Weeknight Cooking

Millet with Three Cheeses

October 30, 2012


One of the first solids -- if you can really call it that -- that doctors recommend giving your baby is cereal. I'm not talking about Cheerios or Rice Krispies. No, this is cereal that you reconstitute with breast milk or formula. It comes in just three different varieties, as far as I can tell: rice, oatmeal and multi-grain. When you mix the cereal with liquid, you get an unappealing gray paste -- kind of like loose cement, or the goop we dipped strips of newspaper in to make paper maché in elementary school.

At first, Clara couldn't get enough of the stuff. She virtually inhaled it every morning (there weren't a whole lot of other breakfast options at that point). But then we started working in things like cottage cheese and stopped pushing vegetables and meat through a sieve. And Clara started turning away when we tried to give her cereal.

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I tried making her farina, then grits, then oatmeal, but these were all met with disdain. My theory? She doesn't like anything mushy -- she wants more substantial fare that she can chew on.

(Read more on the subject of texture in my last post.)


Enter the wonderful world of grains. Pretty early on, we started giving her pastine and Israeli couscous at lunch or dinner, mixing them with lamb, beef or chicken and vegetables. When we hit the breakfast roadblock, I started thinking about alternative grains with heft that might sub in for more standard cereal grains. One of our biggest successes so far is millet. It's versatile, lending itself nicely to a balance of creamy and chewy at the same time.

Below is a simple recipe for cheesy millet that Clara enjoys, and here are some other grains you might want to consider for breakfast if you -- like we -- have a baby who enjoys a little texture:

  • Farro
  • Quinoa (technically a seed, not a grain)
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Amaranth
  • Freekah

If there are other grains you feed your baby, let me know in the comments section -- I'm always looking for new ideas!

Millet with Three Cheeses

Serves 2 to 3 as a main course, more as a side or for baby

  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ounces Fontina, diced
  • 2 ounces medium Cheddar, diced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


Momoko December 2, 2012
I love your posts about Clara's solids!
I have a 5.5 mo old son and I am planning to give him his first solid food in about 2 weeks.
I was thinking about giving him millet, as it is a super grain with lots of nutrients and very easily digested.
I am wondering if I should grind up the grains first and then cook them. Or can I just mash or puree them after cooking?
Alison W. November 4, 2012
I'm so happy that I finally got a pod smartphone. I can finally read my newsletter without logging on to my pc. And this little gem dropped into my mailbox on the first day I was able to read it. My very-nearly-1-year-old daughter not only hates mush but she refuses to be spoon fed. She loves cheese, and cheesy things tend to hold together well enough to make tiny piles that she can get to her mouth easily. I can't wait to try this! And some of your other Clara recipes. Thank you!
garlic&lemon November 4, 2012
I am loving these posts, Merrill. When my son graduated from cereal to veggies and then to strained meats, I had a heck of a time getting him to accept the meats until one day, it a fit of desperation, I seasoned the strained meat with a tiny bit of garlic powder and ground up oregano. "Great success! Perseverance furthers, no blame!" (to quote the I Ching). At first, the older ladies in my Latin American family were horrified: Babies do not need seasoning! But when they tested the plain and seasoned food on my son for themselves and saw the enthusiastic difference, they were converted. After that, he enjoyed many different garlic-herb combinations in his strained food: tarragon, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, cumin. Once he graduated to adult food that was put through the baby food mill, we were golden.
Fairmount_market October 30, 2012
When my daughter was outgrowing cereal, I started making her lentils. First I made red lentils, cooked down very soft (almost like cereal mush, but with a little more texture) and then she graduated to little French lentils, which were perfect for her to practice her pincer finger skills.
Anna H. October 30, 2012
Merrill, thank you so much for sharing your adventures with cooking for Clara -- I'm expecting my first child this Spring and am already taking inspiration from your posts! I'm also quite tempted to eat these foods myself -- this millet dish would be wonderful on a cold winter's morning and would provide the whole grain-protein combo that I need to get going!
Merrill S. October 31, 2012
Congratulations, and glad you're enjoying the column!
TasteFood October 30, 2012
Merrill - Clara is adorable!!
Merrill S. October 31, 2012
Thank you!