Andrew: We’ve written quite a few posts about dining out with baby. However, obviously, that’s neither baby’s staple nor his main source of nutrition as we don’t dine out as often as we used to. So it makes sense for us to blog about the food that he eats on an everyday basis – and that’s almost just as interesting, if not more, than the food he eats at restaurants. Honestly, I used to think all babies ate was plain porridge, milk and blended vegetables, but now I realise there’s a whole realm of interesting menus that can be put together, even for a baby! We’ll have to thank my mother-in-law for her creativity and great culinary skills and my wife too for her research skills and willingness to push the boundaries (I’m the more cautious one).
Jasmine: Actually, this post would not exist if not for my mum, who created all the dishes for Dilly! Anyone who knows me and my numerous failed attempts at cooking e.g. burnt eggs which sent smoke through the house (and I still thought there was a fire in the next block) knows that I should probably stay away from the kitchen. (Andrew: Oh yes, that’d be impossible to forget given that the smell was still there when I went back the next day. Heh.)
Our principle for baby food is simple: let Dylan learn to enjoy food! Inspired by baby-led weaning (BLW) philosophies, this meant letting Dilly feed himself where possible, letting Dilly control the amount of food he took in, and letting him experience food in a multi-sensory way through sight, smell, taste and texture. Of course, this meant that having a certain tolerance for mess (of which there was alot– both on the high chair and the floor around it!) and patience, as Dylan would sometimes reject a food on the first try. Instead of forcing it down, we would then wait a few weeks or months to re-introduce it so he might like it the next time!
So without further ado, here are some of the foods that Dilly has enjoyed!
Jasmine: This has been a firm favourite of Dylan’s and barely needs any additional preparation, as we simply fish it out from our adult corn soup. A mummy friend we have says her children love corn too, maybe because of the juice that bursts from popping the kernels. Even when he was toothless, Dylan was very capable of biting off 3-4 rows of kernels around the edges.
Another finger food that keeps him occupied and quietly munching for a good 30 minutes is Granny’s potato wedges. These can be endlessly varied but the trick is to cut it into wedges or strips to make it easier for baby to hold. (If you have a crinkle cutter like those used to make fries, that works too.) On lazy days we just cut a sweet potato into strips and oven-bake it. On other occasions, Granny will mash sweet potato or potato with bits of fish and cheese, and coat it with breadcrumbs for extra grip.
One in each hand
Andrew: Honestly, I do love Dylan’s finger food too and when he can’t finish his sweet potato strips, I eat up the leftovers (unless there’s salmon in them)! They are so healthy, yet tasty. Why we like to start off with finger food too is purely practical – it’s the part of the meal where we can practise some form of baby-led weaning and allow him to feed himself, while we try to have our own dinner before he moves on to his porridge course where we have to feed him more (to prevent him from making a mess).
Andrew: Dillie has the tendency to be rather ‘demanding’ and greedy – eating half a piece of finger food, and then dumping it down and asking for a new piece. This is when we seize the opportunity to teach him the importance of finishing what he has first, pointing to the unfinished piece and not passing him a new piece until he is done.
Jasmine: Another great baby finger food is tamago. This was not made by my mum but by my cousin Adeline for baby Dylan and Agnes last Christmas. Adeline thought the tamago was a hit until she realised that most of it had hit the floor. However, Dylan still liked tasting it and spent ages chewing it, so I’d say it was a hit nonetheless.
Jasmine: The soup version of the potato wedges above, this is made with chicken or beef broth, and ingredients like carrot, corn, codfish, potato and tofu are thrown in. Dylan loves soup- the only minus of this dish is that it’s not as travel or dining-out friendly as the finger foods above. Mum also does a thicker version which is closer in texture to corn or fish chowder. I’ve tried it, its tasty, creamy and yet feels very healthy and nourishing.
Corn chowder, next to his porridge
Andrew: I am a great lover of Chinese soups, having grown up in a household where soup was a standard item of every dinner. Hopefully starting him off with soups young will also inculcate this same love in him as he grows up! Here are two other types of soup that Dillie has enjoyed:
Jasmine: I kid you not, Dylan eats more porridge than adults (or maybe just my mum and I). While I was initially resistant to offering porridge because it would be hard for Dylan to feed himself, my mum was very keen on doing so. This porridge is packed with good stuff, like oats, brown rice, broccoli, carrots and fish, and at a regular meal, Dylan eats the equivalent of two adult rice bowls.
Mum has also made a brown rice risotto version which Dylan likes too!
What I like about this is that we can incorporate so many superfoods into this one dish, which are great for his cognitive and physical development. We also cut the cubes of carrot and fish bigger so that Dylan can practise his fine motor skills by picking them up and popping it into his mouth.
