happiness in his good choices (e.g., when he eagerly requested beets for dinner).  We try to be happy, but not overly so, because we want him to choose the good things to eat because they are yummy and healthy, not because he wants to please us (although that can certainly help nudge him in the right direction).


And above all, I really think eating should be enjoyable and fun.  It should be a time for family, for recaps and jokes and dreams.  It should taste good, and shouldn't be a chore.  Like I mentioned at the beginning - we are by NO means perfect.  But doing some of these things has helped our kids to eat - and even like! - pretty much everything.  Kina's still in the experimental phase, of course.  But Nat, while he loves his fair share of waffles and pasta, he also eagerly requests beets, eats baby tomatoes like candy, and loves to help with food prep.  I hope some of these tips help you like they've helped us!

Beachy

This weekend, we headed to a nearby beach for a day - our first of the season, and oh, it was the best.  There was water playing (warm enough for even this wuss to get in past her knees) and sand playing and reading and a giant family nap under our beach cabana (imagine a 2-year old saying "beach cabana," oh yes it was that cute).  The breeze was blowing and the adults managed to sleep for over an hour and the kids for nearly 2.  It was just about as perfect as it sounds.





This one flirted with every beach-goer who passed by





There was a lot of sand-eating going on







Caprese Pasta Pomodoro


I kind of have a thing for perfectly ripe tomatoes.  As we've tried to eat more seasonally the last few years, I generally try to refrain from purchasing them during off months.  This also means that I purchased no fewer than 40, probably closer to 50, pounds of tomatoes last August.

No I'm not exaggerating and yes Dan thought I had a bit of an illness.  He was probably right.

Anyway, I love this recipe because the flavor is so good and really is more than the sum of its parts.  It a) is simple and quick (takes me about 20-30 minutes) enough that it hardly qualifies as a recipe, b) it really lets the tomato flavor shine through without too much else to bog it down, and c) it is perfect for using up tomatoes that are so ridiculously sweet and ripe and juicy, but just a little too much so for a salad or many other uses.  Also, completely delicious.


Caprese Pasta Pomodoro
adapted from here
1 lb pasta (I usually use whole wheat penne)
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 large tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (I used lemon basil last time and loved the little zip)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t sugar
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 lb fresh mozzarella, diced
Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a separate skillet, heat olive oil. Add tomatoes, basil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to gentle boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.  Mix in mozzarella and serve over hot pasta with Parmesan cheese.


10 Months

Kina baby,
Happy 10 months!  I'm simultaneously amazed that you are almost a year old, and shocked that you haven't even been with us that long.  I can't believe how big you're getting and how much you're learning.

Your little nose crinkle.  It kills me.
This has been a month of milestones, it seems.  You finally started crawling on your knees (instead of scootching on your stomach).  You also have started to pull up - mostly on your knees, but almost to your feet a few times.  You've celebrated by getting into everything lately.  You also got your first tooth on your 10-month birthday!  You'd been a bit fussy at night for about a week, but not so much so that I suspected a tooth; I just figured it was some residual travel schedule off-ness.  It's the cutest, teeniest little thing on the bottom front.  Hopefully you'll get some solace now!

You've also been the sweetest, huggiest little thing this month.  You'll reach your little arms up to us to be picked up and will just hold on around our necks.  It just makes my heart turn into a big dang puddle every time.  I love drinking in that sweet baby smell (oh, it is the best, even - or perhaps especially - when you are patiently sweating through the heat with hair plastered to your head) and feeling your soft skin.

 
You had your 9-month doctor's appointment about 10 days late, and oh, the stats made me laugh.  You stayed at the 95th percentile for height (I keep wondering when, not if, that will change), but are down to the 3rd percentile for weight.  Your brother dropped off the charts around this age, too, so I'm not concerned, but it just makes me giggle.  I sure love your long leggy legs.  This is especially hilarious to me given how ravenous you've been this last month.  I kid you not, some days it was more than Nat.  There was one day on our trip when you had a large breakfast of some leftovers, then some lunch, then for dinner had 3/4 of a veggie burger all on your own.  And THEN you were ridiculously sad when I would only let you have half of my popsicle.  I'd call you a glutton except everyone knows you can eat however much you want.

