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. 

6 baby servings (can be frozen for later use)

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

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! 

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. 

8oz or 1-2 baby servings

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

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.