Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Meatballs for Baby

Disclaimer:  This Intro to Meat post will be a bit lengthy as I describe my journey into creating a carnivore.  If you don't want the background, just scroll to the bottom now.

I don't know about other mamas, but I was at a loss when it came time to introduce my little guy to meats. My own mother was here visiting, and pressuring encouraging me to bite the bullet and let him try meat.  Afterall, he was going on nine months old and had four teeth.  It, apparently, was time to start incorporating textures, finger foods, and meats.

I was nervous.  I was overwhelmed.  I was weeks away from my son's next well baby checkup. I was the first of our mommy and me group to start solids, so the other mothers in our class certainly wouldn't be a help.  I figured that there was no time like the present; besides, my mom was here to help me as we made this next transition.

Off to the grocery store we went!  I mentally decided that we'd try chicken first.  And I sorta of decided I wanted to try ground meat first since it seemed like the texture my son was most likely to tolerate.  Healthy, versatile, and relatively inexpensive, I wouldn't care if an entire pound of meat went to waste since it wasn't a filet mignon!  Mom and I scoured the meat coolers at the grocery and there was no ground chicken.  We decided to improvise and very finely dice (and then whiz through the food processor) some sauteed chicken breast.  However, on a whim, Mom check the freezers and found a tube of organic frozen ground chicken!  Even better!  We grabbed it and headed for the check out counter!

That evening, we thawed the chicken and sauteed it in a tiny amount of olive oil.  I gave it a few pulses in the processor and portioned out about a tablespoon for my little guy to try.  He ate it!!! My husband cheered!  Our (thus far, we're hoping he'll grow out of it) lactose-intolerant son wasn't destined to be a vegan!  Nothing against vegans, of course; that's just not our lifestyle.

The next day, nada.  Wasn't having it.  No chicken.  I wasn't too upset; I know babies can be a bit choosey when it comes to new foods.  But one day three, and again on day four (when he threw up all over my aunt's kitchen floor, much to the delight of her Westie) it was clear that he just didn't like meat.  Or at least ground chicken.  And I was in San Diego (seven hours from my house).  And the baby food I'd prepared and packed in a cooler was now not going to suffice, since it included the repulsive chicken.  I tossed it and went to a local store and bought my babe, for the second time in his life (the first being when I made an emergency trip to the Midwest for a funeral) store-bought baby food.  This was an organic brand I'd never heard of, but there was a selection of stage two foods that were meat and fruit/veggie blends.  I decided to give them a try, if anything, to introduce the meat flavors to my little guy.  Once again, he ate it!!!  OK, maybe the meat thing would work afterall!  I breathed a sigh of relief, and, when my mom and I returned to Monterey after our San Diego weekend, we went to Whole Foods and found the same brand of baby food and bought a few of the dinner options that included meats.  

In the meantime, still wanting to make my own babyfood and get my son to accept non-pureed foods, I chopped a frozen chicken breast into one-inch cubes, popped them into a zip-lock, and then back into the freezer.  That evening, I thawed one chicken cube, sauteed it in a bit of olive oil, garlic, salt (a tiny bit), and pepper right alongside the chicken breasts we were placing over our Caesar salads.  When the chicken was cooked through, I diced it into the smallest bites I could manage and placed them on my son's high chair tray. He tried it, but wasn't a huge fan.  I tried the same thing for a few days with no success.  I gave up on the chicken; I just didn't have the energy, and clearly my son wasn't ready.  And then my mom, my cheerleader, my coach, left and went back to the East Coast!

I decided to simply supplement my homemade fruits and veggies with store-bought meat-combos.  He wasn't a huge fans of those either, but I could typically get some into his belly.

A couple of weeks later, I made spaghetti for dinner.  On a whim, I gave my son one of my homemade meatballs, thinking that maybe he liked beef better than chicken.  He gobbled it up!!!  Darn!  Why didn't I save more meatballs for him, rather than dumping them all into my spicy sauce?!  We had a weekend trip to San Francisco coming up, so I once again (now for only the third time) bought the jarred stuff since I didn't know if we'd have a 'fridge in the hotel room, and I needed easily packed food to feed him while we toured the city.  He ate all those, though they were very pureed and therefore quite thin.  While there, my son also ate, with vigor, a few bites of my husband's pulled pork.

When we returned home, I was totally lost.  I knew he'd eat meat; he simply didn't like the textures.  But he liked meatballs.  I went to the store and bought three jars of stage three chunky baby food meaty dinners.  For the most part, my son loved those, especially the spaghetti version.  I was feeling like a failure.  And a hypocrite.  I wanted to make 100% of my son's food.  I didn't want to feed him jarred stuff.  I didn't want to move backwards in the texture journey (the jarred stuff was so runny compared to my homemade foods).  Here I was, telling all these people how great it is to make your own babyfood, yet I was buying my son's food now.  I was about to give up.  And then a light bulb went off in my head!

He liked jarred baby food spaghetti!  He liked my homemade meatballs!  I know my grocery store sells ground chicken, pork, turkey, and beef!  I can do this!

I high-tailed it back to the store.  I bought ground chicken and pork to start.

The first week I made the chicken.  I made the meatballs just like this recipe, only using the chicken instead of beef.  My son loved them!  Each day he had one meatball with his lunch and one with dinner.  I heated them individually for 30 seconds, then cut them into small pieces and let them cool.  Once on his tray, they were gone in a matter of minutes!

The second week, I used the pork.  This time, I used the same base recipe, but rather than Italian breadcrumbs I used Panko.  Rather than two eggs I used one egg and some BBQ sauce (I checked to ensure there was no honey in my sauce).  Instead of parsley I used a bit of grill seasoning.  I baked them a bit longer.  These were eaten with equal gusto!

And with that, we were well on our way to finger foods and meats!

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