 


I love all the tricks that you will do on command (usually. except when I say you will, of course) now.  You love to wave bye-bye to people, although it usually entails wiggling your fingers at yourself.  You also have the most adorable little clap that you do whenever you are happy about anything, back at people, to celebrate, whatever.  It's the cutest.

 

The other day, you had been playing on the floor with some blocks and books for a little while.  I stopped what I was doing for a bit and came down and lied down on the floor near you.  You came right over and just sat yourself down right next to me.  You didn't even bring your blocks over, but just patted me and climbed on me and even just sat there smiling at me.  We played some airplane, eliciting some truly fantastic giggles, and then just sat and laughed together and with Nat.  Girlie, it sure did make me glow inside and out that as content as you were playing with your toys, the second I came down to play, you wanted to be by me.  You loved just sitting with me and observing and bonding.  You are so observant and social and that ability of yours to light up and know others is so special to me.


People are constantly asking me, "Is she always this smiley?"  And I'm like, "Umm...yeah."  Because you are.  You're the happiest, sweetest, loveliest little baby.  Your baby's blessing mentioned that you would be a great reader of people, and it means so much to me to witness that gift already shining through.  Love you forever, baby girl.


love,
mama

Gobi Masala (Indian Cauliflower Curry)


My family is from South India, and North and South Indian foods are surprisingly different. So much so that those from different sides of the country have a bit of a chip on their respective shoulders about which cuisine is better.

But even though I didn't grow up eating this, you GUYS.  This recipe.  It is a winner.  I've eaten more than my fair share of Indian food and made a decent number of curries and this is by far and away my favorite one to make at home.  Plus, this version doesn't have gobs of butter and cream like some others do.  Even better.

Seriously, that cauliflower that just arrived in your CSA?  This should be its destiny.  Even though there are a decent number of ingredients, most of them are spices and it really does come together pretty quickly.  And it's ridiculously tasty.  I promise you won't regret it.




Gobi Masala (Indian Cauliflower Curry)
Adapted from here

For cauliflower
1 medium head cauliflower
2 T oil
1 t chile powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" knob ginger, grated, or 1 t ground ginger
2 t garam masala
1/2 cup water
Salt, to taste

For sauce
3 T oil
1 t ground cinnamon
2 whole cloves
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" knob ginger, grated, or 1 t ground ginger
2 t garam masala
1 t chile powder 
2 T ground coriander
1 t turmeric
1-28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 T crushed cashews (optional)
1/2 cup whole milk
Salt, to taste (about 1 t)
Cilantro (for garnish)


1. Prepare cauliflower: Wash and separate into florets.  Heat oil in large skillet.  Add everything except the water.  When florets start to brown, add water and cover.  Let cook 5-7 minutes until firm-tender.

2. Prepare masala (sauce): Heat oil in a wok or large skillet.  Add cinnamon, cloves, and onions and let cook until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and ginger and cook additional minute until garlic is fragrant but not brown.  Add in remaining spices, tomatoes, and nuts.  Break up tomatoes with wooden spoon and let simmer until slightly thickened.  Let it come to a boil and turn off the stove.

3. Blend the mixture into a smooth sauce (I just use an immersion blender), adding a bit more water if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

4. Add the cauliflower to the sauce (along with the cauliflower water) and let it cook for 5 minutes.  Mix in the milk.  Garnish with cilantro and serve with over rice or with chapati or naan.

