Today Reeve turns one, which feels both impossible and, also, haven’t we eaten dinner sitting across from her for years? Our 12 months together have been like this: moving so fast, too fast, but also, as if she’s always been with us. I spent so much time, leading up to her birth, fearful for the changes coming our way: rocking Easton’s world, attempting newborn life again and becoming a family of four. Yet, somehow, it’s hard to remember what it was like, before trying to juggle two, before loving two, before knowing Reeve.
When I was pregnant with her, she moved constantly and wildly, like she couldn’t wait to escape her confines. While it shouldn’t be a surprise that she is exactly the same outside the womb as in, sometimes I am still struck with how much she moves, how fast, how determined. She rolled over early, crawled fast, and quickly figured her way up the stairs, independently (always with someone behind her). We removed the baby tub before she was six-months-old, because she was determined to vault herself out of it, and now she only wants to be in the bath if she’s standing. I was convinced she would walk way earlier than her sister’s 13.5 months, but only in the past couple days have we seen an attempt at steps.
I’ve felt, from the time she was tiny, that she was so busy: so many things to get to, to see, to touch, to explore. And, as she’s developed the ability to get herself to what and where she wants, she’s proven it. After three and a half years of having a child in the house, we had to add child locks to all the cabinets (not just the ones under the sink), added extra gates and are constantly moving everything precious higher and higher. She is obsessed with the dishwasher (I actually once lost her for a few seconds – she was gated in the kitchen with me – and found her completely inside the open dishwasher), fascinated by everything on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator door and seems to have a one track mind when it comes to cans in the pantry.
But, over the past few weeks, in spite of her need to explore, she’s also found her affectionate side and is giving us a couple extra moments of her attention, hugging by laying her head against us and smiling. Yesterday, she crawled her way over to Easton, put her head on her sister’s chest and stayed there. It was almost more than I could handle.
When she first began smiling, my sister commented that Reeve smiled up and down, instead of left and right. It was true. A smile became her entire face. She’s mastered it a bit more now, but her smile is still everything and when she laughs, all three of us always do the same. She’s clapping, waves hi and bye (constantly, and when anyone says any word, with any inflection that may make it seem like they’re heading out) and when she sees food, she seems to lose her mind.
When we started feeding her, six months ago, I went into it excitedly, but with a bit of trepidation. Easton was a bit wary of eating at first, but has since really embraced food of all kinds. Would Reeve give us a different experience, would she struggle with eating or would she be happy to try what we’ve put in front of her? About four foods in, we tried peas, which she hated, and I was pretty sure that was indicative of how mealtimes would be. We’ve had a few difficult moments, peas again, lentils and a few weird mornings with yogurt.
But, she is an eager eater, who smacks her lips when she watches one of us eat (kind of a good barometer for making me decide if I actually need to eat that cracker), ate lemon for the first time by grabbing and sucking on my finger after I had squeezed a wedge over a dish, and experienced chicken liver for the first time, in a similar way. She yells at us when food has not reached her high chair quick enough, but lately, in her defiant, 11-month-old way, prefers to eat things that she’s picked up herself. She eats from a spoon that we hold, until about two-thirds of the way through the bowl, and then screams and cries until she sneakily grabs the spoon from our hands and tries to feed herself. She stares us in the eye and pulls her bib off, several times each meal. About 2 weeks ago, after months of refusing to put a cup near her mouth, she finally figured out how to drink from a straw.
Roasted apples, clementines, grapes, roasted cauliflower, bananas, shrimp, puffs and feta cheese, seem to be the foods that she cannot actually control herself around, meaning I try to have every piece cut before she spies them coming her way. But, really, she’s down for most things, as long as they’re full of flavor. I’ve taken to sprinkling ginger and cinnamon into her yogurt, making sure that oatmeal is well spiced and combined with fruit, almond butter, or both and that vegetables are sautéed with garlic or again, sprinkled with spices.
Plain eggs and pasta seems to annoy her, but today, I stirred a couple tablespoons of pastina into pureed beets with goat cheese, and she inhaled it. Same with these cheesy frittatas. We recently gave her plain sautéed cod, which she tolerated, but definitely liked better the next day when combined with black beans and pickled onions. Turkey meatballs, she ate, but didn’t love. A couple weeks ago, she ate most of a slice of spinach, eggplant and tomatoes on pizza, but refused the artichokes. Sunday night, Larry couldn’t put artichokes, combined with marinara and pecorino, on her plate fast enough. Last week, my sister tried to give her a piece of American cheese and she stared at it, close-mouthed, for a minute or two, before attempting a bite. She’s fickle. She’s a baby.
