Weeknight Cooking

Clara's First Thanksgiving

November 13, 2012

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.


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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:

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup

Butternut Squash and Cider Soup

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup Roasted Carrot Soup

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:

Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant Fennel Apple Relish

Greek Mahogany Potatoes

Greek Mahogany Potatoes Autumn Celeriac (Celery Root) Puree

Purees -- great for babies with no teeth!

Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

Autumn Celery Root Puree

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:

Sour Cream Dinner Rolls

Shirley Corriher's Touch of Grace Biscuits

Heavenly Oatmeal Molasses Rolls Apples Baked in Cider

Sweets -- everyone deserves a little sweetness at Thanksgiving! Here's my pick for a baby-friendly dessert that will wow your guests too:

Apples Baked in Cider

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.


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


EmilyNunn January 26, 2014
Oh, my gosh. I am just now seeing this picture. Sweetiest sweetie pie in the whole world. My adjectives feel out of control.
Merrill S. January 28, 2014
Thank you!
anneedoc November 19, 2012
Beautiful, healthy-looking baby. Thanks to her Mom's love of healthy food. Good going Merrill.
Siouxiq November 18, 2012
Love the sweater! What a fashion statement!
thirdchild November 18, 2012
Merrill, Clara is adorable! We met the then-pregnant you a year ago at Delancy in Seattle, and look at her now! I love the sweater. Did someone knit it for her? I want the pattern!
Zoe's G. November 18, 2012
Boy, Clara really reminds me of Zoe at 8 months - all eyes and merry appetite! My daughter lived almost 100 miles away then, and relied on her own common sense about what to feed when, and as a result, Zoe at 7 eats better than most adults I know. She never got commercial baby foods at all, so all vegetables and fruits are her natural prey - but her favorite food since she got teeth is beef, which she refers to as "steak" - all sorts of grilled or roasted or even braised beef is "steak" to her. While she adores it, she splits her plate willingly, requiring two or three vegetables to consider a plate of food a meal -otherwise it's just a snack. She loves homemade bread and soup, and crows with delight when she hears we're having kale with supper tonight. It sounds and looks like Clara is following the same path of finding joy in natural-tasting foods, offered with love and a smile. Starting now, she'll eat anything she sees you eating - and winkle it away from you for herself, given half a chance! She is adorable - but she looks a LOT cleaner eating than either my daughter OR granddaughter! Lucky, lucky you!
mayuchico November 14, 2012
I can't believe your baby is almost a year old! Time flies. I have 2 and 7 years old. My 2 years old is pretty adventurous and eat anything, but 7 years old has vege allergy which he claims. I will use the tips for him! Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!
jonakocht November 14, 2012
It's actually not accurate to say that " once you cook [recipes] for a few minutes, all of the alcohol burns off." The USDA has tested this and shown that unless you're baking/simmering something for upwards of 3 hours, a lot of alcohol will still remain in your recipes calling for alcoholic beverages. For example,, 15 minutes of simmering or baking only removes 60% of the alcohol. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooking_with_alcohol
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
Thanks for the correction -- did not know this!
mcs3000 November 13, 2012
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
I think we'll keep her.
ATG117 November 13, 2012
Beautiful baby!
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
Thank you!
Greenstuff November 13, 2012
I still remember my baby's first Thanksgiving! She was 10-11 months old, interested in food, and ... really interested in walking! Her fellow babies' parents weren't as relaxed about food as we were, so while she enjoyed her little pieces of turkey, the rest of them ate fake, organic, cardboard-tasting versions of Cheerios! She's well into her 20s now and will be cooking up a storm with a group of expats in Europe. Happy first Thanksgiving, Clara!
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
Sounds like your daughter still has an appreciation for good food -- thanks to you!
wssmom November 13, 2012
Awwwwww .... cuteness to the max! (Food's pretty good, too)
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
Elycooks November 13, 2012
Sigh. Can I just take her home?
Merrill S. November 14, 2012
Come for a visit sometime! :)