Ingredients
For cauliflower
1/2 medium size head of cauliflower, split into small florets  (about 500g)
1 tsp red chilly powder (adjust to tolerance)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

For masala
3 tbsp butter
1 red onion (large, finely cubed)
3 tomatoes (medium, red, ripe)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ginger garlic paste/ 2 cloves garlic with 1/2 inch cube ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts/almond
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp heavy cream/thick cream
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasuri methi*
1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf
1 green cardamom, cracked
1/2 black cardamom / badi elachi  (optional) **
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds ***
1 stick cinnamon (2 inch)
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste
- See more at: http://www.journeykitchen.com/2011/04/gobi-butter-masala-cauliflower-butter.html#sthash.VixB7ThF.dpuf
cashew
Ingredients
For cauliflower
1/2 medium size head of cauliflower, split into small florets  (about 500g)
1 tsp red chilly powder (adjust to tolerance)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

For masala
3 tbsp butter
1 red onion (large, finely cubed)
3 tomatoes (medium, red, ripe)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ginger garlic paste/ 2 cloves garlic with 1/2 inch cube ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts/almond
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp heavy cream/thick cream
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasuri methi*
1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf
1 green cardamom, cracked
1/2 black cardamom / badi elachi  (optional) **
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds ***
1 stick cinnamon (2 inch)
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste
- See more at: http://www.journeykitchen.com/2011/04/gobi-butter-masala-cauliflower-butter.html#sthash.VixB7ThF.dpuf
Gobi Butter Masala - Cauliflower { Butter Chicken Style }
Serves : 3- 4
Click here for printable recipe


Ingredients
For cauliflower
1/2 medium size head of cauliflower, split into small florets  (about 500g)
1 tsp red chilly powder (adjust to tolerance)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

For masala
3 tbsp butter
1 red onion (large, finely cubed)
3 tomatoes (medium, red, ripe)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ginger garlic paste/ 2 cloves garlic with 1/2 inch cube ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts/almond
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp heavy cream/thick cream
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasuri methi*
1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf
1 green cardamom, cracked
1/2 black cardamom / badi elachi  (optional) **
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds ***
1 stick cinnamon (2 inch)
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste

Note

* Dried fenugreek leaves have a distinct aroma and flavor that is often used in curries as a finishing touch. If you enjoy Indian food I would highly recommend buying fenugreek leaves.

** Black cardamom called badi elachi in hindi adds a great smoky flavor, but you can easily skip it if you don't have it.

*** The regular cumin is the white cumin called jeera in hindi. Black cumin, shahi jeera/kala jeera in hindi is darker and has a sweet lemony kind of flavor. I particularly like to use black cumin in curries with nuts and cream. Substitute it with 1 tsp roasted white cumin if you don't have it.
- See more at: http://www.journeykitchen.com/2011/04/gobi-butter-masala-cauliflower-butter.html#sthash.VixB7ThF.dpuf
Gobi 
Butter Masala - Cauliflower { Butter Chicken Style }
Serves : 3- 4
Click here for printable recipe


Ingredients
For cauliflower
1/2 medium size head of cauliflower, split into small florets  (about 500g)
1 tsp red chilly powder (adjust to tolerance)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

For masala
3 tbsp butter
1 red onion (large, finely cubed)
3 tomatoes (medium, red, ripe)
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ginger garlic paste/ 2 cloves garlic with 1/2 inch cube ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilly powder
1 tbsp crushed cashew nuts/almond
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp heavy cream/thick cream
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasuri methi*
1/2 cup water

1 bay leaf
1 green cardamom, cracked
1/2 black cardamom / badi elachi  (optional) **
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds ***
1 stick cinnamon (2 inch)
2 whole cloves
Salt to taste

Note

* Dried fenugreek leaves have a distinct aroma and flavor that is often used in curries as a finishing touch. If you enjoy Indian food I would highly recommend buying fenugreek leaves.

** Black cardamom called badi elachi in hindi adds a great smoky flavor, but you can easily skip it if you don't have it.

