Saturday, 17 December 2011

The strangest advice

Remember the first few months when you had just become a new mum? For me, along with the excitement and elation, it was also filled with a lack of confidence, fear (am I doing the right thing? Is my baby normal) and stress. As it's common in Maldives, I was always surrounded by family and friends giving advice and trying to help out. This was of course much appreciated and welcome most of the time. But some of the advice and comments just make you feel worse. Or confused. After all, these were all experts and you're the novice.
Most advice go something like this...

What, he doesn't burp? They all burp if you give them enough milk. (implying that I'm not giving him enough or that I don't have any)
Oh, (laughing) you're taking so long to put on his nappy, it's such an easy thing to do! (laugh some more) (well, Hello! I haven't been doing this all my life)
Put on some lotion on his bottom and no powder! (person 1)
Put powder, no lotion, lotion would make him feel hot (person 2)
Put lotion and then powder. (person 3) (Oh! what am I to do?!)
You're not giving him salt or sugar?! (gasp!) Well, we always gave them to our babies and they are perfectly healthy! (when I started giving him solids)

Some would be unintentionally hurtful:
Oh but he's so small, our baby was so big and healthy-looking when he was born! 
My, you're what they call pregnancy-poinsoned (maabandu vihavefa), look at your complexion! (This was when I was pregnant. I had gone unrecognizably bloated and dark with pimples)
You're 5 months? But your tummy's so small! I was huge when I was 5 months. Eat lots of ice cream. That will give you a beautiful and big baby, I did! (Also when I was pregnant, and from the same person as above, and no, I didn't follow the ice cream advice)

Some would be just mean:
He doesn't smile, does he? (with a bit of a snicker) (my answer: Well, he does. Only at those he finds nice. By this time I had grown a bit more assertive)

And some advice is just...just weird. Here's what I mean:
My son was around one and a half months old then, and like most babies he would follow shadows with his eyes. He loved looking up at the curtains and how the lights played up at the wall. One lady (a family friend) saw this and said:
"Oh no! he's one of those up-ward looking babies. Do you know what you have to do? You have to tie a black cloth on his forehead to prevent him from looking up all the time. Otherwise he would end up with upward-eyes!"
Horrified, I had looked at my mum who was with us and she was trying hard not to laugh out loud. Well, thank you dear lady but we didn't use your advice. By the Grace of Allah, our baby is as normal as any other baby.

As I said, much of the advice and suggestions I got were truly invaluable. And I thank them for it. I've also learned that as my baby grows and as I grow more confident as a mum, I'm the best expert my baby can ever get, as no one else would know him better than me :)
and here's a picture of a gorilla that came up when i searched "frustrated new mum" on Google :D

Baby Recipe: Basic Beef

Here's a basic beef recipe that can be prepared and kept frozen in individual portions. I've found that this is very convenient, as each of these individual portions can be easily used in a main meal of rice/pasta/potatoes etc. Also, I usually buy steak meat and these have to be thawed as a whole. So this method is useful when you're buying blocks of meat, as all the meat can be cooked in one go.

Frozen beef in broth

A medium sized beef steak (cut into 1cm cubes)
1/4 onion (finely chopped)
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Put everything together in a pot with water, up to about 1 cm above the level of beef. Cook until the beef is soft and thoroughly cooked through. Put the beef into portion sized containers with a bit of the leftover liquid and freeze. If there is still some soup left, this can be used as stock to cook rice etc. Cumin is one of my favourite spices and it gives the beef a mild, but flavoursome taste.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

When toddlers refuse meals

Photo courtesy: SBV
We mums (and dads) agonise when our kids "just won't eat". For some, it lasts for a few days and then they have a few "normal" eating days and the cycle begins again. For most of us Maldivian parents, a normal meal would mean rice/roshi thoroughly mixed with garudhiya/a mild curry (ususally with veggies and a meat/fish). And we tend to feed our kids ourselves till they are at least preschoolers.

My son started this when he started teething, around 10/11 months. He's 18 months now and it still continues on and off. I've come to expect this, but however prepared I am, it's never easy to deal with. I noticed that although he refuses meals, he still liked to nibble on things - bits of cheese, bread, etc. I believe most kids do this. I've seen many a mum and grandma running after toddlers trying to feed a bit of roshi dipped in rihaakuru or something similar, when they refuse normal meals.

So if they like to nibble and not eat, why not give them something to nibble on, and make it nutritious? Here are some really simple ideas:

1. Goodness-Packed Omelette
    Finely slice and cook a few vegetables of choice.
    Add a cooked meat, finely chopped (tuna or a bit of chicken).
    Mix these together with one egg (blend veggies and meat finely for a baby)
    Heat a bit of butter/olive oil on a saucepan, pour the mixture, and viola! you
    have a nutritious meal replacement.
    Variants: Include some carbohydrate in the meal by adding chopped and boiled
                   potatoes in the mixture.
                  Add some cheese.

