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Our grandson is three months old now and while he’s not ready for banana nut bread just yet, his parents are beginning to prepare for the addition of solid food. When I came across Smart Bites for Baby: 300 Easy-to-Make, Easy-to-Love Meals that Boost Your Baby and Toddler’s Brain(affiliate link) in the bargain bin of the book store, I picked it up and thumbed through it. Inside are all sorts of wonderful recipes with varied tastes and textures designed to nourish your child through important stages of development. Many of the recipes, while catering to baby palates, are appealing to adults, too.
You can tell the author, Mika Shino, has mastered both Asian and classic French flavors and techniques after spending some time browsing through the recipes. Her interest in cooking for babies began after her son was born with a liver condition that required months of painful testing. She turned to nutrition as a means of addressing the developmental needs of her baby. (Read more about it on her blog)
Dietary needs for every stage are addressed along with helpful lists for stocking the pantry. As the baby matures, new tastes and textures are added. The idea is to stimulate the brain as well as nourish it with tantalizing aromas and colorful food. It’s advised that parents don’t get discouraged when a baby rejects something. Rejected foods should be tried again another day, perhaps prepared differently (this goes for adults, too, sometimes). The recipes are subtly seasoned and sweetened, as you’d expect for a baby. By the time your child is old enough to eat the same food as the adults, it’s a simple matter to change the seasoning to suit.
None of the ingredients she used were strange to me and most of them should be available in your local box store. A few may require a trip to the health food store or ethnic market. As we flipped through the recipes trying to select a few to try, both my daughter and I kept saying, “Oh, that sounds good!” The sheer variety of good things to eat was very encouraging.
Here’s a sampling of the recipes we chose:
Yam and Apple Balls: These were made from roasted yams and apple; bound with ricotta cheese and ground flax seed. They’re intended to be finger food and are very soft and easy for a 9 month old baby to grasp. Flavor wise they were tasty, but obviously meant for babies. I couldn’t help but imagine these smashed and smeared all over in the way that only babies can do.
Pasta With Brussels Sprouts: I adapted this recipe for adult tastes in this post. It was surprisingly good. At first glance, you might consider the flavor to be too strong for a baby, but as written, there’s about four times more pasta than sprouts which shouldn’t be overwhelming. Just about every baby loves “sketti.”
For the purposes of this post, my daughter chose an egg, sugar and butter free banana nut bread suitable for young walkers. It’s not very sweet, but Rick and I enjoyed it with afternoon tea. My son liked it sliced and made into french toast and sweetened with syrup.
- 1½ cups flour (I used all purpose flour)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup pureed pineapple, drain before measuring
- ¾ cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
- 2 ripe bananas, cut into small pieces
- 1½ cups walnut pieces
- 1 - 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (I used a small packet)
- Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare two loaf pans for baking (I used a pan that makes 8 mini loaves)
- Mash the bananas, pineapple and oil together with a potato masher.
- Measure the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together in another bowl. Mix well.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine well. Stir in the nuts and ground flaxseeds.
- Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pans and bake 40 - 55 minutes, adjust the time based on the type of pan you use.
- The loaves are ready when a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before serving.
Other recipes which caught our eye:
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread Pudding
- Fresh Figs with Prosciutto, Pistachio and Ricotta Cheese
- Salmon Rice Pilaf
- Couscous with Beef, Onions and Raisins
- Plus instructions on how to prepare cereals, make purees, and choose ingredients
Smart Bites for Baby: 300 Easy-to-Make, Easy-to-Love Meals that Boost Your Baby and Toddler’s Brain seems to be nearing the end of its production run. There are still hard copies available as well as Kindle versions. I highly recommend it for new parents and grandparents.