'Top Chef' Host Padma Lakshmi Dishes on Cooking for Babies
Padma Lakshmi has a lot on her plate.
In addition to being a best-selling cookbook author, host of the Bravo series "Top Chef," creator of the spice line Easy Exotic and a jewelry designer, the model and actress also is a new mom.
In February, Lakshmi gave birth to daughter Krishna and, as she describes it, has been floating on a cloud ever since.
Lakshmi, 39, was in New York Aug. 6, judging a Hillshire Farm sandwich making contest at a BlogHer event, and ParentDish caught up with the famous mama to see what else she's been whipping up.
ParentDish: Has becoming a mom changed your views about cooking?
Padma Lakshmi: No. I have a lot of children in my family and we always try to have the kids eat similar foods to what adults eat right away. The only difference is, we just make them a lot less spicy and a lot less fatty.
PD: What are some examples of what the kids in your family eat?
PL: Lentils and rice. We mash it up before serving it to them. We don't really believe in buying store-bought baby food. When my daughter can eat solids, I want her to start eating normal foods.
PD: Will you follow this tradition and cook for Krishna?
PL: Yes. I will make food at home. It is simple to do and I have a nice kitchen where I can do it. I am sure I will have an organic jar or two of food with me since I do travel a lot, but my goal is to make sure she eats a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet.
PD: So, what's on the menu?
PL: Take for example, a carrot. You boil it with a little salted water then you mush it up. Same thing with a potato, yams or an avocado -- only after it turns soft, you peel off the skin. In terms of dessert, when I was growing up my favorite was sliced bananas with milk, cinnamon and sugar.
PD: Yum! How can our readers prepare that for their little ones?
PL: You slice up a firm banana in a bowl, you pour whole milk so it covers the banana and then you put in a pinch of sugar and cinnamon. If you want to serve it to a baby, just mush up the banana with the back of a fork.
PD: It sounds like simple is the way to go.
PL: Yes. Not only is it healthier for your baby, but it is also less time consuming for you.
PD: Recently on "Top Chef," one of the tasks was a baby food Quickfire Challenge where the chefs had to make something you can eat and a pureed version for a baby. Was that segment your idea because you are a new mom?
PL: No. It was the idea of one of the producers. Plus, Tom Colicchio and his wife just had a son, so we thought this was a fun way to do another Quickfire Challenge and keep it fresh.
PD: Now that you are a mom, what have you learned about baby food?
PL: It is good not to use too many ingredients in your dishes, especially since you are going to learn and discover if your child may be allergic to something.
PD: With so many parents nowadays freaked out about nut allergies, would you consider not using them in your recipes?
PL: What I do, I always give options. For instance, if I was making a wrap and someone was watching their calories, I would give suggestions of other items they can use instead.
PD: What are the benefits of encouraging kids to cook with their parents in the kitchen?
PL: I feel it is great to get kids into the kitchen as early as you can. If you get a child interested and involved in the food they are eating, they are more likely to eat healthy. A child who learns to make their own food is more likely to eat their own food. You will give your child the gift of good eating for the rest of their life.
PD: You started young?
PL: Yes. I cooked with my mom and my grandma and it is why I chose to be a cookbook author and why I now have a spice company.
PD: Would you consider writing a baby cookbook for moms?
PL: I am very interested in it. But first I want to explore it before I jump on the bandwagon. I feel like I just had her two minutes ago. I am hoping she will have a good palate, though. (Laughs)
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.