March 3, 2012

feeding a toddler (and yourself)

Posted by guest writer, Lauren

Disclaimer: Despite the title, read to the end, the recipes are good ones that will feed most toddlers and your inner-toddler.

Titling this post, "feeding your toddler" makes me laugh. I might as well have called it, "Training your Dragon" or "Calculating the predictability of a rabid bunny". It is a large task, it requires a great deal of patience, and it varies from day to day (or more accurately, moment to moment). Just because I have a good eater on my hands, it's not always easy. Feeding Julia is sometimes a piece of cake (literally) and other times requires a tough battle to balance the art of finding food that she will eat and making sure that most of it is healthy.  I have failed many days and I humbly acknowledge that I have allowed my child to eat whatever she wants to assure that she will at least eat something that day. In the midst of those failures, I've learned some valuable lessons.

When Julia was ready to transition to solid foods as an infant, I discovered this great book:

Hungry Monkey

Hungry monkey is written by a well known food critic turned stay-at-home dad.  It's his journey through new-fatherhood as he redefines his roles while also clinging to his culinary passion.  He blends both worlds with a great deal of wit and an honest approach to parenting (and some great recipe discoveries to boot!)  This book taught me to introduce spicy foods and herbs and helped me to laugh and relax about the discovery of new foods throughout childhood and beyond.  Pretty soon, my 10 month old was happily slurping down spicy lentil soup and demanding "more enchilada" without a second thought.  It was freeing to know that parenthood did not mean that I was confined to pulling my child's meal together from a box.

The following recipes are favorites of ours. They have been adapted in our household to make food fun and to engage the whole family in the process of preparation. Preparation not only causes Julia to get pretty excited about the end product, but also fosters an appreciation for where her food comes from and how it all comes together. One may not believe that a 2 1/2 year old can grasp this, but even her simple comment, "Mommy, it only tastes good after you add the butter" helps me to trust that it's coming together in her wee mind.

I am quite proud.

She already knows the benefits of a bit of butter.

Here are two recipes that are sure to please anyone at any age.  I just happen to have a special toddler who adds her own flare.

These egg rolls are baked up a few times each month in our home. Do not discount them because they are baked, they are the most delicious, versatile meal and are easy for reheating the next day. They are quite healthy and packed with flavor.  This recipe was adapted fromCooking Light:


Ingredients:2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
2/3 cup coarsely chopped carrot
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 pound ground turkey breast
1 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
14 egg roll wrappers
Olive oil
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine celery and carrot in food processor, and pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.
3. Combine celery mixture and cabbage in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; vent. Microwave at high 5 minutes; drain.
4. Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add turkey; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cabbage mixture, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and pepper. Cover and chill 15 minutes.
5. Place 1 egg roll wrapper at a time onto work surface with 1 corner pointing toward you (wrapper should look like a diamond). Trim 1 inch off right and left corners of wrapper. Spoon 3 tablespoons turkey filling into center of wrapper. Fold lower corner of egg roll wrapper over filling. Fold in trimmed corners. Moisten top corner of wrapper with olive oil; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Repeat procedure with remaining wrappers, turkey filling, and olive oil.
6. Place, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 18 minutes or until golden brown.


We like to take detours from directions in our home.  The original recipe calls for egg whites, but we use olive oil. The recipe was already pretty healthy and I have tried it both ways.  I found that the olive oil made the egg rolls pretty darn good and allows us to whip up our "pixie dust' concoction of pink sprinkles added to the olive oil (not really enough to make any difference or change the flavor, but enough to add a little excitement to dinner time).  Julia's role is to "paint" the egg rolls - the pink accent and added goodness is a win/win for all parties involved.

And here is a recipe from our favorite cookbook - The Moosewood series. If you haven't checked out a Moosewood cookbook, you are missing out on recipes that are simple yet unique. The kind of recipes that make you want to try out new ingredients with inspiring results!

We call these egg muffins in our house. Julia calls them egg cupcakes, but that just seems wrong to me. Cupcakes always belong in their own category. They are quick and easy and I wonder why it's taken me this long in life to figure out this staple recipe:

from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe (a Moosewood Cookbook)

half a stick of butter
1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
8 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup minced scallion
fresh ground black pepper
2 Tblsp grated parmesan

add any variation of ingredients - we have added tomatoes and mozzarella to make a caprese version of these muffins and also added turkey sausage for a heartier "muffin".

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Spray muffin cups with nonstick spray. Place approximately 1 1/2 tsp of butter in each muffin cup. Place pans in preheating oven until the butter melts, the n take them out and divide bread crumbs among each cup.
2. Combine the eggs, ricotta and salt in a blender and whip until smooth. Sthir in the scallion and a generous amount of black pepper.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared cups, filling them right to the rim. Bake for 10 minutes, reach in and carefully sprinkle the top of each "muffin" with a little parmesan. Bake for another 10 minutes until the tops are puffy, golden and just barely firm to the touch.
4. Remove from the pan and let the "muffins" cool in the pans for 5 minutes (they will deflate a bit). Run a knife around the edges and lift or invert each "muffin" onto a cooling rack. Serve hot, warm, or at room temp.

So whether you have your very own toddler, find yourself with a little one in your home from time to time, or have your own two-year old tendencies, food doesn't have to be boring. Motherhood has somehow granted me a free ticket in the experience of food. Not only can it be good and satisfying, but it can be an interactive lesson for everyone involved.

Word to the wise, wear aprons. It will be messy.

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