Okay, it’s time I came clean: When my sons were tots, I just didn’t have the time, energy, or motivation for creative meal-making, or the know-how to prepare tasty baby- and toddler-friendly chow the old-fashioned way — from scratch.
Once my baby boys were introduced to solid food, they were fed every Gerber variety I could find on the supermarket shelf, along with other mushy staples, like mashed bananas, rice cereal, etc. As toddlers, they graduated to chunkier jar choices.
Isn’t that what most moms — who weren’t hippies — have been giving their youngins for decades?
I still talk about the mini food processor I bought many moons ago, during a passing make-my-own-baby-food phase. It’s still sitting unused in the back of a kitchen cabinet.
Sure, my precious darlings always ate balanced, nutritious meals based on the recommended food groups … that were hurriedly prepared when I came home tired and stressed out from a long day at work. And, oh yeah, meatloaf was my specialty. We also ordered in a lot. I would tell myself that everything was made with lots of love. And that no one, including my hubby, went hungry.
Phew! So, now my secret is out there. And what a relief that I’m past those chaotic and exhausting years. Although I do feel sad that everything went by too quickly, and I didn’t savor every single moment. I tried, but there was so much going on and life got in the way.
In these enlightened, organic times, many new parents enjoy making their own natural tot food and are committed to providing healthier options for their growing families. As their kids get older, most wouldn’t be caught dead serving them oven- or microwave-ready frozen fish sticks with a side of tater tots and canned corn, or pasta with Ragu tomato sauce and salad for dinner, no matter how busy their day was.
My family survived despite my awkward attempts at cooking. And if you ask them today, they would probably say my lunch and dinner offerings were okay, but kinda limited. In other words: B-O-R-I-N-G! Let’s face it, the wow factor just wasn’t there.
Recently, I came across a bunch of amazing, mouth-watering recipes from Queens author and mother of two, Aurora Satler. Her new collection of recipes “The Ultimate New Mom’s Cookbook: A Complete Food and Nutrition Resource for Expectant Mothers, Babies and Toddlers” (Page Street Publishing) is specifically for pregnant and new moms. As a non-foodie, I have to admit that I was intrigued, and even wowed. I told myself, it was obviously too late for me, and sadly, my boys, now that they’re making their own food choices. But nevertheless, I felt inspired by what I saw and thought: Perhaps I can make some of these attractive, healthy dishes anyway, ’cause everyone would love ’em — even my grown-up friends. So, I did, and they were a hit. The diverse recipes are easy to follow, and prep and cooking times aren’t long.
Who could say “no” to brisket sliders with carrot cilantro slaw, or “our favorite fish tacos?”
While I appreciate the out-of-the-box, family-friendly ideas this young mom had come up with and the time she put into the creation of her beautiful 224-page cookbook — which is chock-full of 80-plus recipes for a growing familia, along with color photos that she took — I also feel a twinge of guilt, and I’m kinda jealous. Perhaps because Satler seems like a super mom and the kind of creative cooker I should’ve been had I had the inclination and culinary interest, and if, truth be told, I had carved out more time to make better meals for my family. And because creating simple, healthy, yummy dishes seems to come so naturally to her.
After all, having a flair for good cooking is a gift of sorts, and if you and your family sample her tempting offerings, I think you, too, will agree that her recipes rock!
As an Astoria resident and mother of future foodies, Jack, 3, and 1-year-old Lila, the author is raising her family in the most diverse area on the planet — “The World’s Borough.”
Being a health-conscious person and passionate foodie, as well as a former creative director, made her transition into cookbook author a smoother one, for sure.
Satler said she created the book after having her son, and finished it in her final trimester with her daughter, who was born last August.
“My inspiration was to create an all-inclusive manual for first-time parents to make the culinary journey from pregnancy through the toddler years so much simpler.
“I was sick of consulting over 10 sources to feed my husband, myself, and also my son, and wanted to put all the necessary dietary information in one place with an easy-to-read and fun format.”
She added: “This book was truly a labor of love. It was created to make the process of feeding a family easier. From pregnancy through the life of a growing child, parents go through so many culinary transitions, and these are on top of all the developmental milestones.
“It’s a period of sleepless nights, scrambling about, and really reorganizing your life to include a new and demanding member. I wanted to make easy recipes that would be as tasty as they were nutritious. I also wanted to create a book that had a longer shelf life than just the time of introducing solids.”
Another cool aspect is that all seven recipe-filled chapters are designed to maintain a delicious and diverse diet for a long time, while helping to develop healthy eating habits from the very beginning. Check out her pregnancy and breastfeeding options, finger-food ideas, dips, salads, salsas, and more.
And let dads and the kids get in on the cooking fun as well. Teaching young children how to make healthy meals is really important.
Satler recalled that as a new mom she was overwhelmed, exhausted, and basically hungry all the time. And she was breastfeeding.
“I breastfed both my children and am still breastfeeding my daughter. I am very grateful I was able to do so,” she says, pointing out that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively (when possible) for the first six months, then starting solids at six months of age.
Life for new parents is always hectic, and the author says she felt like she was “always a step behind and usually missing a meal” as she rushed about her day.
“When my son was born, I worked as the creative director for Many Kitchens, an e-commerce site for artisanal food, and actually styled our first cookbook with him at my side. (I even wore him in a baby carrier for a couple shots),” recalled Satler.
“Along the way, I developed recipes for my family that made all the juggling a little easier.”
But what about eating out?
Like most New Yorkers, Satler admits she sometimes eats out or orders in, and says she doesn’t know a single parent who doesn’t.
