Feed the Beast: Baby Chili

Holy butts on all fronts, my son Liam is over a year old now. And he is eating way more than just formula. My wife and I are raising him vegetarian, so it's been a process finding him meals that are nutritional and also not secretly loaded with animal byproducts (shout out to Happy Tots for fortifying their products with plant-based DHA 'n' Omega-3!). But as a guy who enjoys cooking, I have a ton of fun cooking for Liam. He's at a point where he's interested in what mommy and daddy eat, so I try to prepare dialed down versions of our meals for him. With the Polar Vortex punching Pennsylvania right in the junk, I've been craving soups and chilis something fierce. Below is a toddler-approved version of sweet potato chili. This recipe yields a ton of food. It comes out on the sweet side and gives my baby a huge boost in protein, fiber, and vitamins A 'n' C:

Baby L's Sweet Potato Chili

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cans of black beans (15 ounces each), rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes (or if you have time, 1 pound of fresh tomatoes diced)
1 lime, halved
2 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large pot while you prep the onions and sweet potato. Don't worry about cutting them too small; it's all going into a food processor anyway. Add the onions and sweet potato to the oil and sweat them on low-medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Stir to evenly distribute the spices. Add the water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to maintain the sweet simmer action. Let the chili stew for 12-14 minutes. Add the beans and tomatoes. Squeeze the juice out of the limes. Bring back that simmer you've heard so much about, cover, and ride that simmer out for another 5 minutes.

Afterwards, dump everything into a food processor and pulse it for a few seconds. Be careful not to liquify the chili; my baby/toddler/other prefers food with texture and I bets yours will too. If your kid is OK in terms of food allergies, add a cup of frozen corn to the mix. If you want to make this for yourself, add a chili pepper of your choosing when you throw in the garlic, increase the chili powder and cumin to 2 tablespoons each, and maybe sprinkle in some salt and pepper to taste.

Year One Little Babies

My son turns one tomorrow. Here’s a list of things I think I learned? Can someone please show this to me circa December 2012?

  1. Get used to poop.
  2. You are going to stop talking to most of your friends.
  3. You are going to resent the friends that still try to hang out, because got-dammit I can’t go to the got-damn bar on a Tuesday after sunset. Or before sunset. Or ever.
  4. You are going to love your wife more than ever before.
  5. You are going to hate your wife more than ever before.
  6. Don’t get so intense when people give you unsolicited parenting advice. Unless it’s from a stranger, in which case fuck the fuck off, you fuck.
  7. Do get intense when strangers touch your kid. What the hell, bro? You on a watch list somewhere?
  8. You are going to be really gung ho about doing that dad blog for like three months, and then realize “Oh dang, I gotta raise this baby.”
  9. With careful planning, your son will get through year one still vegetarian and healthy.
  10. You are going to engage with art less, but love the things that stick more.
    1. That being said, in making my top 20 albums of 2013 list, I find that I like those records less than what came out in 2010-2012. Am I beginning the inevitable slide towards hating new music because I’m an old hack? Discuss.
  11. This baby will become your world and you will finally feel useful.
  12. No seriously, get used to poop.

Where No Songs Have Yet Been Sung

My dad loved to play basketball. He didn’t compete at the college level, but he did stay involved in intramural leagues. Then work and school took up more of his time. Then he became a father of three. And then his life went a different way. He’s older and more diabetic now, but he can still sink shots from anybody’s driveway.

I mention this for three reasons:

  1. My dad was (and still is) down to ball.
  2. My dad walked away from something he loved quite a bit to be my dad.
  3. I think I just did the same thing with my son.

Sibling Moments

With my younger son turning two in a week, there’s a been a newfound focus between my wife and I in watching how our boys interact. We run for the camera when they’re holding hands or sitting in the pull-wagon together, calling out to the squirrels. We watch a playful pillow fight with glee until one of them pops the other nearly across the room. Watching the growth that goes on is a bit addicting. You can mentally chart the developments - the younger one running into the older one’s bedroom to wake him up in the morning; the older one helping the younger one get snacks down from a pantry shelf that’s too high. It’s cliche, but sometimes you wish that time would just stand still.

My wife and I are both very close to our siblings. My brother lives locally in the DC area, her sister back on Long Island. There’s a strong tug that goes on to see it through that your own children not only get along, but form unbreakable sibling bonds. But you can’t will that into your children and into their personalities. You just try to set the right environment and hope for the best. Repeated stompings on a neatly built Lincoln Logs set might cause tears, but isn’t likely to cause long-term damage. At least that’s what we keeping telling ourselves.

You Remind Me of the Babe

One of the many joys of fatherhood, for me, has been revisiting my records. Trevor Bolder’s recent passing from cancer at the age of 62, for example, sent me back to my David Bowie collection, specifically the Ziggy Stardust years when Bolder served as bassist before joining Uriah Heep. While I’ve always loved Bowie’s glam rock records, they took a backseat long ago to the Berlin Trilogy once I got to college.