2. Patties
    Finely slice and cook a few vegetables of choice.
    Add a cooked meat, finely chopped (tuna or a bit of chicken).
    Mix these together (blend veggies and meat finely for a baby)
    Shape into balls and flatten to make patties
    Dip into egg, then breadcrumbs, and shallow fry.

A vegetable patty with chickpeas
 3. Veggie Kulhi Boakiba
    Make a milder version of kulhi boakiba mix.
    Add finely chopped vegetables.
    Bake like a normal kulhi boakiba. 
    You can find a yummy traditional kulhi boakiba recipe here.

   Chilles and Lime also has a toddler-friendly, super easy quesadilla recipe.

You can cut these into bits and leave them for him/her to eat. If you do not try to force feed them, usually curiosity gets the better of them and they'll start to nibble on.

It's best to start with these alternatives early on, for example, when they start teething. This way, they are less suspicious of these food. Make sure you try different looks and tastes for these nibbling recipes, so that the easily-bored toddler doesn't get bored!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A new favourite

 Hoyt's Italian Herb Mix

I've found that this gives that 'wow' factor to even your most lazily-cooked pastas. It's just a bunch of dried herbs and I don't know which of it gives this that zzzingg. It's lovely to add to your toddler's or older baby's pasta too. Just a little sprinkle will do. According to the packaging, it does not contain any preservatives or artificial nasties. Here's what's in it:
Garlic granules, tomato granules, basil rubbed, oregano, parsley, onion, red bell pepper, black pepper, marjoram, canola oil.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Purées: What's the best equipment for making baby food?

When we were going to introduce our son to solids, I made the huge mistake of  buying a large liquidiser. What was I thinking! Obviously it was useless to make small amounts of purées or even dry-grind cereals (in small amounts). So I pretty much had to shove it in the back of the cupboards. What I found to be the best was a hand blender.
Something like this, but what I bought was the much cheaper supermarket brand for just AUD15 (Rf.200?). Imagine, my liquidiser had cost me 3 times as much!

The hand blender is so convenient, you can just purée the food right in serving bowl itself. Some people say that it doesn't purée meat very finely, but that could depend on the brand. I've never had such a problem. Also, usually, as the baby gets older, they are able to eat more lumpy food. There are some specialised baby processing equipment out there, but they cost you an arm and a leg! I would prefer my dear old hand blender to those any day! :))

Baby recipe: Apple Barley Cereal

What's the main cereal you give to your baby? I started out with Farex baby rice cereal that's fortified with iron when my son was 6 months old. However, I wanted to add some variety so looked for some wholesome cereals that I can prepare at home. So I bought pearl barley and this became a favourite evening meal during the early months of eating solids. Making baby food, even cereals, at home is so much better because you know exactly what is going into your baby's food.

Pearl barley (which is really whole barley processed to remove the hull and bran) can take ages to cook. So it's better if you dry grind it before cooking. This recipe can make about 4 portions for a 6-8 month old. When choosing apples, it's obviously yummier if we use a sweeter variety, so I used Red Delicious.

Pearl Barley
What you will need:
4 heaped tbsp ground barley
2 cups water
1 medium size apple (peeled and finely chopped)
1/2 stick cinnamon

Put everything together in a thick bottomed pot and cook, stirring continuously. The cinnamon gives a wonderful aroma when it's cooking. Remove from heat when the barley is soft. After it cools, the cereal has a jelly-like consistency. If it's too thick, add water and stir to get the consistency you want. If you like, you can also add some milk (formula) before you serve. Remove the cinnamon and blend to a finer texture if required.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Toddler recipe: Chicken turmeric rice with veggies

This one's inspired by the traditional Maldivian masbaiy (tuna-rice). Of course our traditional version is made with tuna and is much spicier  with whole black peppers, and we don't normally add vegetables. Some of my favourite sea-side memories include piping hot masbaiy eaten on large leaves - yum!

This will make approximately 3 portions, and will take 30 minutes or less to prepare.This is also suitable for babies 7 months and up. Just omit the garlic if you think it might be too spicy for the baby.

What you will need:
1/2    cup white rice
1 1/2 cup water
1/3    tsp turmeric
1 garlic (chopped)
2-3 curry leaves
5-6 large florets of broccoli
1 carrot (sliced)
2 large chicken drumsticks (skinned, deboned and cut into 1 cm cubes)
a pinch of salt (optional and not recommended for babies

Put everything together, except the broccoli and boil in a pot until the rice is soft and the chicken is cooked well. Add the broccoli, stir, cover the pot and let it simmer for about 2 minutes. If you want to puree it, keep the lid on until you're ready to blend, so that the rice is soft and mushy.

You can swap the broccoli with a green vegetable of your choice. For me, another favourite is spinach.

Chicken drumsticks are higher in iron and fat compared to chicken breasts. So for babies and younger toddlers it might be a good idea to give drumsticks, as it can be easily pureed too. On the other hand, if you prefer the leaner meat of chicken breasts that's higher in protein, that's fine too :)

 my broccoli got a little too mushy

When you're ready to serve as it is or blend, remove the curry leaves. Put the leftovers in portion-size containers and freeze. Bon appétit!