Red Lentils (Masoor Daal)

Red lentil soup, also known as Masoor Daal, is a staple in most Indian households, with each family possessing a slight variation in how it's prepared. Jazzed up with turmeric, cumin and other spices and served with veggies and whole wheat bread (roti) or rice, daal is a fixture at every meal, packing a vegetarian protein punch as well as fibre and B vitamins. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious and soul-warming. My four year old loves it, which is a fact that definitely warms my soul. 

RECIPE

Yield
Serves a family of 4

Ingredients
1 cup red lentils (masoor daal) found in most regular and Indian grocery stores
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 black peppercorns
Pinch hing (asafoetida) found in Indian grocery stores (optional) 
1 tomato grated
Salt to taste (skip for babies)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Fistful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Wash the lentils and discard the water. Do this 2-3 times. Soak the lentils in room temperature water for 1-2 hours to expedite the cooking process. 

Discard the soaking liquid (this reduces phytic acid present in many grains and legumes, which acts as an anti-nutrient and can prevent mineral absorption). 

In a pot for which you have a lid, add the soaked lentils, 5 cups of fresh water, turmeric, peppercorns and hing. Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any foam that arises. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, continuing to take off the foam (this will reduce gassiness!) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are dissolved. If using a pressure cooker, use 3 cups of water, allow 1-2 whistles and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add the grated tomato and salt to taste and continue to simmer on very low heat.

In parallel, prepare the seasoning, also known as tadka

Heat the oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and stir for about a minute until sizzling and aromatic (but not burnt). Add the garlic and stir until just barely pink, about a minute. Transfer the seasoning to the daal (expect a loud sizzle!) and stir well. 

Fish out the peppercorns, especially if feeding kids. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Finish with a garnish of cilantro and a squeeze of lemon. 
 

Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree

Cumin Carrot Pea Potato Puree
6 months+

This jazzed up version of the classic combination of carrots, peas and potatoes is sure to enliven baby's taste buds and health. 

Yield
8 oz or 2 baby servings

Ingredients
1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1 medium potato peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon coconut or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, place the carrots, peas and potato with 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a medium-low heat and steam for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. 

Take the lid off and add the oil and cumin to the vegetables, stirring well for about a minute, until the spice is well incorporated. Puree or mash and serve for a classic and tasty baby meal or leave in chunks and serve for baby to pick up and enjoy. Alternatively, add salt and serve as a veggie side dish for toddlers and older kids. 

Khichdi (Rice & Lentil Porridge)

KHICHDI (Rice & Lentil Porridge)
6 months+

Science Corner
Khichdi, a rice and lentil porridge, often prepared with vegetables, is a revered food in the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda (translated the Science of Life). The combination of rice and lentils provides all essential amino acids. When made with white rice (stay tuned for my post on my data-driven massive change of heart about brown rice for babies!), the dish is thought to be extremely energizing and healing for the digestive tract and is highly recommended for babies who are learning to flex their digestive muscle. Khichdi also presents itself as a canvas for various vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The addition of spices like turmeric and cumin boosts the antioxidant content and augments the digestibility of the lentils, although one typically uses skinned yellow or red lentils for babies, which are easier to digest anyway. All of these factors make khichdi a great addition to baby's meal plan, elevating it with science and flavor. 

Yield
6 baby servings (can be frozen for later use)

Ingredients
1/2 cup white rice
1/4 cup red or yellow lentils
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1/4 cup peeled and chopped zucchini
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 cups water

Method
Wash the lentils a few times and soak for 1-3 hours to reduce phytic acid (an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption of certain minerals like zinc) and discard the water. Wash the rice a few times and drain. 