*** The regular cumin is the white cumin called jeera in hindi. Black cumin, shahi jeera/kala jeera in hindi is darker and has a sweet lemony kind of flavor. I particularly like to use black cumin in curries with nuts and cream. Substitute it with 1 tsp roasted white cumin if you don't have it.
- See more at: http://www.journeykitchen.com/2011/04/gobi-butter-masala-cauliflower-butter.html#sthash.VixB7ThF.dp

Nursing Wardrobe Essentials

I often commented while I was nursing Nat that I felt it was easier dressing a pregnant belly than it was to dress while breastfeeding.  You need easy access but still good coverage, some layers but not too many, nothing that will slip out of place too easily when pulled by teeny hands, etc.

While it does take some finagling and sacrifice (dresses, I eagerly anticipate our reunion), it is possible to not look like a total frump while nursing, and avoid those (often hideous and expensive) nursing-specific outfits.  Here are 10 of my staples:


1. Printed v-neck - Simple and comfy with multi-directional access.  I tend to prefer to pull my top up and my underthings down so that I'm mostly all the way covered (as opposed to pulling a shirt down, which leaves my entire chest exposed - because even when using a nursing cover, I prefer to have some coverage on top).  But sometimes I need to pull down (if my shirt is tucked, for instance), and a v-neck has that flexibility.

2. Stepped-up tee - I love that this top is loose and floaty, but still structured - perfect for concealing a little nursling if need be.   The bow detail at the back helps it easily be dressed up or down, which means you can easily feed your baby, hand him/her off to a sitter, and run out the door for a date without needing to change clothes.

3. Lightweight scarf (similar) - A scarf is great for looking pretty and put together, even when you may be a little more limited in your choices (I wear silk approximately never).  It also works great as a nursing cover in a pinch.

4. Cardigan (similar) - I've definitely held up a lightweight sweater to the side when there were no scarves or nursing covers to be had and I was sitting right next to an older gentleman in a crowded theater.  He was none the wiser.  It's also useful for buttoning up and pulling up while you pull a bottom layer (like a v-neck tee) down so you're covered on top and over your belly.

5. Button down shirt - I remember hearing before nursing my babies that I would live in button down shirts.  Such easy access!  To be honest, button downs are actually not my very favorite for nursing; I happen to think it's far easier to pull up/down than to fiddle with several buttons one-handed while holding a hungry baby.  Still, they can definitely be useful, especially if you'd prefer to tuck a shirt into pants/a skirt.  I just for sure use them with a nursing cover because if baby pops off, it's far trickier to cover up than it is with a nice layer over the top.

6. Undershirt or Cami - I typically try to avoid these when it's blazing hot, but they can be really useful, especially if you're wearing a top you'll pull up to nurse.  Because then you can pull the shirt up, and pull the undershirt/bra down and your chest is covered (by the top shirt), belly is covered (by the undershirt), and boob is covered (by the baby).  I like ones that are nice and fitted so they stay put while you're shifting everything else around.

7. Chunky necklace - This one is great and not great all at once.  You have to be careful to not knock your baby in the face with a chunky necklace.  But my babies loooove to fiddle with something while they eat, and I'd much rather it be an interesting necklace than, say, my hair.  Or skin.  Also, get some hair ties.

8. High-waisted skirt (similar) - To go along with the tuckable tops (like v-necks and button-downs).  It's still nice to have a defined waist and a pretty, floaty a-line bottom even if you're a little more limited with your tops.

9. Dress with a v-neck, stretchy neckline, etc. (similar) - Because skirts get old and completely undressing yourself is rather a hassle.

10. Nursing bra (not pictured, despite how fun it sounds to feature my underthings on the Interwebs) - Get an awesome one.  Seriously.  I wear a size that is really really hard to find in stores so with nat, I just soldiered through with a bra with a too-big band.  This time, I researched and found one in my exact size (not just the generic S/M/L, bah) and ordered it from my bff amazon and is it weird to tell the online world that I'm in love with my bra?  Probably?  Definitely.  But really, it has made such a difference and also kind of made my life (it's possible I need a more exciting life).

11. Bonus!  Baby!  Because, duh.  She's cute.


I Scream

I think people sometimes think I'm kidding when I tell them it's one of Dan's life goals to have a deep freezer, mostly for the purpose of ice cream storage.  They would be wrong.