We’re still giving her new foods every three days, to keep an eye on allergies. Usually, I plan out what’s coming her way (soon: cashews, salmon, strawberries, blackberries, cucumbers, to start), but recently, I woke up, realizing that it was a new food day and I hadn’t planned appropriately. That day, I sprinkled a bit of ground flax into her oatmeal, and a few days later, attempted chia. These are two things that are in everything these days, but also, it’s easy to put them off, in favor of more in-your-face ingredients. If not for not having a plan that week, she probably still would not have tried either.
Because we had a couple very ripe bananas, I opted to make chia pudding — Banana Cardamom Chia Pudding, to be exact. I’ve made plenty of chia puddings over the years, but in spite of her willingness to eat, Easton has never really embraced them. I love the way the seeds swell, creating a pudding that reminds me a bit of tapioca, in the loosest interpretation. But, I’m pretty sure that is the reason that Easton has struggled. This time, I figured I’d make a big batch, and if it didn’t work out, I’d have breakfast for a couple days. That night, after dinner, I offered Easton “a banana thing” that I made. She ate it all and asked what it was called. I told her. She asked for more. That night, and her seventh or eighth try at chia pudding, was a good reminder for me not to give up, on anything, for either of them.
The next morning, Reeve was not only accepting of the Banana Cardamom Chia Pudding in her bowl, she ate it like a madwoman, chia seeds everywhere. I sent a friend a text saying, I think I found a food worse to clean off babies than pastina. But, the next day, when she ate it with the same zest, and never tried to steal the spoon from my hand, I considered it a win. I made another batch the following week, and both of them ate it just as eagerly.
So, in honor of Easton accepting chia pudding into her life, and Reeve, somehow, turning one, here’s her new favorite recipe. I can’t wait to see what it will be when she turns two.
This one was made with black seeds, but white work too (and to some, might be more desirable, color-wise).
This pudding freezes beautifully. There are notes within the recipe, but I think it's worth noting, in case you, or your child, cannot eat this much in one sitting.
Lastly, and this is noted, below, as well: sweetener. I use ripe bananas and don't use anything else. However, if your bananas aren't ripe enough, or you like things sweeter, add a bit of maple syrup, honey or coconut nectar.
- Homemade Coconut Milk
- 4 cups hot water
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- pinch kosher salt
- Banana Cardamom Chia Pudding
- 2 large ripe bananas
- 1¼ cups coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- big pinch kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons chia seeds
- For the Coconut Milk
- Pour water into high powered blender. Add coconut. Let sit for a minute or two to soften. With lid on the blender, blend 4 minutes. Pour through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth (see note) in to a pitcher. Let drain through. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the bag or cheesecloth to extract all the liquid into the pitcher. Discard coconut pulp. Let milk cool completely before storing in the fridge, for up to 4 days.
- For the Banana Cardamom Chia Pudding
- In large bowl, mash bananas well. Little pieces are OK, but you want to create a mostly mashed situation. (Sometimes your clean hands are the best tool for this). Whisk the bananas with coconut milk, vanilla extract, cardamom and salt. (I prefer to use a fork, because I find that the banana pieces get trapped in a whisk.)
- Taste it. For me, if the bananas are ripe enough, I don't need to add any sweetener. But, if you do, you can add a couple teaspoons of coconut nectar, maple syrup or honey (for children over one). Also, this is a good time to adjust the cardamom and salt levels, as well, if necessary. Keep in mind: you don't want it to be salty, but when you hit the salt sweet spot, every other flavor pops, too.
- Sprinkle the chia sees over the liquid mixture. Using the fork, whisk vigorously to mix, making sure to scrape the bottom and cover any stubborn seeds on top. Let sit 10 minutes. Whisk vigorously again, again making sure to scrape the bottom. Cover bowl; chill in fridge at least a couple hours, but preferably overnight. Before serving, stir mixture again.
- Eat plain, or top with sliced bananas, shredded coconut and toasted slivered almonds.
- To freeze: divide thickened chia pudding into meal sized portions (either for a baby in an ice cube tray, or for you in a larger vessel). Freeze 4 hours, or until completely frozen. Transfer to a freezer bag; label with the date three months from today. To eat: thaw overnight.
• The chia pudding can be made and chilled for up to three days. Alternatively, the pudding can be frozen for up to three months.