Let him try cake!

It’s spring here in Southern California, for which I am very grateful.  The warm weather  means the farmer’s markets have been a weekly source of beautifully fresh fruits and veggitables, especially strawberries.  All of us love strawberries and they’re something easy to set out for an orbital eater like Nio.  He’ll work on a plate of sliced strawberries and apples for most of the morning, grabbing them when he wants.


Today was the 12th anniversary for the hubby and I (yes, we waited a while to have kids because we got married as kids.)  So I wanted something special for dessert that wouldn’t have me on my feet for hours working on cake, frosting, decorating and all that.  Especially since the hubby isn’t big on sweets and Nio doesn’t need them.  I thought of those strawberries in the fridge and it just had to be angel food cake.  But, alas, I was out of cake flour!


A recent visit from my future sister-in-law (yeah!) means that I had gluten-free flour on hand since she is allergic to gluten and I feel its rude to bake something that can’t be eaten by the entire household.  Bob’s Red Mill GF blend to the rescue!  Now to hunt up a recipe.


This was easier said than done, given that I don’t have a giant tube pan that one typically uses for Angel Food cake.  I also didn’t want a dozen cupcakes floating about either.  So I searched for a nine egg recipe, since I figured that would fit in my bundt cake pan without the dreaded overflow of burny doom.  I found and tried this recipe: http://glutenfreeklippys.com/recipe/angel-food-cake/


I must say, I prefer this cake recipe to any box mix I’ve ever tried, GF or normal and it makes store-bought cake look pathetic in comparison.  Richly flavored with vanilla and Amaretto, just sweet enough to pair with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and so simple to make, this is a true keeper.

Nio seemed more interested in the strawberries than the cake itself (more for Mama) but that’s okay.  We both had a lovely treat this eve and now he’s falling asleep on my lap as I type.  Pretty good way to end the day.

Gardening for Noms

There is something very primal about gardening.  The soil in hand, knowing that the seeds you’re working with would remain dormant without your intervention.  The awareness that you’ll be lucky to get any of the tomatoes you’re starting before hubby and son wolf them down.

Last year we had pretty good luck with our Topsy Turvy planters, so I’m planning cherry tomatoes in the bottoms with herbs in the top this year.  We have a nice back patio here and I’m going to line the entire back in ’em.  Because of the fibromyalgia, getting on the ground to work with plants is very difficult for me.  But plucking fruit from something at shoulder level or lower is easy.  Plus, we’re in a rental right now and I don’t want to go to the work of building boxes in the backyard only to move later on.

We expect our last frost in the first weeks of March, so I started some seeds today so they’ll be ready then.  Its lovely and warm today, in the 70’s (yes, in February, I know) so I felt it was a good day to work outside for a bit.  Nio didn’t mind, since it lets him run around the back yard and explore.  I started two types of cherry tomatoes, rainbow bell peppers, cilantro, mint, peas and cantaloupes in my little egg shells.  They’re currently sitting outside taking in some warm sunshine before I bring them in this evening so they stay warm.  Some of them should be ready by June or sooner, in theory.  Here’s hoping for a gentle spring and some rain.  Oh, do we need the rain here in California.


I started the seeds in cleaned egg shells using the method shown here- http://www.squawkfox.com/2012/04/12/seedling/   Mine are a little messier than hers but that’s okay, so long as they work.  I’ve been saving eggs for the last few weeks whenever I make batches of things like quiches, hubby’s breakfast burritos or scrambled eggs.  I plan to keep doing so and hopefully start two more batches of seeds in two week intervals.  This will give me staggered harvests.

Breakfast of Taun-tauns

Bit (lot) of a time jump since my last post.  Nio is now 14 months old and over thirty pounds of nomming machine.  There have been times I’ve been tempted to buy a dairy cow when seeing four or more gallons of milk in my grocery cart.  I can only imagine what it’ll be once his sibling arrives in July.

Nio is firmly in the toddler stage, running around, climbing on things and exploring his world further and further every day.  He is also refusing to be spoon fed anything these days, which means all those lovely purees of the past are right out.  He often eats what the hubby and/or I eat, just cut down into more manageable portions for him.  This is both good and bad, since I’m often too groggy in the morning to pull out a full-on food preparation ordeal.  So the cure is make-ahead things, including egg dishes that he and the hubby both can eat for their morning meal.

