Little City Kitchen Co. Blog

My stories about local food, fermentation, and formerly organic baby food
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How to Grow a Broccoli Lover: Teaching Babies to Like Vegetables

One of the most popular baby food flavors at Little City Kitchen Co. is swiss chard and kale with caramelized onions, apple and white sweet potato.  Kids eat chard?  Really?  I talk to parents all day at the farmers market, and one of the most frequent statements I hear is “My kid doesn’t like _____”.  Typically they fill in the blank with a green vegetable like broccoli or green beans.

Which begs the question: Can you teach food preferences, or do babies already know what they like and don’t like?

I recently had the honor of attending the first annual Childhood Obesity Conference hosted by Slow Food San Francisco.   You may know one of the keynote speakers, Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green and creator of the WhiteOut initiative that calls for a ban on baby white rice cereal.

My long-time readers know that I’m honest to a fault, so while I was familiar with the book Feeding Baby Green, I must now confess that I picked up the book for the very first time last week and sorta “crammed” for the conference – sorry Dr. Greene!  Imagine my surprise that nearly every philosophy and conclusion that I came to through my own research (with the help of experts like pediatricians and nutritionists) was echoed and even expanded upon in this wonderful book.

So back to baby’s food preferences…can they be learned?  YES!

Why is it important to expose your kids to a variety of foods at an early age?  Because you’re setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating.  You have a distinct window of opportunity when they start solids to teach them to love a variety of flavors.  Once they start walking, that window closes and they rely on what they’ve been taught so far to carry them throughout toddler-hood and the rest of their life.

Dr. Greene talks about the key word to introducing new foods is patience, and to that I would also add the word persistence.  If you keep those two words in mind, you’re likely to have a drama-free feeding experience and a healthy eater in the end.

Three small steps that parents can take:

  • Involve baby in the new food ahead of time.  Let them feel the avocado skin, squeeze the cooked sweet potato in their hands, watch you chop up the green beans before you feed it to them.  Getting them familiar with flavors and aromas will help them be more accepting of those foods.
  • Eat these foods yourself for dinner.  Kids will naturally want what’s on mom or dad’s plate, so if you eat the same foods, they’ll be more apt to try them themselves.
  • And the most important one: Try new foods 7-15 times before allowing baby to make up her mind.  Just a spoonful a day needed, once a day, for at least a week.  No need to force it, just try again the next day if they aren’t interested.  You’ll be surprised when all of a sudden they gobble up the swiss chard they’ve been refusing for days!

Yup, you too can grow a broccoli-lover!   Please feel free to leave a comment below about your own experiences with getting kids to eat less-common whole foods!

Birth & Baby Fair

And just a reminder, Little City Kitchen Co. will be at the Birth & Baby Fair this Sunday at Fort Mason from 10-4pm.  We’ll be leading another baby food cooking demo that day at 3pm, and you can pre-register here to reserve your seat.  Hope to see you there!

Healthy Fats: Using Coconut and Olive Oil in Baby Food

Time for another chat with Little City Kitchen Co’s favorite guest blogger, Dr. Julia Getzelman, founder of GetzWell Pediatrics.  Today we’re going to tackle a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: using healthy fats such at olive and coconut oil in baby food, and some alternative breakfast foods for baby.

A reminder to readers – submit your baby food-related questions by posting a comment on our Great Baby Food Giveaway blog, and if we feature your question on our blog, you win a free pack of baby food from Little City Kitchen Co., just like Penny and Julie did this month – congratulations guys!


Question from Julie P: I hear that healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil are good for babies and can be used in baby food.  Is this true?  Do I need to worry about the calories or fat content?

Dr. Getzelman: Yes!  Fats are good for babies.  Their developing brains and immune systems need lots of fats and olive and coconut oils provide distinct fatty acids to the body.  Organic butter is fair game too.  Be sure that babies’ food isn’t too lean by drizzling first press olive oil over prepared foods or allowing raw coconut butter or oil to melt on warm purees.  They will love it!

Jill’s note: for those familiar with Little City Kitchen Co. baby food, you already know that I use a lot of coconut milk and coconut oil in my recipes for this reason.  Coconut has gotten a bad rap in the past, but we’ve started to see a shift in thinking as the great benefits of this healthy saturated fat are recognized.