Andrew: This is no regular bowl of porridge – it requires a lot of effort and some skill in order to get the required texture that Dillie loves. Our helpers often couldn’t achieve the required texture and it ended up too grainy, and Dillie just spat out the porridge after a few bites. Well, babies are the most honest judges of food, I say. The rice grains need to be soaked for at least one or two hours before boiling and after that, they need to be boiled at medium heat, stirred from time to time, adding water when it becomes dry, until the rice grains break and the porridge achieves a creamy consistency. When done right, Dylan laps the whole bowl up voraciously, wailing in between spoonfuls if we are too slow to feed him. Granny has recently even started introducing oats into the porridge too.
Jasmine: And a shoutout to three items which have made the feeding experience much much less daunting: the Ikea Antilop high chair, the Calibowl and the Beaba spoons.
There are tons of fancy high chairs with cushioned padding and what not, but that leaves us with too many nooks and crannies to clean. The Ikea Antilop, at $29.90 (including the tray), is super easy to wash, and is a must for the BLW messes that inevitably result.
The Calibowl, also pictured below, has a strong suction base. This means that Dylan’s attempts to explore gravity e.g. drop the whole bowl of food on the ground cannot work and the food is not wasted. The Calibowl also has a spill-proof lip, and there have been several occasions where Dylan tried to tilt the bowl over (usually when the suction did not work due to porridge or water getting under the base) and the lip stopped the food inside from spilling out. It also has a lid so we can pack finger food and bring it out with us.
Andrew: And here you can see the great thing about the Calibowl – porridge offers a great amount of sensory play for the little one. So when baby has his fill and no longer wants to eat, we just put the bowl there and let him play and he has great fun, while making a great mess.
Jasmine: Lastly, the Beaba spoons (not pictured) are my favourite! The Beaba spoons have just the right shape, and can hold enough liquid or food while being small enough for baby’s mouth. The other spoons we tried from Pigeon and Avent were too shallow for soup or water. As a result, we also use the Beaba spoons for feeding medicine to Dylan- he thinks it’s a nice supper treat and laps it up happily, sometimes going back for seconds, whereas if we tried to shoot a syringeful of medicine in his mouth he would wail miserably. Definitely getting more when baby girl is ready for solids, especially since they come in the prettiest colours, like pale green and mauve.
Jasmine: Clearly an act of love by his Granny! On special occasions or at her house, Granny loves to whip up a feast for Dylan using ingredients from the adult meal! This is spaghetti (great for sensory play) with steamed vegetables, including another favourite, broccoli (because it has a built in “handle”) and a swanky glass of water- actually just disposable partyware that I saved from a themed staff retreat.
Andrew: It’s a combination of all of the above things, all in one platter.
Jasmine: And most recently, Granny has been coming in earlier so she has started preparing breakfast for Dylan too! This week, Dylan got to have banana pancakes and raisin cheese toast. Yum!
Andrew: Even I don’t have such good breakfasts!
Jasmine: Well… you have your, erm, instant kopi C.
Jasmine: These are banana bites, in a chip shape and coated with pancake batter for easier grip, but Dylan did not seem to like it so much. We waited a couple months….
And re-introduced it this week as banana pancakes, with smaller banana chunks spread throughout. Result: Dylan loves it now!
p.s. These two gorgeous plates were bought by my mum. The blue floral one from Kyoto in Japan, and the white one from a household sale for a few bucks. I love using gorgeous functional items and it’s great that Dylan can appreciate and handle such beautiful fragile items (albeit under very close supervision) from young.
Andrew: Banana is undoubtedly Dylan’s favourite fruit; to the extent that I try not to eat it around him or else he will look at me longingly, pointing at the banana, until I can’t help but give him a bite. Combining it in a pancake just makes it all the more hearty for this little boy. Look at how he stuffs one whole pancake in his mouth.
Twice-Toasted Raisin Cheese Toast
Jasmine: Another quick and fuss-free breakfast was lightly buttering and toasting a slice of Dylan’s favourite raisin bread from Four Leaves, then toasting it again with some mozarella and cheddar on top. My mum then cut it into cubes and let Dilly feed himself.
Apparently, he ate everything up. Mum hypothesizes that it is because the mozarella was gooey and warm but the bits of cheddar gave it a more robust flavour, and that complemented the sweetness of the raisins and buttered bread. Food critic in the making, y’all…. I wrangled a slice for myself too (made from the crusts that weren’t good enough for Dylan, humph) and it was crispy and rustic!
Andrew: Looks perfectly delicious for an adult’s breakfast even. 🙂 Even at such a young age, Dylan is quite discerning about his food – he much prefers the 4 Leaves raisin loaf to the one from Breadtalk, which I fed him once when I brought him out with me to Toastbox for my favourite kaya toast set breakfast. He is quite the bread-lover and occasionally enjoys buns from Mugiya too! Just look at him delightfully savouring his breakfast below:
Jasmine: Thanks Granny for giving Dylan so many happy memories of food! We like to say he is a greedy baby but he is growing so well!