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Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
This week, she makes a plan for Thanksgiving.
The holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about what to feed your baby.
Rather than cook separately for our guests and our 10-month-old, Clara, this year I designed my Thanksgiving menu so that several of the dishes are baby-friendly. The good news? It's really not that hard. A lot of traditional Thanksgiving favorites are a natural fit for baby's tastes, or require minimal tweaking.
Aside from the turkey itself (which Clara happens to love -- I just chop it roughly before giving it to her), there are certain types of Thanksgiving dishes that work especially well for the 1-year-or-younger set while still keeping the adults happy. I've rounded up some examples below.
Soups -- excellent for babies with few or no teeth, and great for practicing drinking out of a cup or sippy cup. Make sure to cool soups to lukewarm before you feed them to your baby. These are three of my favorites:
Vegetables -- anything that's tender enough to chew, but chunky enough for little hands to grab onto is ideal for babies who have started to feed themselves. Here are two good options:
Purees -- great for babies with no teeth!
Bread -- always a good distraction for little ones. Here are two great options for gnawing/gumming/hurling across the table while the adults chew the fat:
Sweets -- everyone deserves a little sweetness at Thanksgiving! Here's my pick for a baby-friendly dessert that will wow your guests too:
If you'd like to adapt some of your own tried-and-true Thanksgiving favorites for your baby, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
• Scale back the heat. Most babies, unless they're used to it, have a tough time with spice, so cut down on black pepper, chilis, etc
• If it makes you more comfortable, you can leave out wine or liquor in recipes that call for them. Do keep in mind, though, that if you're cooking the dish for a while, some of the alcohol will burn off.
• Leftovers are a godsend -- once you've calculated the amounts you'll need for the big day, plus all the turkey sandwiches and hash you'll want to make for yourselves afterwards, allow for a little extra so baby gets leftovers too.
• Don't feel you have to baby-proof every dish you serve -- 2 or 3 baby-friendly options will provide plenty of variety, both for the meal itself and for leftovers.