Question from Penny C: I wanted to ask for suggestions for breakfast for my 9 month old son. I’ve been feeding him pureed fruit and oatmeal from the box. I’m crunched for time in the morning and I would like to vary up his meal. Do you have suggestions?

Dr. Getzelman: What we think of as breakfast foods is shaped largely by culture.  For example, we think of carbs (often empty!) and sweets (like muffins or toast and jam) while the Chinese eat meat and vegetable soups for breakfast.

It’s good to start the day with good fat and protein so pastured eggs make a wonderful breakfast food and can be scrambled up quickly and served as finger food for your 9 month old, if he is already participating in feeding himself.

If he’s still taking purees, quinoa flakes (which can be made into a hot cereal) can be served with coconut butter or oil, almond butter, and fresh berries or a little cinnamon.  Alternatively, your son could have a puree (partly prepared the night before by using left-over steamed veggies) of mixed steamed or sauteed vegetables, chicken stock, a pinch of curry powder or some fresh or dried herbs.  He doesn’t yet “know” that breakfast is different from dinner or lunch and in some countries there isn’t much distinction!

Upcoming Events

Lots going on in the Little City kitchen for the next couple of weeks!

Scoop on Starting Solids cooking demo
Wednesday, Sept 21, 6:30 – 7:45pm
Whole Foods Los Altos
See event details and RSVP here

Guest panelist “Farmageddon
Local Chef’s Dinner and Conversation
Friday, Sept 23 from 6-9pm
Viewing at the Roxie and discussion following
View event details here

Scoop on Starting Solids cooking demo
Birth & Baby Fair
Sunday, Oct 2, 3pm
Fort Mason Pavilion
Details and register here
(Use code: LCK for 50% off registration) 

A Guide to Homemade Baby Cereals: Rice, Quinoa, and other Whole Grains

It should come as no surprise to my long-time readers that I tend not to agree with the “common” American philosophies surrounding introducing solids. You’ve heard me discuss new guidelines for introducing allergens, recommend adding spices to your own baby food, and address other common myths surrounding baby food.

One myth that really bugs me is the general assumption that baby white rice cereal from a box should be little one’s first food.  Whole grains can be wonderful for baby, but instead of using the highly processed boxed varieties (with absolutely no nutrients!), today’s blog will tackle the topic of making your own whole grain baby cereals.


When I’ve asked parents why they use baby rice cereal from a box, they cite two main reasons: food allergy concerns and high iron content.

If you’ve read the 2008 revised AAP Guidelines surrounding introducing solids, you’ll see that they now recommend introducing a variety of foods in the first few months, and in no particular order.  There are better alternatives if allergies are your concern.

And on the iron front, guess what folks; the fortified iron added to boxed rice cereal is not easily absorbed by your little one, so you’re better off cooking up iron-rich foods like meats, leafy greens and red beans for your baby food.

Remember, babies need a variety of foods, so make these whole grain cereals, but blend them with fruit, veggies, and meat for optimal nutrition.  Many of the baby food recipes at Little City Kitchen Co. have a whole grain component, but it’s never the star ingredient.

Making Your Own

Making your own baby grain cereal is relatively simple and fast if you’ve done a few things to prepare.

  1. You buy a whole grain of your choice
  2. Grind it into a powder using a coffee grinder
  3. Add some liquid and cook for about 5 minutes on the stovetop

Which Whole Grains?

Get creative people!  You can use just about any whole grain that you can find to make your own baby cereal.  Find them in the bulk sections of your natural grocer.  Whole Foods usually has a good selection, but my pick is Rainbow Grocery if you’re in San Francisco.

My favorites grains to use are:

Brown rice – I use exclusively Massa Organics, but brown basmati is a great too.
Red quinoa – a great source of protein; try toasting it in a dry skillet before grinding for even better flavor.
Black rice – I use Lotus Food’s Forbidden Rice, lots of antioxidants and a pretty lavender color.
Farro – an Italian version of spelt, very nutty and creamy

Other whole grains to consider trying: spelt, kamut, buckwheat, wheatberries, millet, amaranth, the list goes on.

The Daily Grind

Next, you need to grind the whole grain into a powder, and for that, I recommend buying an inexpensive coffee grinder.  If you wanna splurge a little, my favorite one is this one from Kitchen Aid at $35.00, but Capresso makes my value pick, a great one for only $20.00 at most Bed Bath & Beyonds.

