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Introducing your baby to Nigerian food

Introducing your baby to Nigerian food

Generally, when babies start showing interest in what you eat, they’re ready for real food. This was one of the first things we learnt about introducing our baby to solids.

Allow me to preface this post by adding that every baby is different, and what worked for us may not work for you. We were very fortunate that, both mother and child had no issues with breastfeeding. So, we never had any need to supplement with formula or anything else.

Baby Naijachef was breastfed exclusively for the first 6-7 months of his life (Kudos Mrs NaijaChef), not even water. He’d been showing interest in food for about a month, but if you’re like we were, we weren’t sure how to proceed.

The first meal
We decided that we’d give him one thing at a time and see how he reacts. Of course, anything he was going to eat had to be zero to low salt as baby’s bodies can’t process salt or sugar at that age. The very first thing we tried him with was healthy dodo. He found it hard. He of course had no teeth, and so all he did, was a lot of sucking on the plantains.

We learnt from that, so next up we tried boiled plantains. He didn’t eat a lot of it, but he did eat some! Progress!

In case you’re wondering, we decided we were not going to do any pureeing of any sorts. We decided to go with the principles of baby led weaning (you offer the baby foods they can hold, the baby decides what they want to eat, how much to eat, and eats it themselves). You want to avoid giving them small foods they can choke on, like groundnuts, grapes, raisins, etc.

Other foods we tried early on
We got bolder! Haha! Of course, he was still showing strong interest in what we ate, so we started trying other foods. Around 6 months old, babies start to need supplemental iron to what they were born with and get from breast milk. Foods high in iron which we gave him are:

    Beef
    Chicken
    Egg yolk

We also tried to make sure we were offering him fruits and vegetables. We found out he really loved bananas.

Initially, all he did was mostly chomp on the beef and suck, he didn’t swallow, but that’s okay. Keep in mind, he was still having his regular breastfeeding. The goal was to have him get used to other foods, and get supplemental iron. The additional foods were all had between his regular meal times.

Funny Story

When baby would rather have jollof

When baby would rather have jollof

I particularly remember this day! He sometimes struggled holding food when we started offering him food. On this day, he took a look at the broccoli and beef strips. I saw him grab one of the broccoli florets with his right hand, swing his hand out and drop the broccoli to the floor. I assumed he just wasn’t sure what to do, and was playing with the food.

Then, the right hand swings back, grabs a beef strip, holds it firmly, and stuffs it in his mouth! 😮

I couldn’t believe my eyes! People, 6-month olds know exactly what they want! Lol!

As I write this article, our ‘baby’ is now 13 months. We’ve since come to realize that he particularly loves protein; meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt e.t.c. He never gets tired of Greek yogurt! He eats everything we eat now though. He loves eba (which he calls ‘abba’). He doesn’t like pepper (or can’t handle it yet), so we don’t force it; for example, he eats his eba with meat broth.

Typical meals in a day

A typical day meal plan for baby naijachef looks like this:

8:00 AM: About 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
9:00 AM: 1/2 cup of oatmeal with Greek yogurt or milk with 1/2 a banana
12:00 PM: Boiled sweet potatoes with chicken broth and a chicken drumstick and mixed vegetables
1:00 PM: About 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
5:30 PM: Eba with chicken broth and fish (usually salmon)

Also, he still gets breast milk 3-4 times a day in addition.

What have you found works with your baby? Please leave a comment below!

Baby Naijachef

Baby Naijachef

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Valentine’s day idea – 3 Course Meal

This valentine’s day idea for dinner was inspired by our friend Kachi, over at KacheeTee. She recently reached out and asked a simple question: What meal do you think men should cook for their wives/ GF/ Fiancee this Valentine, and why have you chosen this?

For the full post from Kachi, see here.

See my response below. I’d like you to try it out and share how it went in the comments’ section below.

I would start off with a salad of greens topped with shaved coconut, dates, raisins, and my avocado dressing.

The main course will be fried rice and grilled chicken breast. (my wife loves Chinese food and chicken breast, so that’s inspired by her).

And to top it off for dessert, simple vanilla ice cream, topped with strawberries, bananas and a drizzle of warm chocolate.

I created this 3-course meal for my wife and mum who was visiting. So, for your valentine’s day meal, follow below. The entire meal took an hour and a half to make from start to finish.

Ingredients

Box of green salad, sliced almonds, raisins, 2 avocados, brown rice, shrimp, mixed veggies, chicken breast/beef/pork, 3 strawberries, 1 banana, 1 pint of vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate syrup.

Steps from start to finish

  • Season your meat and put in the fridge.
  • Clean your vegetables and leave to dry.
  • Thinly slice your strawberries and banana. I used 3 strawberries and 1 banana.
  • Make the salad dressing.
  • Make your main course.
  • Serve.
  • Appetizer

    Get any box of salad greens from a store, a small packet of raisins and sliced almonds. Nuts will do as well, just sprinkle over the salad on a plate. I couldn’t find dates, so I skipped for this. Click for the recipe for the avocado dressing.