Unlike some other housewives, I have no intention of getting up at four am or earlier to have something ready for the hubby who walks out the door at four thirty.  We’ve learned that breakfast burritos, French Toast, breakfast bagel sandwiches and quiches make easy to grab foods that reheat well.  I hear shock at that last one- quiches?  Yup, that egg-tastic dish so variable it can be served dozens to hundreds of ways, quiches.  We’ve found that Nio also likes them as much as his dad does, so prepping a quiche on Sunday can mean food for the hubby through the week and a couple of days for Nio as well.

This week, I’ve used the crustless quiche recipe of Jo-Anna of Pretty Life in the Suburbs.  It’s currently in the oven and baking up beautifully with its filling of pork chorizo, mushrooms and tomatoes.  I could have been fancy and done mini quiches in lined cupcake tins but I didn’t think of it until after it was in the oven already.  Once it’s cool, I’ll portion it out into tupperware and probably pre-shred Nio’s portions so that all I have to do is heat and serve in the morning.  I’ve also made quiches for the tiny Taun-taun using soy-rizo and bacon as the protein with great success.

Fruit mixes & uses

In the past week, I’ve been remiss about documenting the various fruit purees that I’ve made and popped into the freezer for Nio.  Tiny palm tree, heart, star, bon bon, and flower shaped cubes of frozen goodness await him, sealed away in plastic bags.  I’ve found its far easier to keep and rotate food stocks in the freezer like that than in little plastic containers.  That takes up a lot more space some how.  Additionally, I have what looks like a pacifier with a mesh bag on it like these: http://amzn.com/B000GK5XY2 and when Nio’s teeth are being feisty, I pop one of the star or flower shapes inside it for him to naw on.  The chill helps numb the area a bit and he likes the taste of the fruit puree, even if its frozen.

Some the combinations were steamed first, like the apple/nectarine/blueberry mixture where everything but the berries were diced and steamed for ten minutes.

Others, like the strawberry, nectarine, banana one were not, since he does pretty well with freshly mashed versions.  I did run both through the mesh seive to remove any seeds or large chunks though.  He’s sprouting two front teeth right now on the bottom but I figure its a good idea to keep things simple.

The third mix I made for him is more blueberries, mango, prunes and apples.  The prunes are basically dried plums with a rebranded name to make them more approachable to the masses.  I found ones without sulfides, so used those since they’re cheaper and easier to keep on hand than fresh plums.  They have the same effect on his digestive system and make things easier on him.

Fruit is the start of Nio’s day, often mixed with plain yogurt and a scoop or two of oatmeal powder to thicken it up if its too runny to stay on a spoon.  I buy normal-fat yogurt in the 32 oz tub because it lasts a few weeks and at $2.49 a tub is far more cost effective than any “baby” yogurt while being essentially the same thing.

I realize, there are some doctors out there firmly opposed to the idea of giving a child dairy.  I believe the primary reasoning behind this is to prevent parents from replacing breast milk or formula with cows milk.  That would harm your child’s development, since they still need the nutrients in it.  However, as long as you introduce yogurt and cheese with the same caution shown to any other new food group, it shouldn’t be an issue.  If mom or dad has a dairy problem, be it allergy or intolerance, I would wait until the child is at least 9 months if not a year before giving them dairy.  But neither Sparky nor I have any food issues other than a sensitivity to pork (gives him migraines).

In other news, I have learned something else in the last week.  While I do have a baby food recipe for mac & cheese, it is far too much of a pain to make for Nio at this stage.  His foods need to be a fine puree and my machine just isn’t capable of turning a batch of cheesy goodness into that.  So, he’ll be getting the Gerber version for now mixed with veggies that I’ve prepared for him at home.  It always brings a smile to his face when I get that first spoonful into him, so its worth it.

Tomorrow night’s dinner will be beef udon with veggies and I will probably puree some of that up for him as a taste test.  I tend to make my own broths for udon noodles mainly because the commercial ones are very high in sodium, something no one needs.  If he likes it and it turns out well, then I’ll toss up a post on the recipe.

