Before having my baby, Reva, in June, I imagined my maternity leave would be long strolls in the park, simmering pots of beans on the stove, and hunkering down with my husband every night to catch up. Boy was I unprepared.
No, I didn't imagine the first two months would be one very long nursing session. I didn't realize I would be jumping from question to question, Googling at 2 a.m., checking my child's pulse for no reason at all. I didn't think I would actually use "The Nursing Mother's Companion" when I bought it, or that the book would lay open on my kitchen table, stained with milk drops and dog-eared beyond repair. Night after night, two things remained constant: the presence of new-mom paranoia, and an intense lack of sleep.
I remember a conversation I had with my aunt, who has three daughters, when she asked how I was enjoying nursing. "It's hard," I sighed. She smiled and paused. "Just wait until you have to start figuring out what to cook for Reva," she said. But I couldn't imagine that cooking for my child could possibly be a nuisance. I've always loved being in the kitchen and, even at the end of a long day with a newborn, I wind up fantasizing about what to cook for dinner.
When Reva hit the half-year mark, we started introducing solids. We did the pouches and mush, but every time she saw me chewing on something, her eyes laser-focused on the roasted vegetable or chicken. It was obvious she was curious and wanted to try more. And suddenly my aunt's words were ringing in my ears.
I wanted my daughter to be curious about food and grow into an adventurous eater. And I knew this would require cooking and exposing her to lots of different ingredients. But how would I find the time when I couldn't even muster up the energy to make myself a bowl of pasta? I had to get organized.
After a few days of projects that took way too long, like homemade sweet potato puree and from-scratch roasted applesauce, I realized what I had to do: cook once and eat twice. This was the only way both of us were going to eat something other than strawberry-banana yogurt blobs.
After a week or so, I began to get into a groove. When I roast cauliflower for her, I make extra to turn into a salad later on (recipe below). When I sliced avocado spears, I save the other half for my lunch by keeping the pit inside. When I mash a banana, I save a few slices to top my peanut butter toast with. Cooking strategically means I too can enjoy the fruits of my baby food labor. I too can eat well, by thinking a few steps ahead.
If you're curious about how to implement this in your own home, here are some ways you can cook for yourself and your baby at the same time. Since babies can't have much salt at all, forgo salting your food throughout the process. Instead, season your plate separately, at the end. This way, everyone is happy.
- Roast tiny cubes of squash. Give some to your little one, and use the rest as a salad base, with arugula, crumbled goat cheese, and nuts.
- Mash two bananas and give your baby as much as they'll eat. Then add peanut butter, blueberries, and granola on top of the leftovers for breakfast.
- Scramble a few eggs—but just eggs. Scoop out some for your baby. Then season the rest with a little salt and pepper, cover with shredded cheddar cheese, pop under the broiler, then top with salsa and sour cream.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2 parents plus 1 baby
- 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt, divided
- 1/3 cup finely chopped herbs (see Author Notes), plus more on top
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 ripe avocado, cubed
- 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- Heat your oven to 400ºF. Place your cauliflower on a sheet tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Don't season — salt isn't good for babies, so you'll season later. Roast for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway, or until golden brown and tender.
- In a mixing bowl, combine 6 tablespoons of yogurt, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the chopped herbs, and 2 tablespoons of water. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste and add more water if needed. Reserve the remaining yogurt for your baby to try.
- To assemble the salad, transfer the cauliflower to a platter, layer with the avocado and feta cheese, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the yogurt dressing and top with more herbs.