In a pot for which you have a lid, heat the oil on medium high flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to start crackling, 30-60 seconds. Add the rice, lentils, veggies (feel free to use whatever you like - cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, green beans are all fair game), ginger, peppercorns, clove and turmeric and sauté for 30 seconds until well mixed and coated with oil. Add the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the mixture hasn't dried out, adding a bit more water if so. At the end of 30 minutes, the lentils should have disintegrated and the dish should have the consistency of a liquid porridge. If using a pressure cooker, reduce cooking time to 10 minutes after 1-2 whistles on high heat. Once cooked, pick out the peppercorns and clove, mash lightly or blend and serve. Older kids can enjoy it with texture and some salt. It's also the perfect food for an upset stomach, even for adults! 

Cumin Beet Apple Yoghurt Puree

Cumin, Beetroot, Apple, Greek Yoghurt Baby Puree
6 months+

Nutrition
If you hate beets it might be because you, like me, were only offered the boiled, sad preparation growing up. But beets done right can be addictive and delicious. My toddler definitely thinks so and I, having introduced them to him as a bay, am taking all the credit ;) Beets are not just gorgeous to look at but so amazing for our bodies, particularly due to their detoxification and anti-inflammatory powers, in addition to being a solid source of folate. Cumin is a fantastic digestive aid and antioxidant. It’s also a good source of iron! In this dish, cumin’s smoky and nutty flavors beautifully complement the earthiness and sweetness of beets. We suggest pressure-cooking or steaming (versus boiling) the beets to preserve nutrients. Here, they join forces with probiotic and calcium-rich yoghurt to create a nutritious, delicious, flavor packed puree any budding gourmet will love. 


Yield
8 oz / 1-2 baby servings

Ingredients
1 beet, about 4 inches in diameter, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Pinch, about 1/16th teaspoon cumin or up to ¼ teaspoon for more adventurous babies
¼ cup plain, full fat Greek yoghurt

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid, a pressure cooker or your baby puree maker of choice, add the beets, apples, cumin and enough water for cooking (1/4 cup for pressure cooker, ½ cup for a regular pot).

Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook covered until the mixture is soft, 10 minutes in the pressure cooker, 20 minutes in a regular pot. If the latter, check the mixture every 5 minutes to make sure it doesn’t dry out, adding more water if necessary. 

Once the fruit and veg are soft, puree in a food processor or using a hand-held blender. Allow the mixture to cool.

Add in the yoghurt and mix until smooth.  


I

Cinnamon, Sweet Potato, Leek, Kale Puree

Cinnamon, Sweet potato, Leek, Kale Puree
6 months+

Science Corner
If spices were superheroes, cinnamon would occupy the upper echelons of power. Superman. Maybe Batman. No, actually maybe Captain America. Or more likely, a combination of all of those and more. Packed with anti-diabetes, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, cognition boosting, anti-cancer and female hormone cycle regulating powers, cinnamon is a spice truly worth incorporating into your baby's, toddler's, kid's and family's diets. The only caveat with cinnamon, as previously discussed, is that the widely available Cassia variety has high levels of coumarin, which is a liver toxin. A 2012 study conducted in Norway by the Scientific Committee for Food Safety found that Norwegian kids, because of their regular intake of cinnamon-flavored oatmeal, were ingesting coumarin in much higher doses than what is considered tolerable and safe. The simple way around this problem is to ensure that the cinnamon you use, especially if sprinkling it into your foods regularly (which you should!) is of the Ceylon / Sri Lankan variety, which has undetectable amounts of coumarin. You can get Ceylon cinnamon from specialty spice shops, Whole Foods and on Amazon. The extra effort in this regard is definitely worth it. 

Yield
8oz or 1-2 baby servings

Ingredients
½ large sweet potato, chopped
1 large kale leaf, stem and thick fibrous central vein removed, chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil (optional)
Pinch, about 1/16th teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon or up to 1/8th teaspoon for more adventurous babies

Method
In a pot for which you have a lid or a pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium high until shimmering. 
Add the leeks and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. 
Add the potato, kale and cinnamon, ¼ to ½ cup of water for steaming (depending on how big your pot is and how liquid you want the puree) and cook on low heat with the lid on until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes for a regular pot and 10 for the pressure cooker. 
Once the veggies are cooked through, blend in a food processor or with a hand-held blender. Serve fresh or freeze for later. 
You can skip the oil and steam the veggies with the cinnamon in a pot with a lid or your baby puree maker of choice.
If your toddler likes mashed veggies as sides to chicken or fish, this is a nice, nutritious option. 


