twinfinite wisdom

my children are the reason i get up in the morning… and the reason i drink at night

Foolproof toddler food

on April 8, 2013

I’ve mentioned before that I am not a great cook. I know enough to get by, but totally lack the ability to just throw some things together and voila: a delicious, edible meal. I missed out on the gene pool for this one; my family is full of great cooks (my sister even cooks us dinner at least once or twice a week which is a huge bonus). I like simple recipes with easy steps, which turns out to be ideal for baby food and toddler meals (and also for my husband who does not like anything new or weird in his food- when I met him he didn’t like onions or garlic?!?!). Making infant baby food was pretty easy; the Baby Brezza was our savior. You can get more creative with toddler food. The most important thing is to keep trying… what they don’t like at first, they might like the third or fourth or tenth time around. Don’t rule anything out. It can get frustrating, but don’t give in too quickly. There have been times when I have pried their mouths open to just give them a little taste and then they turned out liking it. Or doused it in applesauce. Or called quinoa ‘oatmeal’. Sometimes, this backfires- they totally knew I was messing with them and refused to eat oatmeal for a while. They are smarter than we think…

But any attempt is better than prepackaged toddler meals. They are full of preservatives, sodium, and are expensive. If you don’t have the time, the frozen toddler meals are healthier than the shelf-stable ones. Here is a good quote from a recent study on the dangers of toddler meals: “The fewer hands and machines that touch our food, the better they are for our bodies,” King said. “It’s the same for kids as it is for adults.” (huffingtonpost.com). It is not really rocket science, but sometimes pre-made meals just seem easier. I can’t even look at them, so I prefer not to subject my kids to them.

Sweet Potato Sandwich

This is my favorite quick and easy go-to lunch for the boys. And I am obsessed with sweet potatoes. So much bang for your buck (both healthy and cheap). I used to buy the microwaveable, express cook “Sweet PotatOHs”. They cooked in the microwave in five minutes. They are wrapped in a microwave safe, BPA free plastic wrap and are more expensive than regular sweet potatoes. Then I realized you can microwave all sweet potatoes (duh), they just take a little longer. I needed a PB&J alternative. I grew up on peanut butter and fluff, and have always despised the taste of jelly. Cleaning up the sticky mess just added to my hatred. But let’s be realistic, there had to be some quick sandwich I can throw together a few days a week, or bring in my diaper bag as a backup snack. I also brought these on the beach every day while on vacation last year, they hold up fine without being in a cooler.

This sandwich is so simple I almost feel like a fraud calling it a recipe. Let’s see if you can figure it out. Microwave the sweet potato (I poke some holes with a fork, place it in a small CorningWare dish, and microwave it about three minutes, turn it over and microwave for another three-four minutes. You want it really soft so it is spreadable). Put the bread in the toaster. Butter the toast, spread the sweet potato on the bread, add a little salt and there you go. Put the extra sweet potato in a tupperware, and there is lunch for tomorrow. I get about four sandwiches out of one potato. That is two lunches in twin-world, a whopping four lunches for a single baby.

Quinoa and Veggies

I don’t feed my boys a lot of meat, so I have to find other means of protein. Beans and quinoa are protein rich, so we have them for lunch and dinner often. Quinoa is plain, so you can add whatever you have in the pantry. It is also fast and easy to cook. I don’t know why I just discovered this. They looked at it funny the first time I served it to them, but now it’s a staple. I mix it with beans and veggies- peas, carrots, chopped spinach, anything. I usually add chicken broth- but you can season it with just butter, salt and pepper, or even throw leftover sauce on it. I like cooking a bunch of vegetables at once, and then putting them in individual Tupperware containers to freeze, and just use them as needed. Whenever I am in the mood to cook, I do as much as I can. Because those moods are few and far between. I call it ‘cooking’, you probably call it ‘boiling’.

Rice and Beans

No recipe here, but just want to mention that if you want to feed your toddler brown rice, cooking it may seem like it’s taking eternity in hungry-kid-minutes. Uncle Ben’s has a whole line of whole grain brown rice that is ready in ninety seconds. Wegman’s makes their own version now, and some of them even have quinoa mixed in.

Baked Chickpeas

I saw a spicy version of these on “5 Ingredient Fix”, and wanted to try a lower-key version for my boys to snack on. I also messed up the recipe, which ended up still coming out fine. The recipe says to coat the chickpeas with the spices and olive oil first, and then bake. I baked them first, and then put them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, paprika, and added some cinnamon sugar to sweeten them. They were delicious, I ended up eating most of them. It is important to dry the chickpeas after you wash them, or else the oven steams them instead of crisping them.

Here is the recipe: Claire Robinson’s Spicy Baked Chickpeas (foodnetwork.com)

Baked Zucchini Chips

These turned out to be delicious, and I think the boys thought they were eating potato chips: Zucchini Oven Chips (myrecipes.com). I am going to try the “fake potato chip” method with more summer veggies once they are in season (eggplant, squash, zucchini, etc…) I used Italian breadcrumbs, and they definitely didn’t need any additional salt.

Butternut Squash Soup

Recipe is here.

Other Favorites

  • Barilla’s Veggie Pasta line- I don’t use these as their primary source of veggies but it is a good white pasta substitute
  • Leftover veggie frittata- This is my favorite way of getting rid of cooked veggies that are a few days old, and one step away from getting tossed. Preheat your oven to 425°, put some butter in an oven-safe sauté pan. Add in veggies and sauté for a few minutes. Beat three eggs (more or less depending on the amount of veggies), and pour over the veggies. Cook on the stove for a few minutes, until the eggs start to stabilize. Put some shredded cheese on top, and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the cheese starts bubbling and the eggs turn a nice golden brown. I let it cool down and then serve it in slices. After many burnt hands, I have invested in a pot handle sleeve.

Toddler Tricks

  • All done? But you barely touched it! Another little trick we’ve been trying lately is that if they say “all done” and have most of their meal left, tell them “two more bites”. Make them have two more bites, and then they can go play. Usually, the “two bites” turn into a few more because they forgot they even wanted to get down. But count with them and cheer when they take the bites.
  • Refusing to eat: Sometimes when one boy doesn’t like what I am giving them, I let them just sit there for a little while (in an empty high chair- they are usually raging and throwing everything in sight), and then give it back to them ten minutes later and they’ll eat it. Or they will at least try it. Sometimes, they are just not hungry. Toddlers are just like us, a skipped meal isn’t the end of the world. But don’t let them refuse everything because then you’ll be stuck making chicken fingers for them every meal. It’s a battle of wills, and you better win.
  • If someone else offers them something new or that they won’t eat for you, don’t immediately assume and say,”they’ll never eat that”. For some reason, whatever my brother-in-law has on his plate, both boys will devour. They seem more willing to try things when it is coming from someone other than myself.
  • Buy Healthy: Use jelly and ketchup that don’t have high-fructose corn syrup. Welch’s makes a “Natural Concord Grape Spread” that tastes just like the regular stuff according to my hubby. And almost all ketchup lines carry an organic version that doesn’t have corn syrup. Another favorite is the Land O Lakes butter with olive oil, made with only three ingredients. Simple meals, simple ingredients!

Here is the article on Toddler Meals: Sodium And Baby Food: Most Toddlers’ Snacks Too Salty (huffingtonpost.com)

 


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