Somehow, it just seems right and good to make homemade ice creams during the summer.  Here are a few that I've really been wanting to try.  They deviate a bit from the standard fare but still look sweet (although not too much so), cool, and delicious.


Behold, 7 Unique Homemade Ice Creams for your summer enjoyment:

via below links

  1. Sweet Corn Ice Cream - I've been wanting to try this for ages.  Dan lived in Brazil for two years as a missionary for our church and they are into corn everything there, including ice cream.  It seems perfectly not-too-sweet.
  2. Avocado Ice Cream - Another type I've been wanting to experiment with for years.  I adore avocados and avocado milkshakes so this is a no-brainer.
  3. Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt - I love the idea of sweet cherries against a backdrop of tangy yogurt.  Perfect for when sweet cherries come into season.
  4. Honey-Lavender Ice Cream - I adore lavender in desserts and ice cream is no exception.  Dan made me a lavender ricotta ice cream for my birthday a few years ago and I still dream about it.
  5. Roasted Banana Ice Cream - I used to loathe bananas with all my being, but a switch flipped in college and now I generally like them, so long as they're not mushy.  I love the idea of roasting and caramelizing them to bring out their natural sweetness.
  6. Sweet Basil Ice Cream - I just cannot get enough of basil in the summertime, so why not make it into a dessert?
  7. Goat Cheese Ice Cream - Definitely the most unusual of the pack.  But goat cheese seems to find its way into 99% of my meals, anyway, so why not make  it a solid 100?

(I realized after the fact that most of these recipes were adapted from my beloved The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  But it's perfect, so that's no surprise.)

Crafty crafty

Today's thoughts are c/o the originality gallery and mostly are that summer weekends are the best. Blueberry picking, a little friend's baptism, practicing a violin duet for church, going to church, watching Sister Act, grilled pizza, finishing a fantastic book, and a lot of bow tie/headband making. And marzipan chocolate. Because, of course.

Let's do this, Monday.


No-Bake Strawberries & Cream Pie


Remember how this weeknight vegetarian series was, in large part, motivation for me to plan meals ahead of time?  Well, I am nothing if not very on top of all the things, and thus waited until 45 minutes before guests were arriving for dessert to decide what to make.  Gold star donations accepted.

Despite the rush, this was delicious.  Cool and creamy and fresh and ready in time.  There are not many other things to be asked from a dessert.




 No-Bake Strawberries & Cream Pie


Strawberry filling
1 9-inch graham cracker crust, homemade or store bought*
1 pint fresh strawberries (I actually used ones that we'd picked and frozen - worked fine)
1/2 - 3/4 cup white sugar (depending on sweetness of berries)
3 T cornstarch
3/4 cup water

Topping
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

*I'm usually finicky about doing things from scratch, but I feel like graham crackers are processed anyway, so I figure, might as well use a pre-made crust.  Justification, I am its queen.



1. Arrange half of strawberries in baked pastry shell. Mash remaining berries and combine with sugar in a medium saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
2. In a bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water until dissolved.  Gradually stir mixture into boiling strawberry mixture.  Reduce heat and summer until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a handheld mixer) until fluffy (turns out I only had about 2 oz of cream cheese so my topping is a little runny but it was still delicious).  Whip sour cream and vanilla.  Whip heavy cream separately until it forms stiff peaks and fold into the cream cheese mixture.

4. Pour strawberry mixture into graham cracker crust and cover with cream cheese topping.  Chill until ready to serve. 

Summer Travels: East Coast

Oh, hello, Interworld!  Nice to see you again after a gloriously unplugged week (glorious except for the 8 million emails to which I returned. that was not glorious.).  And because everyone loves pictures of vacations you have not taken, behold the photodump:

Vermont

We took off at 5:30am on a Sunday morning because I was played in a Saturday matinee concert the day before and we decided it would be crazy to try to do a 9-10 hour drive when we wouldn't leave before 7pm.  We popped into church in NJ with our beloved Snells (and were rewarded with delicious cookies in addition to the Sacrament...not a terrible 90 minutes), stopped in for lunch with some other dear friends in Connecticut, and finished he haul up to Northfield, VT to visit our dear Grays.