Turmeric Lentil & Avocado Puree

TURMERIC LENTIL & AVOCADO PUREE
6 months+

Nutrition
Lentils are one of the best foods for heart health - a large study following 16,000 adults found the regular intake of beans and lentils to be associated with a 82% reduction in mortality from heart disease! Their high soluble fiber, magnesium and folate content is responsible for the cardioprotective effects. Lentils are complex carbohydrates, providing sustained energy without a spike in blood sugar so they are great for weight management without compromising satiety. They are also an excellent source of protein, iron and B vitamins. Avocados are potent anti-inflammatory foods, rich in anti-oxidants and a source of excellent quality fat that aids in keeping inflammation in check and prevents heart disease making this genuine, creamy baby superfood in a bowl!

Yield
4 4oz baby food servings

Ingredients
1/2 cup split yellow lentils or moong daal (easily found in Indian grocery stores)
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon hing or asofateida, found in Indian grocery stores (optional but great for digestion of lentils)
1 ripe avocado

Method
Wash the lentils thoroughly and discard the water. Do this 2-3 times. Add fresh water and soak for 30 minutes, especially important if not using a pressure cooker.

If using a regular pot, bring the lentils, turmeric, hing and 2 cups of water to a boil on high heat, about 5 minutes, skimming off any foam that arises. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes continuing to take off foam. Lower to a simmer and cook partially covered for 30 minutes until the lentils have dissolved. If using a pressure cooker, cook lentils with 1 cup of water, turmeric and hing on a high flame for 5 minutes (1-2 whistles)  and then on a medium- low flame for 15 minutes. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add in the avocado and smash or blend for a smoother puree. Serve baby right away and freeze the rest for later. Alternatively, spice up the leftovers with salt, cumin, cayenne and lime for a delicious mommy lunch. 

 

Turmeric Thai Curry

TURMERIC THAI CURRY
6 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition
Both butternut squash and green beans are incredibly high sources of carotenoids which are converted to Vitamin A in the body and crucial for healthy skin, mucous membrane integrity and eye development. Coconut milk is rich in medium chain fatty acids which are more readily utilized for energy rather than for fat storage (take that cellulite). Moreover, lauric acid in coconut milk is converted into monolaurine in the body which has anti-viral and antibacterial effects. Combined with the benefits of turmeric, this is true baby super food. Add a bit more coconut milk and some salt for a 'thai inspired soup' perfect for the family table. 

Yield
1 cup or 2 4oz baby meal servings

Ingredients
3 cups diced butternut squash (about half an average squash)
1 cup chopped green beans
Water for steaming
1 tablespoon olive, rapeseed or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped or grated ginger (optional)
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons coconut milk

Method
Steam the butternut squash and green beans in a pressure cooker, steam basket or baby food maker of choice until soft. In a small saucepan, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the ginger and sauté for one minute. Add the turmeric and sauté for another minute. Add the oil mixture, pepper (if using) and the coconut milk to the squash and beans and blend. Add water for a more liquid puree. 

Serving Suggestions
Serve as is for a nutritious, delicious baby meal. Add a bit of salt and some more coconut milk or water to make a warming winter soup for the family table. For spicy spice-loving adults, serve with chopped thai chillis. 

