Growing Up Gourmand

27 Nov
Note from Cherry: Mrs W is a dear friend (and YYZ reader!) who won my heart by offering me “happy juice” during an event at university where we really shouldn’t have been indulging at all. Together, we have shared many meals (some more liquid than others), and a record number of emails . Since moving into the home that she shares with her husband, she has hosted a number of memorable “Gluttony Days”, and manages to pack the most inspired picnics for Shakespeare in the Park, ones that even Martha would approve of. Now a Mum to adorable Baby W, she is doing her best to make sure her daughter has an adventurous palate – and might even participate in Gluttony Day 2014! Here’s her first post which shows how “baby food” can also be “gourmand”.     
A year ago, I was… well, perhaps not a “foodie” but certainly a dining enthusiast with a discerning palate. Mr W and I would happily travel from our North Toronto home out to Mississauga, Aurora, Markham in pursuit of a good meal. Eight months ago, that all changed with the birth of our daughter, Baby W. My priorities quickly shifted from looking for notable dining experiences to looking for meals that I could eat as quickly as possible, preferably with only one hand.
Now that Baby W has started eating solids, we are once again very attentive to what we are eating. I refuse to raise a child who will eat nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches and KD (although there is certainly a time and place for each of these) and so Mr W and I are working diligently to ensure that she is developing an adventurous palate, and healthy eating habits.
Baby W gets at least three courses for dinner every day, starting with soup. We have found that soups are a great way of introducing new vegetables… with the added perk of making great lunches for Mama and Daddy the next day! And usually, they only take a few minutes of active time, leaving us free to play more Pat-a-Cake.
These have been some of her favourites so far:
Potato Soup with Spinach
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 large Yukon Gold potato, scrubbed, peeled and roughly chopped
– 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or enough to cover… depending on the size of your potato!)
– Generous handful of Baby Spinach leaves
Curried Carrot and Squash
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
– 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
– 1 tsp mild curry powder

– 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or enough to cover…)

Broccoli
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 cups broccoli florets
– 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or enough to cover…)
Yes, it would be more environmentally (and economically) sound to make my own stock and use a fresh head of broccoli, but frozen veg is much faster - and less likely to spoil when forgotten in the crisper. I'm all for fresh food, but if the choice is between ordering in or cooking without prep work, there is no contest!

Yes, it would be more environmentally (and economically) sound to make my own stock and use a fresh head of broccoli, but frozen veg is much faster – and less likely to spoil when forgotten in the crisper. I’m all for fresh food, but if the choice is between ordering in or cooking without prep work, there is no contest!

For all recipes, heat the olive oil in a heavy pot and sweat the onions until translucent.
Is there anything more appetizing than the smell of onions and garlic sautéing?

Is there anything more appetizing than the smell of onions and garlic sautéing?

Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds before adding the potatoes/carrots, squash and curry powder/broccoli.
Maybe the smell of garlicky broccoli... Full disclosure: after taking this picture I sampled a piece for "quality control" purposes.

Maybe the smell of garlicky broccoli… Full disclosure: after taking this picture I sampled a piece for “quality control” purposes.

Give everything a good toss and add enough stock to cover all the vegetables. Bring to a boil and let simmer for fifteen minutes, or until everything is extremely tender.
Simmering means you're almost done!

I admit, this looks a little dubious.

Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender.
Who said purée was just for babies?

But once blended – delicious!

Taste and season with S&P as required. I know, I know… The Food Network always says that you should season as you go. I do this at the end for three reasons: 1) we are trying to be cautious about sodium; 2) I find that sometimes the seasoning in the stock is sufficient and no extra is needed; and 3) I never know exactly how much of the liquid is going to boil off so I can’t really judge the final quantity until it is done.
For the potato soup, after it is puréed, throw in the baby spinach and stir until wilted. This is also delicious with sautéed mushrooms.
As a slight variation, you can also add veg to the potato before puréeing. We have tried this with baby spinach, leftover cooked asparagus, and frozen peas with fresh mint. All delicious… and all big hits with Baby W.
As you can see, the basics are pretty straightforward which means that the sky is the limit for creativity! Get in your kitchen and play… and let us know what you come up with!
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