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TODAY

Saturday, July 20

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Now that my son has begun eating solids, I am often faced with the question parents ask themselves, "What do I feed this kid?" Not being one for store-bought baby food, my little gourmand has coaxed the chef out in me. While I have enjoyed cooking in the past and have seen it as more of an occasional "nifty" thing to do, I must now create healthy concoctions that he enjoys eating on a daily basis.

Of course, my knowledge of children's nutritional needs is somewhat limited, so coming across a good infant recipe is a treat since I can only make carrots, rice or bananas in just so many ways. Luckily, if you can fit it into your schedule, there are some resources in the area.

The Lakeview Whole Foods is presenting a cooking series called, "Cooking Dinner with New Moms and Babies." The next meetings are scheduled for February 18 and 25, both Fridays. New mothers and chefs Juliet Greene and Liz Isaacs offer suggestions and instruct other mothers on cooking for their children. The February 18 class will focus on home-style foods like chicken pot pie and brownies, while the February 25 class will be Asian themed.

What's great about these classes is that babies are more than welcome to attend with their mothers, which makes this event not only informative but a fun mixer for mother and child. The price is $40 per session and you can call Whole Foods at 773/244-4200 to register.

The Chopping Block, with two locations in the city, offers classes for both parents and children. Their popular "Mornings for Moms" class focuses on easily prepared meals for the entire family. The next class is being held on Thursday, February 24. For only $30, learn about five tasty meals you can prepare for your family.

The "Tater Tots" class, for ages 3 to 7, teaches younger children about ingredients and helping in the kitchen to prepare their own snacks and treats. The next class is scheduled for Saturday, February 26.

"Kids Building Block" educates children, 7 to 12, on cooking basics and kitchen safety while incorporating a recipe or meal into the class. Upcoming classes include Dog & Cat Treats on Wednesday, February 16 and Saturday February, 19; Biscuits and Muffins on Wednesday, February 23; and Macaroni & Cheese on Sunday, March 30. The cost for the children's classes, both "Tater Tots" and "Kids Building Block," is $20 each.

Juliet Greene and Liz Isaacs, who are presenting the Whole Foods classes, are also the founders of Kiddie Cuisine. According to their website, "the mission of Kiddy Cuisine is to teach children self-assurance through cookery and fun...and to teach parents to enjoy cooking with their families."

Kiddie Cuisine has a class coming up, called "Mommy and Me: Fun with Food, Toddlers," geared towards women with children ages 2 to 4. The focus is to include children in the cooking process. The class also incorporates food with music and games to keep active toddlers entertained and involved in the kitchen. "Mommy and Me" will take place March 14 and March 21 at Fox and Obel (401 East Illinois). The price is $40 each class or $70 for the entire series. Call 312/379-0139 to register.

Before you begin introducing solids to your infant, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Your baby should be able to hold his or her head steady while sitting, should open their mouth when you try to feed them and should be able to swallow food. Of course, you should check with your healthcare provider or nutritionist before introducing solids.

With toddlers and older children, making them part of the entire cooking process is a good way to have them appreciate their meals. Take them with you to the grocery store, have them help select fruits and vegetables, let them make menu suggestions; all of this will allow the children to see mealtime as an important event -- one they created along with you.

In case you are still wondering what to make for your little one right now, I'll leave you with my 8-month-old son's favorite eats. Happy cooking!

Baked and mashed sweet potatoes
1. Wash and poke holes in sweet potato and wrap it in aluminum foil.
2. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.
3. Remove skins.
4. Place sweet potato into food processor, food mill or use a fork and mash to desired consistency.
5. Add water or other liquid as necessary to thin out, if needed.

Cinnamon's rice cereal with mashed banana
1. Make rice cereal as indicated.
2. Combine with 1/2 mashed banana (or more, depending on consistency wanted).

Steamed carrots and diced tofu*
1. Steam 2 cups of carrots until tender (about 5-9 minutes).
2. Drain and blot some firm tofu with a paper towel.
3. Slice it into small cubes.
4. Fry the tofu gently in olive oil.
5. Combine with carrots.

*Tofu is a great source of iron, which children at this age greatly need.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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