Tools of the trade, Fruit Puree #1 and Chicken with veggies

I’m sure that others have seen the plethora of tools out there designed and marketed to parents who make food for their kids.  Many of these are useful tools but very narrowly focused with little repurposing once the kiddo in question grows beyond needing specially prepared foods.  Here’s some of the things I use to make noms for Nio with links for the less common items.


Food Processor:  KitchenAid 3.5-Cup Food Chopper


I got mine at Costco on sale for half of the price Amazon asks for, so keep an eye out for sales. This little machine is a power house, making fine purees of anything I toss in it.  So far I’ve done chicken dishes, turkey dishes, sweet potatoes, apples and pears and many more.  Its got a single setting but can be used to chop items for salsa or marinades, puree soups, or anything else one might use a food processor for.  It doesn’t take up a lot of counter or cabinet space, something that’s important if you have a small kitchen like I do. 


Fine Mesh Strainer, a bowl it fits in & Pastry scraper


To make sure that I have a smooth puree, I run it through a fine mesh strainer.  I move the puree around using a simple pastry scraper like the one shown in the link above.  If you’re working with something that might have bits of peel, seeds or may leave lumps when pureed, this removes them to give you a smooth finished product.  All three of these items are pretty standard kitchen gear and can be found at most super stores such as WalMart or Target. 




If you have a steaming attachment for your pots and pans set, don’t worry about this part. Use what you’ve got.  If you’re like me and your set isn’t that complete, read on.  When I’m cooking for Nio, I use a collapsible steamer tray, like the link above, sitting on top of a 6”x2.5” cake ring inside of a large pot that I otherwise use for boiling pasta, chili and other mass-meal items.  I use the metal cake ring to bring up the height of the steamer basket so I can do multiple batches of steamed items without having to refill it.  Steam food gently cooks it while preserving much of the nutrients in it, so is a good method for most fruits and vegetables. 


Freezing and storing


I’ve tried a couple of different ways of freezing Nio’s food but the most consistently simple one I’ve found is to use silicone ice cube/baking trays to freeze the food in easy-to-portion chunks.  Once its solid, I put it into a sealable freezer back, clearly label it with what exactly it is, the date I made it and when it expires.  I found this by trial and error using what I had on hand (culinary school leaves you with some of the most random kitchen tools).  I’ve even found the silicon trays at dollar stores, so they’re not expensive, easy to use, clean up nicely and are dishwasher safe.  So far, I’ve got hearts, starts, palm trees, flowers and chocolate silicon mold that all work great. 


Other tools I use include a food thermometer, knives (I adore my Shun Ken Onion series blades), an assortment of cutting boards, some Pyrex baking dishes for things like squash and sweet potatoes, plus spoons to help portion things out.  I like silicone spatulas as opposed to wooden ones because they’re less likely to break and most of them are good up to 450Fm, more than enough to make candy with. 



What’s a Noms 4 Nio post without a recipe or two?  I try to combine tasks, like making veggies for my husband’s lunches and Nio at the same time, or making a fruit puree to use in a cake with some for him too.  Nio’s typical breakfast is plain yogurt with varying fruit purees mixed in, so I go through a lot.


Fruit Puree #1

  • 1 pint strawberries, washed and rough chopped
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 nectarine, peeled and rough chopped

Toss everything in the blender or food processor together and pulse until smooth.  Run through a mesh sieve or strainer to remove the strawberry seeds if desired (recommended for under 8 months).  Serve immediately, hold in the fridge for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Chicken and Steamed Veggies

An plethora of uses for cooked chicken are out there, from pasta dishes to tacos, stews to salads.  This method makes it easy to make a large batch of chicken for the family’s meals for the week and have enough to make baby food too.

  • 1 package of chicken breasts (3-5 pounds)
  • 1 quart of chicken stock (either homemade or low sodium)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Oil to coat a pan (I use olive oil)
  • Zucchini and summer squash, 1 each


Tools needed:  knife, cutting board, frying pan, tongs, baking dish(es), steamer set up, food processor/blender, strainer, bowl and freezing trays

