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Healthy Meals For Your Baby

It's not always easy to get your child excited about eating healthy food, but author Annabel Karmel has some delicious recipes that your child might be wild about.

Her new cookbook, "First Meals," features recipes for infants and toddlers that are healthy, fun, and easy.

Karmel strongly believes that introducing a child to a healthy, well-balanced diet sets eating habits for life and helps to reduce a child's risk of developing serious health problems as an adult.

She visits The Early Show Thursday to talk about nutrition and demonstrate a few of the recipes from his book for children 9 months and older.

Click on the red links to get her recipes for: Mini Pizzas, Gelatin Boats, Creamy Avocado Dip and Vegetable Sticks, Sandwiches, Chicken Chow Mein and Sleeping Cannelloni.

Here are some foods to avoid giving your child to minimize the risk of infection and allergic reactions and to set up a healthy eating pattern.

Salt: Never give salt to a child under the age of 1. Salt can strain immature kidneys and cause dehydration.

Sugar: Unless the food is very tart, avoid giving sugar. Added sugar is habit-forming and increases the risk of tooth decay.

Raw or lightly cooked eggs: Due to the risk of salmonella infection, eggs should be cooked until the yolk and white are both solid.

Unpasteurized cheese: To avoid the risk of listeria infection, avoid cheeses such as brie and Camembert.

Foods containing gluten: Do not introduce wheat, oats, barley, or rye before six months.

Nuts: Chopped and whole nuts are not recommended before the age of 5 due to the risk of choking. There is also a risk of allergic reaction to nuts.

And Karmel says that encouraging your child to self-feed is important because it's part of your child's development, as they learn to be more independent.

Recipes:

Mini Pizzas

  • Preparation: 10 minutes; cooking 15 minutes
  • Makes 4 portions
  • Provides calcium, protein, B vitamins, and Vitamin A

    Adding a selection of colorful vegetables to mini pizzas is a great way to encourage your child to eat more vegetables. For a special occasion, you might like to make an animal-face design.

    Ingredients:
    2 muffins, split in half, or 1 small baguette, cut in half
    4 tbsp good tomato sauce (homemade or store-bought)
    1/2 cup grated cheddar, Gruyere, or mozzarella cheese

    Topping:
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tbsp chopped green onion
    1/2 cup zucchini, thinly sliced
    3/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
    salt and freshly ground black pepper

    To make the topping, warm the butter in a pan, add the green onion, and sauté for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and sauté until just tender, about 4 minutes. Season to taste. Preheat the broiler to high.

    Lightly toast the muffins or bread. Divide the tomato sauce between each of the cut sides of muffin or bread, spread evenly, and sprinkle with cheese.

    Top with cooked vegetables, perhaps making patterns or animal faces, then cook under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

    To create a mouse face, use steamed zucchini pieces for the ears, stuffed olive slices for the eyes, a black olive for the nose, strips of carrots for the whiskers, and two sweet corn kernels for the teeth.

    To make a bear face, use sliced carrots for the ears, oval shapes cut from a slice of cheese, sliced mushrooms sautéed in a little butter and sliced, pitted black olives for the eyes, pitted black olives for the nose and mouth, and fine strips of red pepper for whiskers.

    Variation:
    For a non-vegetarian mini pizza, top with diced ham or, if your child prefers, pepperoni, in addition to, or instead of, the cooked and raw vegetables.

    Gelatin Boats

  • Preparation: 5 minutes; cooking: 10 minutes plus 1 hour 45 minutes for setting
  • Makes 8 portions
  • Provides Vitamin C if using added fruit

    Of all the foods I make for parties, these ingeniously simple flavored gelatins are perhaps the most popular.

    Ingredients:
    2 large oranges, halved
    1 package (4-serving size) fruit flavored gelatin, such as strawberry or orange
    1 small can mandarin orange segments (optional)
    1 half-pint fresh raspberries (optional)

    To decorate:
    8 small rice paper triangles
    8 cocktail sticks

    Squeeze the juice from the orange halves (keep it to drink) without breaking the skins. Carefully scrape out the membrane and discard.

    Make the gelatin according to the instructions, reducing the amount of water specified by a quarter if using fruit. Divide the fruit, if using, between the orange halves, then fill with gelatin and refrigerate until set.

    Take a wet knife and cut each orange half in half again. Thread a cocktail stick down the center of each rice-paper triangle, then set the sail in the gelatin.

    Variation:
    Choose three contrasting-colored gelatins and set each layer separately in a tall glass. Set the first layer of gelatin in the refrigerator with the glass at an angle so that the gelatin sets diagonally. Do the same with the second layer of gelatin. Pour in the last layer of gelatin and set with the glass standing upright.

    NOTE: These gelatin boats use cocktail sticks. For young children, place the boats on each child's plate, then remove the cocktail sticks before they begin to eat.

    Creamy Avocado Dip and Vegetable Sticks

  • Preparation: 10 minutes; cooking 8 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Value: Provides folate, potassium, and vitamins A, C and E

    An avocado has the highest protein content of any fruit, and babies like its mild creaminess. This dip also makes a good sandwich filling if mixed with grated cheese.

    Ingredients
    1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
    1/4 cup soft cream cheese
    1 tbsp snipped chives

    1 ripe tomato, skinned, deseeded, and chopped

    Steamed vegetable shapes - vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes, or parsnips, washed and peeled

    Directions:
    Cut the vegetables into sticks or shapes, place in a steamer, and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.

    Scoop out the avocado flesh. Mash until smooth and mix with the remaining ingredients. (For adults, you can add lemon juice, seasoning, chopped cilantro, and maybe a little finely chopped chili).