    Tossed lettuce salad with sliced almonds and raisins

    Tossed lettuce salad with sliced almonds and raisins

    Main course

    I have come to prefer brown rice for my fried rice because it’s firmer and crunchy. See my brown rice fried rice recipe.

    For the meat, I sliced some chicken breast, seasoned it and baked. The topping sauce is proprietary ;), but bbq sauce will do. You can also use beef or pork as an alternative. I baked the meat in the oven at 350F/176C for about 40 minutes. I put it in just before I started making the fried rice. You can also put the meat in a pan and cook that way.

    Fried rice and chicken breast

    Fried rice and chicken breast

    Dessert

    First of all, don’t be like me and try to make your own chocolate syrup at home. I messed it up and didn’t have time to fix it as you’ll see in the picture below. It happens 🙂

    Take a scoop of the vanilla bean ice cream and surround with the banana and strawberry slices, and top with chocolate syrup. I served this in a martini glass.

    Vanilla ice cream with melted chocolate, strawberries and bananas

    Vanilla ice cream with melted chocolate, strawberries and bananas

    Did you like this? Share with friends, and leave a comment below!

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    Moi Moi leaves

    Moi Moi leaf

    This week, I wanted to share a really quick post on some information on the moi moi leaves I found when doing some research for my moin moin recipe post.

    Traditionally, the moi moi leaves are used in making moin moin. It takes quite some skill to pour liquid(ground beans) into carefully folded leaves, and ensure that when the wrap is placed in a pot to steam, the ground beans don’t leak out. The leaves are also used in wrapping a variety of other foods for cooking such as eko(steamed corn starch).

    Moi Moi Leaves

    Moin Moin Leaves

    The proper names of moi moi leaves

    These leaves are not to be mistaken for banana leaves. The scientific name for Moi Moi leaves is Thaumatococcus daniellii. It is called ewe eran (loosely translated to goat/sheep/ram leaves) in Yoruba. This is probably because they are sweet and goat/sheep/ram love these. In Ibo, they are called Uma leaves.

    Interesting facts

    • Moi moi leaves contain a sweet protein called thaumatin. This would explain why moin moin steamed in leaves taste better than those made in anything else.
    • Each leaf grows individually on a stalk from the ground, rather than on a stalk with multiple leaves as one might expect.
    • Moin Moin Leaves

      Moi Moi Leaves Growing

    • Thaumatin is extracted from the leaves and is used as a sweetener, in substitute for sugar.
    • The leaves are indigenous to the rain forests of west Africa, but have also been introduced to Australia and Singapore.

    So, next time you are making moin moin, and you are trying to decide what to steam your bean pudding in, reach for the moin moin leaves. 🙂

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    Ike’s Cafe & Grill (Atlanta, Georgia)

    Ikes Cafe & Grill

    I got to Atlanta early Sunday morning; the trip necessitated by the compulsory in-person appearance required by the Nigerian consulate to get your passport renewed. And after going to church with my cousin, and lunch at my aunt’s, I was ready for a nap. I’d been up since 4am in order to catch my flight.

    I had told my friend Chinenye, whom I hadn’t seen in years that I’d be in town, and we’d agreed to meet up in the evening. When I woke up and called Chinenye and we were trying to figure out where to meet up, the conversation went something like this:

    Chinenye: What do you want to do?
    NaijaChef: I don’t know o! Anything, doesn’t matter. What do you want to do?
    Chinenye: Let’s go to Ike’s Cafe. It should be popping today.

    We agreed to meet up at Ike’s Cafe. I had my doubts about an African restaurant that would be ‘popping’ at 6PM on a Sunday evening, but I said nothing. The meet up was about reconnecting with a friend anyway, not necessarily going to eat or party.

    I hung up, and quickly called another friend that I was planning to meet up with on this trip, Sumo. I mentioned to him that I’d be meeting up with Chinenye that evening at Ike’s Cafe. Again, Sumo too was definitive in his comments about the fact that Ike’s Cafe should be fun. It couldn’t be a coincidence. Sumo, a Liberian, was as sure as Chinenye, a Nigerian, that Ike’s Cafe would be fun on Sunday evening.
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    Typical Nigerian Street Food

    One thing is guaranteed, Nigerian street food is the most delicious stuff you’ll ever eat in Nigeria. Sure, there are fancy restaurants, and there are celebrity chefs, and you might even get to eat delicious home cooked meals, but nothing beats street food.