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
  2. Prep the chicken: trim any fat or skin away from the chicken breasts and season them with salt and pepper.  In a hot frying pan coated with olive oil, sear off the chicken breasts, getting just a bit of color to each side before placing in a large baking dish.  The chicken will not be fully cooked but searing it off helps hold in some of the natural juices.  Do this with all the chicken.
  3. Pour the chicken stock over the chicken breasts, filling the baking pans half way full.  This will keep the chicken moist while it cooks and the broth will be used later on.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, being very careful when removing.   Check the internal temperature of the thickest breast to make sure that it has reached a minimum of 165F in multiple places.  If it hasn’t return it to the oven until it has.  When done, set it aside to cook to handling temperatures.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, get your steamer set up with water boiling.  Slice the zucchini and summer squash into 1” sized pieces.  Having them same size is important, because it means they will take the same time to cook.  Steam the zucchini and squash together until fork-tender.  Some can be set aside for family meals, adding to sauces or other uses.
  5. Dice the chicken you’re using for the baby food into 1 inch chunks so the food processor can do its job easier.  I use a 1.5 to 1 ratio of veggies to proteins for Nio’s food and puree the mix until smooth.  If it needs some liquid added, I use the broth that the chicken cooked in, adding flavor and smoothing out the puree. 
  6. Store it as appropriate for your uses.



The method I use for the chicken is one I learned in culinary school and produces constantly moist, tender, flavorful chicken without a huge amount of effort.  I like keeping a bag of cooked, chopped chicken on hand for easy, quick meals during the week.  It is simpler for me to do a batch of chicken cooked like this for the week in under an hour than spend far longer during the week repeating the same process.  I’m all for keeping things simple and this helps do that. 

Here’s what I’m doing plus a recipe for Pear and Prunes Puree

I’m creating this to chronicle my journey through making food for my little boy Nio (short for Antonio).  This is important to me for a multitude of reasons. 

  1.  Due to medical issues, I cannot breastfeed him anymore.  I managed to make it to 4 months but couldn’t keep up with his demand nor could I keep up otherwise without the medication I take for my fibromyalgia.  So making the solid foods he eats as much as possible is a way of staying connected to the nutrition side of him from an early age. 
  2. The high amount of chemicals in baby foods is daunting some days.  Aside from pesticides, herbicides and other residual things from the produce or proteins used, there are also preservatives, sweeteners and heaven knows what else in mass-produced baby food.  I would like to minimize Nio’s exposure to such things as much as possible.  The fact that part of the milk industry is trying to put aspartame into milk as a regular thing makes me shudder in revulsion.
  3. I have an associates degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelors in Culinary Management, so who better to be making my son’s food than me? 
  4.  Like most people with a chronic medical condition, I look for things that I can do for my family.  Food is one of the biggest, non-emotional things a parent can provide for their children, so providing healthy foods I make gives me a sense of accomplishment. 
  5.  If my taking time to write out my experience helps at least one other mom or dad out there connect with their child, then its worth it. 

So, if you’re read this far, thank you.  I hope my experiences help.  Now, lets get things rolling!

Pears & Prunes Puree
Alliteration aside, my son has already shown that he likes pears and prunes when offered in the form of commercially made foods.  So I’ve decided to give making him the same dish from scratch a shot.  Prunes are dried plums and can be found under both names in the grocery store.  I snagged a large bag of prunes from Costco yesterday and some pears from the market a few days ago. 


  • 6 prunes, quartered
  • 2 pears, halved and cored
  • cinnamon (optional)
  • tin foil
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F and pull out a small pan.  I used a pie pan since it was the right size and the pears wouldn’t roll out of it.
  2. Prepare your fruit but cutting the prunes in fours and the pears in half then removing the seeds in the center.  I also remove the tough part of the stem so I don’t have to mess with it later. 
  3. Stuff the prune pieces into the holes in the pears, put the two parts together and sprinkle with cinnamon if using.  Then wrap the pears in foil and set in the pan.  Repeat with the other pear.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until tender.  I used some base-ball sized pears, so it took a little longer to get tender.  Remove and cool before processing further.
  5. Puree to desired consistency, adding water, formula or breast milk as needed.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve if desired for younger babies. 
  6. To Store: store in the refrigerator for 24 hours if using formula or breast milk, 3 days if using water.  Freeze up to three months in individual servings by putting it in to an ice cube tray, freezing over night and then popping into a plastic freezer bag labeled with what it is, when you made it and when it expires in permanent marker.  Defrost before feeding.

Please feel free to comment, ask questions, request that I attempt a recipe or tell me how the recipe worked for you. 
Thanks for reading!