    Sandwiches

    Shaped sandwiches
    Sandwiches make a quick snack that can be eaten on the run, and you can use all sorts of filling and breads. Try to use foods from each of the main groups - bread, fruit and vegetables, meat and alternatives, and dairy products - to make sandwiches that are nutritious alternatives to cooked meals.

    Open sandwiches
    Cut slices of bread into simple shapes, or into animal shapes using cookie cutters. Butter and then spread with filling. Try cottage-cheese or egg-salad sheep or ducks or cheddar-cheese butterflies; geometric shapes spread with a favorite filling, such as diamond-shaped bread kites spread with mashed avocados, or with thinly sliced ham, turkey, or chicken; or bread and cheese squares decorated to look like presents with red pepper, tomato, or chive ribbons.

    Double-decker sandwiches
    Take three slices of buttered brown or white bread, with the center slice buttered on both sides. Sandwich together with two complementary but contrasting fillings, such as sliced bananas and strawberry jam; grated cheese, shredded lettuce and yeast extract; or egg salad and tuna with mayonnaise. Cut into strips.

    Pinwheel sandwiches
    Trim the crusts off two thin slices of bread. Overlap the edges slightly and flatten with a rolling pin so that they join together. Butter and spread the flattened bread with a colorful filling and roll up, jelly-roll style. Cut across into thin rounds. Suggested fillings include peanut butter and jelly; cream cheese and mashed avocados; egg salad; or ham or turkey slices.

    Mini pita bread pockets
    Warm a small pita bread, cut it in half, and fill with a mix such as tuna and mayonnaise with salad; grated cheese or shredded chicken or ham with salad; sliced hard-boiled eggs with lettuce; or mashed sardines and sliced tomatoes.

    Tortilla wraps
    Wraps make a good alternative to sandwiches. Warm small flour tortillas and fill with think slices of turkey, shredded lettuce, and grated cheese with a little mayonnaise. Or try chicken and salsa or tuna salad.

    Chicken Chow Mein

  • Preparation: 10 minutes; cooking: 18 minutes
  • Serves: 6
  • Value: Provides beta-carotene, potassium, protein, B vitamins including folate, and vitamins C and E.

    "Chow mein" means stir-fried noodles. Shiitake mushrooms have a wonderful flavor but can sometimes be difficult to obtain. If you cannot find them, use button or cremini mushrooms instead.

    Ingredients:
    1 large chicken breast fillet (about 1/2 lb)
    1/4 lb fine Chinese egg noodles
    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
    1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
    1 1/3 cups shiitake mushrooms
    1 1/4 cups sugar-snap peas
    1/2 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
    1/2 cup baby sweet corn, cut into quarters
    4 green onions, finely sliced
    1 cup zucchini
    1 cup bean sprouts

    Marinade
    2 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp sake (rice wine)
    1 tbsp soft brown sugar

    Directions:
    Mix together the ingredients for the marinade and marinate the chicken for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the marinade. Cook the noodles in boiling, lightly salted water according to the instructions on the package, then set aside.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan and stir-fry the chicken for 5-6 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.

    Heat the sesame oil in the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the shiitake mushrooms, sugar-snap peas, red pepper, and baby corn and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the green onions, zucchini, and bean sprouts and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Add the chicken and noodles together with the reserved marinade. Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes or until the noodles are completely heated through.

    Sleeping Cannelloni

  • Preparation: 35 minutes; cooking: 45 minutes at 350 degrees F
  • Serves: 8
  • Value: Provides beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, protein, B vitamins including folate, and zinc
  • Suitable for freezing: undecorated

    Ingredients
    1 2/3 cups frozen spinach
    2 tbsp butter
    1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
    1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
    1 cup mushrooms, sliced
    1 tbsp flour
    1/3 cup milk
    2 tbsp heavy cream
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    8 parboiled cannelloni tubes

    Cheese Sauce
    2 tbsp butter
    1/4 cup flour
    1 3/4 cups milk
    1 cup each grated Gruyere and cheddar cheese
    1/2 tsp ground dry mustard
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    To decorate:
    Tomato puree or special tomato sauce (see page 153)
    8 sautéed button mushrooms
    8 black olives
    Tiny green pepper bows and squares
    Red pepper strips
    Handful of grated cheddar cheese

    Directions:
    Place the spinach in a pan without water, cover, set over a low heat, and cook gently for 5 minutes, or according to the instructions on the package. Squeeze out any excess water.

    Warm the butter in a pan, add the onion and garlic, and sauté until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked spinach, stir in the milk, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the ban from the heat, stir in the cream, and season to taste.

    Lightly grease 10-x-8 inch ovenproof dish. Use a teaspoon to push the stuffing into the cannelloni tubes, then arrange them in the dish next to one another in a single layer.

    To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, add the flour, and stir to make a paste. Cook gently for 2 minutes, then whisk in the milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese until melted, add the mustard and season to taste.

    Pour the sauce over the cannelloni, transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for 30 minutes.

    Decorate to make the dish look like four matchstick bodies sleeping under a sheet and blanket with their heads appearing at one end and their feet and the other. Spread a narrow band of tomato sauce from one side of the dish to the other near the top of the cannelloni tubes to create a turned-down red sheet. Arrange the eight olives in pairs at the bottom of each tube to indicate the feet. Use the mushrooms to make the heads; make three slits in each for two eyes and a mouth, then position at the top of each cannelloni tube.

    Push the square of green pepper in each eye slit and the strips of red pepper in each mouth slit. Arrange the grated cheese around each head for the hair and place green pepper bows in it.

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