“We live around some of the best restaurants in the world, and Queens offers so many diverse options. I feel incredibly lucky to live in Queens, where I have access to so many culinary traditions and flavors. It would be a sin not to indulge sometimes, and it also feels nice to leave the dishes for someone else from time to time.
“We are constantly discovering more amazing restaurants and markets. For groceries: Food Bazaar on Northern Boulevard has an incredible selection and is often my local go-to [supermarket] when in search of a hard-to-find ingredient.”
When shopping for and serving meals, like all parents, this busy mama likes to offer the healthiest options for her children.
“I often consult the Clean 15 (https://www.activebeat.co/diet-nutrition/clean-15-the-15-lowest-pesticide-prone-forms-of-produce/2/) and Dirty Dozen (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php) to avoid pesticides in the produce I purchase,” she notes, adding: “My book does not set out to say ‘you have to buy organic,’ since that is truly an economic decision.”
There are also a lot of gluten-free recipes, but the cookbook isn’t isn’t entirely gluten-free.
For her book, the author teamed up with Allison Childress, who is an assistant professor at Texas Tech University and chief clinical dietitian of the university’s Nutrition and Metabolic Health Institute.
“She supplied the nutritional information for each chapter as well as some great humor from being a mom herself,” says Satler, who explains that she used the “winners” from the first two years of her son’s life in creating recipes. “These are the meals we make time and again and continue to eat to this day.”
“The Ultimate New Mom’s Cookbook” (Page Street Publishing) by Aurora Satler and Allison Childress is available on Amazo
Tammy Scileppi is a Queens-based parent and regular contributor to New York Parenting.
Here’s an excerpt from “The Ultimate New Mom’s Cookbook” by Aurora Satler and Allison Childress:
Our favorite fish tacos
Makes about 11 tacos (two to three servings)
No cookbook of mine would be complete without fish tacos. I often ask my husband what he wants for dinner, which is a futile question, because the answer is always “fish tacos.” The beer batter is a must. The alcohol cooks off, but the crust is nice and crunchy and keeps the fish flaky and soft inside.
I also give the pieces of fish to my toddler as fish sticks, and he loves them dipped in the avocado cream.
2 flounder filets (about 1 pound total) or other white fish, cut into 1-inch wide by 2-inch long strips
¼ cup canola oil or vegetable oil, plus additional 1-2 tablespoons
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Soft corn tortillas
1 tomato on the vine, diced
1 cup shredded cabbage
½ cup cleaned cilantro leaves
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon coriander
9 ounces beer
1 cup flour
1 Hass avocado
½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 lime, juiced
Sea salt to taste
Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a medium bowl, mix your beer batter until it is smooth and resembles pancake mix. Next, season your fish and set aside on a plate. In a medium bowl, mix ingredients of avocado cream, mashing avocados with other ingredients until smooth.
Add ¼ cup oil to your frying pan and bring to medium-high heat till sizzling (1–2 minutes). Dip seasoned fish in batter and fry in batches until golden brown and flaky (about 3–4 minutes per side). Remove first batch to paper towel-lined tray and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Repeat with second batch of fish, adding oil as needed. If the fish is turning dark too quickly, lower your temperature to medium and cook till fish flakes when tested.
To assemble, top each tortilla with two to three pieces of fish, a sprinkle of cabbage, a sprig of cilantro, and diced tomato. Drizzle with your avocado cream and serve warm.
Very berry and coconut Popsicles
Makes 8-10 Popsicles (depending on the size of your Popsicle mold)
If you have a kid, it is worth it to get your own Popsicle molds. They are very affordable and [offer] countless opportunities for fun and experimentation. Growing up, my parents used to make my brother and I a lot of Popsicles. It is such a summer staple, and it is nice to be able to make your own without scouring the stores for ones without a ton of added sugar. Plus, if you’re still breastfeeding, I can’t think of a more refreshing snack.
1 (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup very berry puree (or any blended fruit puree)
In a large mixing bowl with a spout, combine coconut milk, vanilla, and honey, and whisk until combined. Pour into Popsicle molds to fill by 2 inches. Freeze for 10 minutes to create a base.
After 10 minutes, you can alternate with berry puree and coconut [mixture], using a wooden skewer to swirl and create a pattern. If you don’t feel like the fuss of a swirl, you can blend the puree and coconut together from the beginning.
Once full, add the Popsicle sticks to your mold and freeze the Popsicles until set (from 4 hours to overnight). To easily remove the Popsicles, run the molds under hot water for several seconds. Savor each delicious bite!
Note: You can substitute your favorite fruit puree for the very berry puree. Other combinations that are wickedly delicious are mango-coconut, orange-coconut, strawberry-coconut, pineapple-coconut, blackberry-coconut, and raspberry-coconut.
Winner winner chicken dinner
Makes 1¾ cups
This is chicken soup for the baby’s soul with tender chicken, sweet peas, carrot, and stars. It tastes pretty much like a creamed chicken pot pie. Dig in, baby!
¼ cup small, diced carrots (it is important to cut small for even boiling)
½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons frozen sweet peas
¼ cup diced, cooked chicken breast (oven-roasted chicken is great for tenderness)
1 cup cooked, star-shaped pasta (also called pastina or stelline)
In a small stockpot, combine carrots with stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low boil and cook for 20 minutes. Carrots should be tender and fall apart when tested by a fork. Add in peas in the last five minutes. Then add in cooked chicken and ½ cup star pasta. Puree until just smooth then mix in the remaining stars.
Cool and serve, or freeze in individual portions for later use.
— An excerpt from “The Ultimate New Mom’s Cookbook” (Page Street Publishing)
by Aurora Satler and Allison Childress