Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Little Mouth To Feed

Thinking back to my pre-parenthood days, I'm quite certain that I maintained a steady diet of mostly vegetables, many home-cooked meals, and almost all whole foods.  After the birth of my daughter, it seemed even more important to stick with it, as we wanted her to learn the meaning of "real food" by immersion.  I was committed to the idea that making the right decisions at a very early age would help her foster a positive relationship with food, with the goal of raising a polite, mannerly child that enjoys trying new food, knowing where it comes from, and actively participating in family meals.

When the time was right, I did a fair amount of research on baby foods and eating habits.  I went ahead and introduced foods one at a time, selecting the best of the season and cooking each one lightly as to let its inherent flavour shine through.  In the beginning, she pretty much ate whatever I offered, and always wanted more.  But sometime before her first birthday, she started to show clear likes and dislikes.  She began to drop food on the floor, spit food out, and push away the spoon.  Coaxing, sneaking or hiding food, scolding, and praising, I tried it all with very little success.  Worst of all, mealtime was starting to feel like a losing battle.

The decision was clear.  Building the family meal ritual was much more important than making sure she finishes her broccoli.  Mealtime should be relaxed, social, and simple: a moment set aside each day for sharing food and enjoying company at the dinner table.  After all, real nourishment does not come from food alone.

It's still a work-in-progress, but I'm getting pretty excited thinking of all the family meals of the future.  After all, my little girl is growing up in a home that loves food.  What's there not to love about that?

P.S.  For more first-hand stories on the subject, you really must read this.  And as much as I enjoy the idea of being free-flowing and chill, these parent-child responsibilities appeal to my linear side.

Digestive Biscuits
Adapted from King Arthur Flour.  Makes 32 2-inch biscuits.

These whole-wheat biscuits only have a touch of sweetness to them, appealing to both toddlers and adults alike (even more so to the latter with a cup of tea and a dollop of jam).  I cut them into heart-shapes for Valentine's Day to give to my daughter's little buddies, but any shape works.  The cutting scraps can be re-rolled and cut again; the biscuits cut from the 3rd re-roll were just as good as the first.

1/2 cup (60 g) all-purpose white flour
1-1/2 cups (180 g) whole wheat flour, pastry or all-purpose
1 tsp baking powder
slightly heaped 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup (45 g) icing sugar
1/4 cup cold milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or lightly grease with unsalted butter

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter, and mix coarsely with a wooden spoon or your hands.  Stir in sugar and milk until it comes together.  The dough may feel sticky at first.

Turn dough out on a floured surface, and knead until smooth.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to just over 1/8" thickness.  Cut out desired shapes, and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing biscuits at least 1/2" apart.  Prick all over with a fork or skewer.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges just start to brown.  Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or well-wrapped in plastic in the freezer for a month.

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