An easy way to feel rather proud of yourself, especially while desperately trying to get your baby to eat, is to make her something nice that you actually wouldn’t mind having yourself. Because she'll eat better when you eat at the same time, and because oh yes there will be leftovers. Some creativity is required here, especially as it's important not to feed a baby much salt at all, or sugar. And as she grows (and sprouts teeth) her bossiness/pickiness/hunger/danger of choking rise and fall in tides. It's not just that every baby is different, but that each mealtime presents its particular shifting appetites and challenges. She's not just a baby, she's a person with tastes.
On the other hand if you don't have or even want a baby, it's perfectly lovely to remember to eat things that are soft, simple, and largely nutritious. It is never unpleasant, for example, to eat a jar of homemade applesauce. It is always useful to have a refrigerator stocked with vegetables and whole milk and full-fat Greek yogurt and unsalted butter. It is very very nice to think, I have not eaten dill for a while, so I'll add some to my potatoes.
So here is what Ines (and I) might eat today*, followed by a list of simple recipes**.
- Greek yogurt with applesauce (recipe below)
- Oatmeal made mostly with milk, and a banana mashed in for sweetness
- Banana mashed into baby porridge - rice or some other grain
- One egg omelet with thyme and cream cheese
- Cheese toast or toast smeared with nut butter, or butter, or any of the above
Snacks or dessert (aka finger foods)
- A whole apricot or a plum, eaten sitting on my hip - for serious monitoring of the chewing & swallowing, and for sharing
- Steamed broccoli spears, for chewing or wielding like silent maracas
- Cold peeled (raw) carrots and very clean celery, for sore gums
- Unsalted rice cakes
- Ring-shaped baby cookies, which are dangerously delicious
Lunch or dinner
- Steamed broccoli florets
- More Greek yogurt
- Mashed avocado, which can of course go savory or sweet
- Lentils, well-done, cooked in chicken stock if at all possible
- Salmon, flaked into little chunks
- Baked sweet potatoes, on their own with olive oil, or mixed (mashed) with any of the above
- Sardines (see below)
- Chicken, in bits (see below)
Applesauce. Quarter 5 or 6 or 7 apples, fewer if they’re large. Definitely core them, but only remove the peels if you don’t want to eat them later yourself. Put them in a saucepan over medium low heat. Break a stick of cinnamon in two, and tuck half of it into the apples. Squeeze a lemon over the whole thing and splash it with a tablespoon of water too. Cook for twenty minutes or so, pull out the cinnamon stick and suck the apples out, because this is the best part. Mash with a wooden spoon until you get the consistency you like.
Baby pasta. The most comforting food I can think of, next to miso soup. Sauté chopped broccoli or spinach in olive oil or butter. Cook three tablespoons of baby pasta. Grate a lot of parmesan cheese over the top. Baby pasta is equally tasty mixed with spinach and ricotta cheese; with anything sauce-like (read, anything suitable for a baby) that you’d like to stretch into a full meal. I've heard all babies love a good bolognese sauce but mine basically just doesn't, yet.
Sardines & avocado. Buy a tin of sardines that doesn’t contain anything but the fish and some olive oil, and a tiny bit of salt. Mash a fish into a half of an avocado (more or less depending on how ~fishy~ you want the paste to be) with a fork, to break the bones up. They really shouldn’t be sharp but I like to check by eating like half of this myself. Obviously this stinks to high heaven and is not to be eaten in public.
Roast Chicken. Buy the best chicken you can find & afford. Heat the oven to 190 C/375 F. Scrub and cut potatoes and apples into chunks; slice a head or two of garlic in half crosswise. Nestle the chicken into a roasting pan and surround it with these other things. Shove half a lemon into the cavity. Rub unsalted butter into the chicken’s skin, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt, and crank a pepper mill over the top. Add a few sprigs of thyme and rosemary to the pan if you can. Squeeze the lemon’s other half over the whole thing, and put it all in the oven together for twoish hours, depending on the bird’s weight. Or this is how Nigel Slater said to do it, and I think he's 1000% right because the results, when I roast a chicken this way, are always delicious.
When the chicken is fully cooked and has spent a while resting cut into the thigh meat and serve tiny slices to your babe. IF she is (like) mine she won’t care too much for chicken, but then you can make chicken stock from the whole thing and use that later in the week. And she’ll probably eat the soft flesh of those buttery potatoes and apples even if the chicken doesn't capture her attention, as long as you don’t eat them first.
*OBVIOUSLY please don't take this too literally, these are just some ideas and suggestions for inspiration.
**With thanks to Nigel Slater for inspiration, and some details...