Stuffed Spudniks and Spell-Your-Name Soup

Stuffed Spudniks

For the littlest eaters, simply mash plain baked potato with a bit of formula and serve. For bigger babies, after the potato halves are stuffed, make potato faces with steamed carrot-strip smiles, frozen green-pea eyes, and parsley hair before final heating.

1 baking potato, baked and halved

2 slices Black Forest ham, chopped

1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

5 tablespoons milk

1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley garnish: steamed carrot strips, peas, parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop potato flesh carefully out of skin, leaving it intact. Set skins aside and mash potato in a small bowl. Add ham, cheese, milk, sour cream, and parsley and mix well. Stuff back into potato halves and chill. Decorate the potatoes as described above with the optional garnishes. To serve, heat for 5 to 7 minutes in the oven. (Or microwave on high for 1 or 2 minutes.)

Makes 2 grown-up servings.

Variations: Instead of ham and Swiss, try these stuffing suggestions:

chopped broccoli florets

grated Cheddar cheese

chopped spinach

corn niblets, peas, and red-pepper cubes

chopped asparagus and freshly grated Parmesan cheese

crumbled bacon and chopped hard-boiled eggs

sauteed onions and mushrooms

steamed zucchini

sauteed ground beef, shredded green pepper, and diced onion

Spell-Your-Name Soup

Your child will love having his name spelled out in pasta. If he is feeding himself, keep the vegetables big enough so that he can pluck them out of the soup with his fingers. If you're out of alphabet pasta, any shape can be substituted. Chicken broth can also be used instead of water. If you're using canned broth, be sure to taste the finished soup before adding salt.

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 to 3 celery stalks, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 small rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 quarts water

1 bay leaf

Pinch of dried thyme

1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup frozen corn niblets

1 cup frozen green peas

1/2 cup uncooked alphabet pasta

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in a large pot. Add carrot, celery, onion, and rutabaga and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is transparent - about 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring frequently. Add water, bay leaf, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup for 25 to 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper and cook until pasta is tender. (Use cooking time for pasta listed on box.) Remove bay leaf before serving and season to taste. Makes 2-1/2 quarts.

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