    Children have gotten punished over and over again by parents for sneaking out to buy street food, and they still sneak out again. Students have gotten in trouble with teachers for sneaking out of school to buy street food, and they still do it again. Husbands have bought street food, refused to eat their wives’ food, and suffered dire consequences, and they still love street food. There’s no denying everyone loves Nigerian street food. It might not be prepared under the most sanitary conditions, but those who make street food have an innate ability in the culinary arts that cannot be taught.

    Nigeria is such a diverse country, with over 100 different languages, street food available really depends on where exactly in the country you find yourself. However, we will highlight some of the more popular Nigerian street food.

    Suya

    Suya is spicy skewered meat which originates from the Hausa people from Northern Nigeria. Suya is peculiar for the unique yaji spice in which the meat is marinated before being barbecued. The yaji spice recipe is a tightly controlled secret. It is made up of ground peanuts, salt, red pepper, ginger, bouillon cubes amongst other spices. The ratio of this formula is however not commonly known. Suya is now commonly available all over Nigeria and it is a truly Nigerian street food.

    Suya

    Photo courtesy: Flickr

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    5 Healthy Alternatives to White Rice

    Healthy Alternatives to White Rice

    White rice, White rice, White rice! I love me some white rice! My rice of choice is currently Jasmine rice. I can eat Jasmine rice and stew all day every day for a month! I know there are many of you like me out there. This post is for us! lol! The issue with white rice is that it is predominantly carbohydrate, and unless you are trying to bulk up, it is not the best thing to have as the main component of your meal.

    Something interesting to keep in mind though if you would like to quit eating white rice but still struggling; because white rice is a refined grain, manufacturers nowadays enrich white rice with vitamins and minerals. Be careful to read the instructions on the bag/box of rice you buy. You might notice that it says fortified with vitamins and to not wash the rice before cooking. For most Nigerians, I know this might be hard to do since we were brought up ensuring that we wash rice before cooking. A viewer rightly noticed on our Jollof Rice video that the rice was not washed, and I pointed out that it was intentional for the aforementioned reason.

    Below, we discuss 5 healthy alternatives to white rice.

    Brown Rice

    This is probably the most obvious choice. Brown rice is really just white rice that has the bran and germ layers intact. Again, be careful, just because the packaging says it’s brown rice, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Check the packaging! White rice and brown rice have about the same amount of calories and carbs. The difference is that brown rice has a lot more nutrients, and is therefore, a more balanced meal. If you live in the United States, it is mandatory for manufacturers to put the nutrition facts on the box, and this is true for a lot of other countries as well. I discuss how to read nutrition labels here. Ensure that the fiber content is at least 8%. You will notice a lot of brands that have 4% fiber which is the same as most white rice brands.

    Now, I can’t eat brown rice and stew. As I mentioned I’ve tried, and failed, lol. The best way I have found to eat brown rice, is in fried rice. Check out this recipe.

    Brown Rice Fried Rice in Wok

    Brown Rice Fried Rice in Wok

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    Top 5 Foods at a Nigerian Party (Owambe)

    Top 5 Nigerian Foods

    Nigerians, we love our parties! Give us any chance to celebrate, and there needs to be a party. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, birth of a baby, job promotion…sometimes we have parties just because it’s Saturday and we didn’t find anything else to do. Turn down for What???!!! And we don’t just party just to get together and dance, there has to be food. Afterall, any party without Nigerian food is not a party at all, it’s just a meeting!

    So here is a list of top 5 foods to expect when you attend a Nigerian party.

    Jollof Rice

    Every other food on this list is probably open to debate depending on who you talk to. Jollof Rice is not. If you attend a Nigerian party, and there is no Jollof, don’t hang around, they’re not sure what they’re doing. Don’t listen to stories of, “Oh, I wanted to try something different.” Why? It is Jollof for a reason. Nobody gets tired of Jollof. Jollof exists to help party planners have at least 1 dish figured out. It’s a no-brainer.

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    Nigerian Foods for Diabetics – A personal story

    My mum, grandma and I

    As I mentioned in the about page, my grandma was very influential in my learning to cook, and as we both got older, I prepared a lot of her meals. As I grew older (older being still under 12), I learnt that she was diabetic. I don’t know that I completely understood what being diabetic meant in those early years, but I knew it meant that ‘mama’ ate differently from us. I learnt that she was to avoid sugar, and purely starchy foods. Really, a lot of things were forbidden for her. White rice, which is such a common staple in Nigerian homes was a no no. Eba/Garri was also forbidden. However, I know there are times she got tired of her regular diet and ate some of the ‘forbidden meals’ when she really really wanted some. I was often party to helping fulfill these cravings. 🙂 For example, my parents would come home to find that we had made chin chin during the day, which is just pure white flour and sugar and butter; all the things she should be avoiding! :O

    I am no healthcare professional of course, and I advise consulting a doctor and a dietitian if diagnosed. Below, I discuss some of the meals which are considered good for diabetics which she ate. This list is by no means all encompassing.

