In eight short months, my daughter has become the spice of my life, as I’m sure your little ones have for you! We all know that food and travel go hand-in-hand. We travel the globe with our five senses prepped and ready to take it all in… our eyes consume as many visual sites as you could possibly see, our ears take in the hustle and bustle of a foreign city, while our nose picks up on the wafting aroma of new and exciting adventure.
To complete the sensory experience, taste is what really immerses us in local life. The food we experience abroad can sometimes be the most delicious food we’ll ever taste, so what’s to stop us from sharing these amazing experiences with our bébés?
As my daughter races through her developmental stages, I struggle to keep up with all the research I want to do to ensure I’m making the right nutritional decisions for her. We have recently embarked on the wonderful, but surprisingly overwhelming phase of solid foods. I have taken this task like a bull by the horns. We are an international family; my daughter is half-Korean, half-Turkish, being raised in the US. While I want my daughter to be exposed to solid foods in a safe, simple manner as I am accustomed to in the US, I also want her to experience foods and flavors that I was never exposed to until I was an adult! I want her to be exposed to flavors common to her heritage and culture, as well as those that are not.
Asya’s grandmother and her nanny, both Turkish mothers, were giving me suggestions of soups, herbs, and other ingredients that I originally balked at, considering Asya so lucky that she has me to filter out these “inappropriate for a new baby” suggestions. But, after a bit of research, I found that I was the one who was wrong! In other countries around the world, it’s natural to incorporate spices and herbs into baby food from the beginning or at a very early age. So, just as my husband was exposed to these flavors as a young baby, I changed my course of action. I decided that I want to incorporate as much international flavor into her diet as possible.
So without further ado, here are my favorite simple homemade recipes for integrating some international flavor into bébé’s diet.
Sweet Baby of Mine
We started Asya on solid foods at 5 ½ months. What we learned through research and firsthand experience is that a baby’s taste buds are different in that everything is amplified. Breast milk or formula is sweet. Bébés may not be prepared for the bitter/sourness of natural foods. Here are some healthy, non-sugar additives you could try to make foods sweeter and more appealing to babies who find their first tastes a bit too sour!
- Real Vanilla Bean – Cut small pieces off 1 bean, cut open, scrape beans from inside and mix into food, ex: plain yogurt. To maximize the amount of beans, drop the pod into the food and stir it in. Just be sure to not feed the pod to Bébé.
- Non-alcoholic Vanilla – Many vanillas actually have alcohol added to it. To be totally safe for Bébé, pick up a bottle of non-alcoholic vanilla. It’s a bit easier than scraping the bean pods…however, there’s nothing better than the taste of fresh vanilla bean!
- Roasted Vegetables – I’ve found that oven roasted squash and sweet potato are very sweet and Asya loved it, even plain. To expand her palette, I’ve added cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to give it some more flavor.
Exposing your baby’s palette to herbs and spices is fun! You can take a “boring” avocado and make a delicious and exciting meal for your little one, by adding something as simple as fresh mint leaves with plain yogurt. Here are a list of other herbs and spices that I’ve successfully incorporated into Asya’s diet:
- Fresh and Dried Mint
- Garlic (fresh)
- Black Pepper (just a little bit)
- Curry power
- Chili Powder
In addition to just adding these flavors to her simple fruits, vegetables, and meats, I’ve also started cooking family recipes, just omitting the ingredients I don’t want her exposed to yet. Here are three simple recipes that have a lovely international flavor. Each of these I made in bulk and then froze into cubes for later consumption.
Baby Thai Curry Chicken
- 1 (organic, free range) chicken breast (filet or 2 thin sliced chicken breasts)
- Thai Red Curry Paste (typically available in the Asian section of local grocery store)
- 1 Mango peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 Carrots coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread thin layer of Thai red curry paste on chicken breasts, front and back. Although the label says it’s spicy, when it’s cooked up, there’s not as much heat as there is flavor. But for first time, you can test by using smaller amounts of curry paste. Place marinated chicken, carrots, and mangos on a sheet of heavy duty tin-foil. Close it up to form a nice pouch and set it in the oven to bake for 45 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Cool for a few minutes, and place in blender/food processor to puree for Bébé if desired. Can also be served as tiny chunks for older eater.
Baby Turkish Köfte
- 1 lbs of (organic, grass-fed) lean beef
- 1 onion grated
- Parsley coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- Cumin (to taste)
- Paprika (to taste)
- Black Pepper (optional, and only a little bit for Bébé)
Mix the meat and ingredients by hand until completely incorporated. Once incorporated, form meat into small, flat meatballs. These can be oven baked or grilled. Once cooked, can serve fresh, or freeze for later consumption.
Baby Mercemek Çorbası (Turkish Red Lentil Soup)
- ½ cup of red lentils
- 1 carrot coarsely chopped
- 1 onion coarsely chopped
- 1 potato (optional) coarsely chopped
- Tiny splash of olive oil for cooking
- Cumin (to taste)
- Paprika (to taste)
- Black Pepper (to taste)
- Dried Mint Flakes (to taste)
Add a tiny splash of olive oil to pot. Add onions and carrots. Par-cook so they are soft but not brown. Add lentils. Add 2 cups of water (you could use more water to make it more soupy. I used less, so it was a little more pasty and easier to serve on a spoon to Bébé). Optionally, add a little cumin, paprika, and black pepper if you want the flavors while cooking. You can also add those spices at the end. Bring to a boil and then simmer ingredients until lentils are soft. (About 10-15 minutes). When complete, take an immersion blender (or pour into blender/food processor), and blend until smooth. Afterwards add all (or additional) cumin, paprika, black pepper to your desired taste. At this time also add dried mint flakes. Cool soup before serving, or freeze into cubes for later consumption.
It’s Your Turn!
So, if you’ve been contemplating expanding your baby’s menu to incorporate healthy international spices, please feel free to give these simple recipes a try! We would love to hear how others are incorporating their own flavors into their babies diets, and recipe recommendations are always welcome! Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author: Elisabeth Ertaş is a U.S.-based Club Bébé Voyage member. She is a wife, and mother to an 8-month daughter, and a 7-year old great dane/boxer. Day-to-day, Elisabeth keeps busy as the President and Co-founder of a custom training firm. In her spare time she loves to travel, cook, write, entertain, and explore the world with her family and friends!