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 tackles finger food.
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Recently, Clara has been showing signs of craving independence. She has become more and more impatient when we try to feed her and quite insistent about feeding herself, often lunging at the spoon, trying to intercept it as it makes its way to her mouth.
With things like yogurt or broccoli soup, this is a challenge -- our "neat" baby has quickly become a magnet for food stains of all sorts. But we've discovered lots of things that she'll happily gnaw at with her 6 1/2 little teeth, and that keep the mess under control. She gets to practice her chewing and gripping skills, and we can actually get the dishes done while she's occupied.
One of our earliest and most popular experiments -- to be fair, I'll credit my dad with the initial idea -- was toast. Ever since tasting a piece of my father's toast one weekend, Clara now has toast every day for breakfast (whenever we say the phrase, "Toast and BUTTER!" she literally wriggles with excitement).
As much as she loves it, after a few weeks of making her plain old toast with butter every morning, I started to get a little bored. My mother used to make cinnamon toast for my sister and me when we were little, and I still consider it one of the ultimate comfort foods, so I decided to make it for Clara. It went over well.
I've included my recipe for maple cinnamon toast at the end of this post (with a Genius technique suggested by Kristen Miglore that involves melting butter and then mixing in maple syrup and cinnamon). But first, here are some other suggestions for simple finger foods to give your baby when he/she is ready:
• Cucumber or red pepper slices • Clementine segments • Slices of apple or pear (pears should be on the firm side, or they can be too slippery) • Cooked broccoli florets, chunks of carrot, string beans, etc. • Semisoft cheese, like Gouda • Biscuits or other chewy bread (Clara has taken a shine to croissants)
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).