    Amala
    Mama regularly had this for dinner. We usually bought the plantain flour amala which is healthier than the yam flour version. The year after high school where I was home, before I went to university, I made amala almost every day. I became so professional at it. I remember the first time we made it together, several years earlier, one of those days where it was just the two of us at home. I made such a mish mash of it, it was super lumpy and not at all well made, but she ate it all the same. 🙂

    Ewedu
    Ewedu is common to the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is known in English as Jute leaves. It is prepared by cooking the leaves with potash and then, traditionally, “bashing” it with a specially reserved broom.

    Amala & Ewedu

    Amala & Ewedu
    Photo Credit: 9jafood.com.ng

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    Funmi’s Cafe (Louisville, Kentucky)

    Puff puff

    We live about an hour from Funmi’s Cafe in Louisville, Kentucky. I heard about Funmi’s Cafe by the famous ‘word of mouth’. A Lebanese friend from work who grew up in Nigeria had told me I needed to go check it out. The conversation went something like this; Read More

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    Selecting and storing fresh vegetables & fruits

    It might seem very logical that food tastes best when it is freshly cooked. What is not always logical, is the best way to ensure that the ingredients which go into making that delicious meal are fresh.

    The rotting squishy tomatoes…the bell pepper that has lost its crunch…the squishy cucumber…these are never good signs. Read More

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    5 beautiful and fun ways to present pounded yam! :)

    In our commitment to promoting Nigerian foods, we decided to explore and share a few nice but easy methods to serve our starchy foods. Check out the presentation below. Read More

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    Spooky Poundo

    Spooky Poundo

    Imagine coming down early in the morning, while it’s still dark out, and your spouse is sitting at the table with a candle and a plate of spooky poundo and egusi, saying “Good morning darling! Breakfast is ready!”

    Thankfully, that is not my story, but those little chills that crept up your spine as you read? Totally worth it 🙂 Read More

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    Creepy Akara (Happy Halloween!)

    Creepy Akara

    MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *Insert more creepy laughter here!*

    Lol! You already know you get fun, laughter and bits of crazy when you throw Mrs NaijaChef and I together. About a month ago, she suggested that we had to do a post for halloween. The conversation went something like this… Read More

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    Healthy Eba (Garri) – Nigeria 55th Independence day post

    Nigerian Flag Eba

    Lol! Healthy Garri! Hahahahahahahahahaha! Please stop! There is no such thing. Garri is carbs is carbs is carbs. However, adding vegetables to your eba, does make it a little bit healthier.

    I know people turn up their noses at the thought of green eba, but it’s not that strange of a concept. If you think about it, it’s the same way we have pasta and chips that are “vegetable fortified” these days. I had seen the “Ebbage” trend on the internet popularized by the lovely Dunni of Dooney’s Kitchen, and I had initially turned up my nose at the idea of coloring eba too, but this seemed like the perfect idea for an independence day post. Having tried this now, trust me, it doesn’t taste any different from regular eba. Read More

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    So, the packaging says it’s healthy right?

    Healthy packaging

    So, as a typical Naija guy, I tend to eat what I want, when I want and how I like it and nobody should tell me otherwise. This was me tillll…enter Mrs Naija Chef.

    This is not a health blog of course and I love sweet things too much to be the one dispensing healthy eating habits. However, we’ve all heard the saying…

    You are what you eat!
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    My experience with the GM Diet

    Me? Diet? Never. In my head, dieting means depriving myself of certain foods or limiting your food or changing what you eat for extended periods of time. I could never be convinced to try any type of diet. I eat what I want and I do play a lot of soccer which invariably helps me maintain my weight.

    Unfortunately for me, I also like a challenge. Late 2014, my co-worker challenged me to the GM diet which she has been on a couple of times. She has seen me eat, knows how much I love my food and was convinced that I couldn’t do the diet. Fortunately though, you see, unlike most diets, this only lasts for a week. So, I put on my ‘troll’ challenge accepted face! Read More

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    45 minute gourmet dinner

    Date Night Dinner

    Ever spent a significant portion of your day thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner? The ingredients you need, how you’re going to make it and you play it over and over and over…and over in your head, and then you get home and you execute? No? Oh okay, Me neither 🙂 Well, except for this 1 day -___-. It was date night in our house, and we’d planned to finally watch frozen. Read More

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    Tomato Sauce

    I figured it was better to write a post on this as it is the base and key to several dishes. Jollof rice, Meat Stew, Vegetable Stew…I even use it for Yam Pottage.
    The ingredients vary depending on who you ask. You can add more Habaneros to make it more spicy; some people add green peppers; some blend with spices. The proportion of these ingredients vary from person to person as well. I have shared my standard below. This recipe yields about 4 cups of tomato sauce. Read More

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