Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happy Nine Months

I didn't realize he's 9 months already. What else can I say? He kept us busy and it's been a joy to see his milestones every single day. It surprises me and J on what he's going to do or say next. As a hands-on mom, I try to work as quickly as I can and be as efficient as I can so I could spend time with him. But it also amuses me that he enjoys playing by himself at his play pen while he listens to the music from Baby Einstein. Sooner or later, he would get used to being inside the play pen and would want to explore his outer surroundings. It only means that I need to keep my eyes on him all the time.

I stopped doing purees for him. I still have some in the freezer but mostly cauliflower, some roasted pureed apples and bananas. He graduated from purely pureed foods about a month ago and is willing to chew on something. Sometimes I was hoping that there's more backup food for him but there's not much space in the freezer. I wonder if I spoiled his taste buds also. It seems that Nate wants to eat new food every meal. But I'm glad he still eats his cereals every breakfast. Sometimes I don't have time to prepare new food for him so he gets to eat the same food for lunch and dinner. Once in a while, when I have time, I let him eat with his fingers so would be more involve with his meal time. There were also days that he doesn't like his food even when the food is delicious. But I don't force him to finish it. I may not be able to breastfeed Nate but one thing I can do for me him now is to expose him to different kinds of food as much as possible. There was a day that I didn't have time to cook so I took some of the curried pumpkin for lunch delivery, added a bit of rice and coconut milk while carefully removing the whole cumin, fennel and mustard seeds. I'm glad that he ate it even when there's spices on it. 

I know he likes clear soups such as beef and chicken. He also likes Greek yogurt with bananas, mangoes or avocado or even sweet potato.  Later I realized that I can grate pears and apples through the microplane instead of blending it. I think he likes anything with tomato. A bit sour but yes, he likes it while he's still getting used to eating anything green. He doesn't like porridge-like rice but he likes it just soft. And of course, can't forget the egg yolks and bone marrow.  Just like most babies, he likes anything cold and sweet.

Nate is making different sounds lately. Sometimes I wonder if he is more communicative than J and I. I only speak when I have something important to say. But it's good that he babbles even if they are meaningless talk at the moment. I'm certain he's trying to pronounce a word that he has heard before while I read to him. When I was around 10 years old, my brother called me "smiling face" because I smile for no reason at all and yet it irritates him. Now, Nate smiles at almost everyone he doesn't even know. If the person is still there, he looks back and would smile again and again. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. At least he smiles all the time even at home.
When I look back on this 9 month journey, I'm actually glad that I didn't hire a yaya. It was actually on my list to take care of my own baby even before I got married. Of course, I get tired and need help when we go out and that's the time that help comes. Everyone wants to carry him and feed him. I didn't mind at all even when his dessert is given in between his meal. But at home, he gets his sweets at the end of the meal or he doesn't get it at ll. I have my own reasons for not having a yaya and I appreciate the respect for my decision. Although there are still people who would ask where is the yaya, I would say he doesn't have one. It has been the norm in the Philippines to have one. And I agree that it does really help to make our lives easier. But then, there are those who chose  not to have one and I am one of them. And if even John and I would need help, we'll get someone who can help us with the household chores instead.

Being a mother and homemaker is not a job, just like I mentioned before. I realized that doing all of these things for my family is actually a privilege and a blessing from God. We continually ask Him for his protection and grace that Nate will always be protected from ailments and sicknesses, from pains and accidents and even from negative people. And when we look at him, John and I are still in awe. It was surreal and we still asked ourselves, is he really our son? Truly, God's creative workmanship is so evident, we just need to open our eyes and our hearts.

Happy Nine Months Nate.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Roasted Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

I love butternut squash. I really miss them. I was able to use it once in Manila but I've never seen it again. Living abroad has the perks of  having a variety of produce that I cannot find here. But I have to stop daydreaming and just use what we have locally.

Whenever I roast pumpkin for the lunch delivery, there's always extra, sometimes way too much. It's either I save it for a grain bowl or I make soup. Soup is my fallback when I'm in desperate measures most especially when my hands are full. I have stocks of soup in the freezer and it's easier to reheat than making a full meal. And this pumpkin and black bean soup keeps me full and satisfied. Canned black beans are great but cooking beans from scratch is even better. While stock is recommended for this soup whether chicken or vegetable; water, which I use, is good enough.

When making soups, I usually sweat the onions, carrots or celery first but what I did is I roasted the onions and the garlic along with the pumpkin. Then, I just dump everything in a pot with black beans with stock or water. This makes my life easier. And you can adjust if you want or less of the roasted pumpkin or the black beans. The recipe below is just a guide.