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Paprika Potato Potage

PAPRIKA POTATO POTAGE
6 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

Nutrition

All too often, potatoes are thought of as fattening comfort food and not much else but that's absolutely not the case. They are a source of vitamins and minerals especially Vitamin B6 that is indispensable in the synthesis of amino acids which are building blocks for protein in the body. They are also starchy and superb for the energy demands of growing babies and toddlers. Cauliflower like all cruciferous veggies, is brimming with phytonutrients which help detoxify the body. It's also a great source of Vitamin C and is being studied extensively for its anti-cancer effects. It can be a bit hard to digest for some folks which is why we combine it with fennel which aids digestion and also packs a Vitamin C punch. Leeks are milder and sweeter than onions and my absolute favorite especially with other delicate ingredients like fennel and potato. They provide folate and phytonutrients making this potage (essentially a thick soup) truly nutritious comfort food for babies and everyone else. The gruyere cheese and paprika elevate the dish to a yummy place. In the bruschetta / adult variation, the goat cheese addition is just creamy and fabulous especially paired with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Yield

5 5oz baby portions
2 adult or 2-3 toddler portions

Ingredients

1/2 leek white and light green parts sliced
1/2 cauliflower head coarsely chopped
1 Russet or Yukon Gold potato chopped
1/2 fennel bulb chopped
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 - 1 cup water or chicken stock
1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese 
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Method

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker or medium pot until warm but not smoking. Add the paprika into the oil and sauté for 10 seconds to activate the flavors. Add the leeks and sauté for 2 minutes until softened. Add the potatoes, fennel, cauliflower and water or chicken stock (3/4 cup if using a pressure cooker otherwise 1 cup or until the veggies are just covered) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook with lid partially on until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes in the pressure cooker or 20 minutes in the pot. Puree the mixture, stir in the grated cheese and add salt and pepper if you like. 

Serving Suggestions

Serve the potage as a soup with some crusty bread or as a baby meal. You can skip the cheese if you haven't introduced dairy to your little one yet. I also serve it as a 'gravy' for grilled chicken to my toddler who is a tad picky about the texture of dry pieces of meat.

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Cardamom Pears

CARDAMOM PEARS
7 months +, Toddlers, Adults

Nutrition

Pears are a superb source of a class of polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids which can promote heart health and help prevent Type 2 diabetes and cancer. The skin of pears contains a large proportion of its flavonoids so I suggest buying organic pears and leaving them unpeeled for toddlers and older kids. Pears also contain Vitamins C and K and are a great source of fiber. 

Ingredients

1 pear peeled and chopped for babies, unpeeled and chopped for toddlers and kids especially if using organic pears
1 clove (beginner) or 2 cloves (advanced) cardamom smashed lightly or half the seeds from 1 pod freshly ground for a stronger flavor 
1/4 cup water 

Method

Add the water to a pot with a lid, a pressure cooker if you’re using one or your baby food gadget of choice.

Add the smashed or ground cardamom and chopped pears. If steaming without direct contact with the water, you can add the pod to the water, which will impart some flavor and essence but much less so compared to directly cooking the fruit in cardamom infused water. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the pears are soft enough to eat or puree for younger babies. Make sure there is enough water to prevent them from burning and sticking to the pot. Remove the cardamom pod and any seeds you spot although a couple left behind won't hurt. Depending on how watery you’d like the puree, you can add some of the cooking water to the pears and blend or leave in pieces and serve. 

Serving Suggestions

Offer the puree to your baby as is, in cereal, with yoghurt or mixed with other fruits and veggies. Some combinations that work nicely:

Cardamom pears with banana
Cardamom pears with peach
Cardamom pears with green beans
Cardamom pears with peas and broccoli
Cardamom pears with mango and spinach

If combining with veggies, cook the pears together with the veggies adding the cardamom as described above. Then add in the uncooked fruit (mangoes, bananas) and blend.

Toddlers, older kids and adults can enjoy these purees with yogurt or in cereal, oatmeal or whatever other combination strikes your fancy. Or skip the pureeing step and offer the cardamom infused fruit or veg in pieces to your entire family. 

Other fruits and veggies that can be cooked similarly with cardamom:

Carrots
Butternut or acorn squash
Peaches
Apricots

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