They live on this gorgeous property abutting a river and with a barn and ponies and chickens and it was just all sorts of lovely.  They were super hosts and welcomed us right into Vermontish life with some farm tours and fresh eggs and cheese and caramel.  They also regaled us with hilare stories of small-town life and their darling children were beyond nice to ours.  Nat was a little obsessed (I mean, older friends? pony rides? what's not to love?).





My Indian boy said the water was too cold and thus only left his chair to pick up rocks


Maple creamies, they are tasty
Pure joy, right there

Montreal

Montreal is a little under 3 hours from their home so we took a little day trip up there and toured the old city, went up the big hill, ate at a French restaurant, visited a gorgeous little library with a greenhouse, and attempted to go to the temple, which was small enough that it's actually closed when a scheduled event isn't taking place.  At least we ran into the missionaries and so we got into the chapel to use the bathroom.




They had gorgeous flower planters allll over the city


She's a beauty.


Poutine, a Montreal specialty of fries with gravy and cheese curds.  Sounds weird but pretty tasty.



Boston

We drove back south through Boston and spent half a day there.  While I'd been there before, it was usually to visit friends in Cambridge, so I surprisingly hadn't seen much of the city before.  It was even lovelier than I imagined - and it was July 3rd, a perfect preamble to the next day (hello, I am 80 years old and enjoy terrible puns).

We toured the south end of the Freedom Trail (after ditching the car and taking the T in, the trolley and the fact that it's named a letter all being very exciting to a certain small person), then picked up lunch and picnicked in the Commons (where much Frog Pond wading and playground climbing and balloon animal frolicking happened).  We walked through to the other end and headed over to the goooorgeous public library.  Good gracious, I almost want to move there just for that.  Reminded me of my beloved college library (also, library theme, much?).

From there, we headed over to the justly-famous Giacomo's.  Oh, that butternut squash ravioli, it was gooooood.  Plus, an even bigger treat was meeting up with Dan's old freshman hallmate and his now-wife who was even more delightful than one would expect based on knowing her husband - which is quite a high standard.  A perfect finish to an amazing day.









NYC

It seems so funny to say this, but New York was a total respite.  Dan's sister/her husband/adorable baby live in Brooklyn so we were able to park and ditch the car there for the duration of our visit.  We splash parked it up and met up with old friends and walked the High Line/Chelsea Market and Brooklyn Bridge Park and caught the fireworks from my brother-in-law's amazing office and actually went to the temple.  And we ate.  A lot.  Of course.

And the best part was, by far, spending time with family.  Dan's parents and other sister also came in and it was just so fun.  The girl babies were adorable together and garnered lots of subway attention.  Nat was too thrilled about going on the train every single time to ever notice other people, but I think I caught a few smiles at his excitement.  Oh, family.  You're fun.  Can't you just all move down the street from us already?


 

 

 


I know this picture is blurry, but OH, I love it with all my heart
 
 
 

 
Hey Doughnut Plant, that coconut cream filled doughnut?  Was not terrible.
 


Philly

This was a last minute tack-on to the trip, but we really couldn't do an east coast trip without a stop in our beloved city.  It was super short so we basically just spent time with Dan's amazing mission presidents and some of our other dear friends, with a quick stop at Smith Playground.
We saw theeee most amazing sunset on the drive back from Philly.  It's like it was raining pink.


Except for one unfortunate meltdown when it was time to leave a splashpad (on our last day, fueled by cumulative sleep deprivation, I'm sure), the kids were total angels and troopers about spending nearly 40 hours in the car in a week.  And a week of having my husband around 24/7?  Is not terrible.  Oh, that trip, it was sweet.

Oh, and to the 1 person who got through this (probably a grandma)?  Gold star.  You've already been rewarded with copious numbers of baby pictures for the only person who probably cares.