Roasted Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup 

1.5 lbs Pumpkin
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups cooked black beans
4 to 6 cups stock or water
1/2 tablespoon paprika
Sea salt, to taste
juice of 1/2 a lemon or to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the pumpkin into 4 6 pieces. Remove the core and root of the onions and cut it in half. Toss with olive oil. Place the them cut side down along with unpeeled garlic on a baking sheet and roast until tender about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the garlic after 15 minutes.

When the pumpkin is soft and cooled, scrape out and discard the seeds and stringy fiber. Scoop out the pulp from the skin.

In a blender, puree in batches the squash, onion, broth, paprika and 2 cups of the black beans. Return the puree to pot with the remaining cup of black beans. If necessary, add stock to thin the soup to a desired consistency. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt to taste.

Warm soup on medium-low heat for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Add the lemon juice and ladle into soup bowls and finish a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and chili flakes.

If you happen to have extra pumpkin, you can also make this Roasted Pumpkin Chickpea Soup. It has almost the same procedure.

Print Recipe

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Appreciating Food and Life

I am off doing the lunch delivery for the whole week but it also means that there are no revenues as well. I wanted to relax in the morning but I don't want to put off until tomorrow what can be done today. I am making more of Nate's food for the whole week. Like I've mentioned previously, it's easier to roast them than to steam. I can roast different vegetables at the same time taking them out from the oven as they cook. I don't need to blanch them. I take them out when they're almost done and just leave them as they continue to cook and become tender in the pan.

A few people asked me if I have given congee or porridge. I know it's the least allergenic food and it is easy to digest and maybe keeps the baby fuller longer. It's bland and it can be used as a template for other first foods. Yes, I have given congee but not everyday. There are other grains to try such as brown rice or quinoa, and steel-cut oats for breakfast.

Backup food

As a cook and a holistic nutritionist, I want them to try different foods with different flavors and textures, even if they are pureed. I want variety and I believe they need it too. It is easy for them to adapt to eat congee and eventually rice in the future. I plan to give meat in the next few days but not as much as vegetables. I don't want to convert my baby into a first-class carnivore. They need the iron from the meat but just like rice, it is easy for them to love it once they've tasted it. 

Brown Rice Cereal, Banana, Mango

When I took pictures of Nate holding a tomato, a green bean, a kale leaf or measuring spoons, it doesn't mean that I'm training him to become a chef. It may look like it but I have something different in mind. Totally different from what people are thinking. I'm not training him to become a chef but I want to teach him how to become a good cook instead. When I let him hold those ingredients at four months of age, I gave it for the purpose of playing because I know that if I give him toys he will not appreciate it. When you teach your child how to cook, you are teaching him life skills that he will use in his lifetime. (And I'm also learning everyday).  Here are just a few.

Math. They will learn a lot of about numbers from counting to calculating, portioning food and weighing things both at the grocery store and at home from start to finish.

Science and Chemistry. They will learn why certain ingredients act the way they do. From why do cakes rise to glossy white peaks from egg whites.

History and Culture. Food and cooking itself is rich in history and culture. There are many classic recipes from ancient times that are still being used today and it has been passed on from one generation to another. The ingredients that we are using right now and the practices that were done before are still evident at the present times. Just think about salt, chocolate and pasta, for instance. Each has its own origin and it has shaped civilization. The might also understand why certain ingredients are expensive.

Agriculture. Although farm to table projects are not incorporated in the elementary curriculum here in the Philippines, a visit to the farm will be a great exposure for the kids to appreciate where food comes from and how are they grown. Just like Rome wasn't build in a day, it takes time to grow food. They will learn a lot in the field. There's respect, responsibility and patience towards food. respect for the people who are growing our food. We don't pay much attention that someone has to harvest before we could get hold of those ingredients, or someone has to butcher the chicken before we could buy them already dressed. They will be more responsible towards their environment most especially if you allow them to be involved in growing. Healthy food takes time to grow with a lot of effort and it doesn't come in a form of fast food. Everything comes in an instant most especially today where almost is just touch screen away. We need to learn to slow down.

Nutrition. Health and cooking are inseparable. When you teach them how to cook, you are also teaching them about whole food ingredients that are healthy for their body. When they understand the different food groups and their function, they will choose healthier choices in the future.

Responsibility and Patience. When you give them a task to help out in the family meal most especially when they request for a dish that they like, it teaches them to be more responsible. They will learn that not all food comes out hot and ready in less than 5 minutes.

Respect. Respect not only for the food they're preparing but also to the farmers who are growing their food, the dishwashers who are washing the dirty pots and pans at the restaurant, and to every person that he will meet in the future.

Thankfulness. Not everyone is blessed to have three meals a day. The work that has been put on to have food on the table is something that we should all be thankful for. The toast might be burned or the pasta may be too salty but at the end of the day, even if the dish doesn't turn out the way we want it, we are still one of the people in this world who are truly blessed just because we have something to eat.

There are still many benefits and lessons when you teach your kids how to cook. What else can you add to the list?