Add ½ cup of your whole grain to the grinder and grind until you get the consistency of fine sand.  For brown rice, this can take 2-4 minutes, for softer grains like quinoa, it’s only 20-40 seconds.  Finer grind = smoother puree, so adjust according to your little one’s age and preference.

The Secret to Smooth Cereal

Most baby food recipes tell you at this point to heat up the water to boiling and just throw in the rice cereal.  I did that the first time…and it was not pretty.  The cereal formed these very unattractive lumps that were gummy and undercooked.  It’s sort of like making gravy at Thanksgiving; you can’t just throw in the flour and expect a smooth consistency.

I recommend reversing the process; chefs will know this as making a “slurry”.  Heat the water up until you can stick your finger in for only about a second (around 170 degrees, give or take).  Have your ground cereal in a separate bowl.  Pour the hot water over your ground cereal and mix thoroughly with a whisk.  Then transfer the mixture back to the stovetop and stir constantly on medium heat until it’s cooked, usually about 5-7 minutes.

Rice: Use a 1:6 ratio (1/4 cup of rice powder + 1 ½ cups of water)
Quinoa: Use a 1:3 ratio (1/4 cup of quinoa +3/4 cup of water)
Farro:  Use a 1:4 ratio (1/4 cup of farro + 1 cup of water)

Feel free jazz up baby grain cereal with ¼ cup of coconut milk, dried spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom, or a fruit puree.  You can also blend with savory ingredients like vegetables and meats.

So my parting words to you: stay away from the boxed rice cereal and get creative with whole grains.  And for the record, it’s not just for kids!  My breakfast this morning was homemade coconut quinoa cereal with peach puree, cinnamon and clove.  It was a recipe I made for the little ones, but it was too good to resist eating myself!

Finding Answers in the Woods: Food Entrepreneur Blog Series

People often ask how I come up with my blog topics.  I wish I could tell you guys that I have a master calendar filled with scheduled content (sorry Sis!), but I typically wake up on Thursday mornings and think to myself “what am I going to write about today”.

I do tend to stick to one main principle: I write about what is on my mind…and more than likely, it’s what has been keeping me up at night.

If you’ve been reading my “Food Entrepreneur” blog series, you’ve probably noticed that the tone has changed in the last couple of months.   In the beginning, there were tons of things to share and lots of progress being made in the Little City kitchen.  Man oh man…that was an exciting time for me!  Didn’t get much sleep, but the wheels were a-turning!

The last few months have been hard.  As you begin to shift from the “dreaming” to the “doing” part of building a business, you learn really quickly what works and what doesn’t.  And it can be a somewhat painful and taxing process.

Finding Answers in the Woods

For those that know me, you’ll find this analogy somewhat funny since the words “hiking” and “Jill” don’t typically fall in the same sentence.  This journey reminds me of an Outward Bound course I took when I was 15 years old.  We had to walk through the woods, typically with no trail, using a few proven tools to get us to our destination.

In any new business venture, there is no clearly defined path. There is however, a clearly defined direction and goal.  You may trek a little to the right, or wobble to the left, but in general, you’re still moving in a forward direction towards your goal.  And hopefully you’re not going in too many circles.

In this (admittedly unpleasant) Outward Bound course, we had three tools to keep us pointed in the right direction: our map, our compass, and our group.

My Map

Also known as my business plan.  This seems to be in a constant state of tweaking these days.  What is the best way to produce this food?  How do I distribute?  How big do I want this company to get?  It changes often, but typically it’s still moving the company in the same general direction.

My Compass

Oh boy, this is a big one for me.  My dear friend and life coach, Alexis Robin of Nourish Life Coaching, taught me the concept of listening to your body compass.  That combined with intuition are the two most helpful tools as I try and find my way.

And if I’m being honest, I still have a lot of work to do on this front.  Listening to your intuition (I mean really, really listening people) requires your mind to be quiet.  My mind is anything but quiet these days – in fact, it sometimes even screams at me – so I’ll be working on that a lot in the next few months.

My Group

This is my tribe that I’ve told you guys about!  Someone told me last week that “it takes an army” to build a successful company, and after the last few months, I can now emphatically agree.   I’ve already found some wonderful people to help me on my journey, and look forward to finding even more along the way.

So, this should be a really interesting and exciting phase for Little City Kitchen Co.  There will be some changes coming, although I can honestly tell you that I have no idea what those will be right now!  In the meantime, we keep hiking and moving forward.