Cooking with Toddlers: Homemade Baby Food

Apple and Blueberry Puree

A little recap of my day yesterday:

  • Little Fig came hurtling towards me at full speed, while I was squatting down to pick a toy up. He used my ponytail to scale me. I was nearly scalped in the process.
  • Upon emptying the “little loo” potty spilled pee all over my socks.
  • Smacked my 6 month old in the face with a tree branch on accident while he was sleeping in the ergo.
  • Walked all the way to the park with a baby and a toddler only to get caught in a torrential rain poor 20 seconds after we arrived.
  • While nursing the baby, Fig managed to lock me in the room. He then proceeded to scream bloody murder for the next 5 minutes because he couldn’t find me and couldn’t hear my voice over his own whaling.
  • Finally got around to showering only to realize 40 minutes later, after attempting to put on shorts, that I had only shaved one leg.

So when I embarked on making some apple and blueberry puree for the newest little foodie among us I was in a fairly sour mood to say the least.

To be totally honest, feeding little Cedar is marked with a bit of sadness. For 9 months inside + 6 on the outside he’s been totally dependent on me and now he’s growing apart from that magical time we’ve shared together. Starting solids means moving away from me and it’s always a little bittersweet.  Anyway, enough of the sappy.

Little Fig wanted to help and despite my feeling to the contrary and aforementioned horrific mood; I let him. I’m glad I did because it turns out making baby puree is an awesome toddler-friendly cooking activity given its relative ease and few ingredients. Seeing Fig’s face light up when we fed it to his little brother is a memory I’ll cherish forever. He experienced the joy of cooking for others.

Apples

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers: Roasted Radishes

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We have our backyard partitioned to keep the dog and most importantly, a rogue toddler, out of the vegetable patches. Recently however, little Fig, has figured out how to unlock the door and escape into the garden. I often peer out the window to check on him only to find him running through the rows at full speed, trying to grab some expressively forbidden garden produce and return towards the main garden before I notice. Clearly somebody has been reading too much Peter Rabbit.

And while I’m certainly not going to turn him into a pie like Mrs. McGregor, it is quite bothersome to find completely bald patches in your garden at the hands of a two year old. Furthermore he is fully aware of the explicit rule that he is not to enter the garden unattended which makes the idea of trespassing even more alluring.

Despite all the burglarization that has occurred over the last few weeks, our radishes did survive and were ready for harvest.

Plain old radishes don’t really excite most toddlers and Fig is no exception. He’ll eat a few pity bites at my request but that’s usually where it ends. There are two exceptions to this toddler-radish rule though.

He will devour radish-upon-radish if he’s picking them straight from the garden( due to the aforementioned illegality of the act) or if they’re roasted. A few days ago we harvested radishes together and roasted them. I’m pretty sure he consumed several pounds of the red little root by day’s end.

Growing radishes is near instant gratification as far as gardening is concerned. They sprout in just a few days and depending on the variety, are ready to eat in just a few short weeks. I chose a variety that is ready to harvest in 18 days specifically for Fig called De 18 Jour. 

If you have the opportunity to plant radishes with your toddler, I can’t recommend it enough. They are easy to grow and you too may be changing your tone from           “please try one bite of your radish” to ” please stop eating all the radishes!”.

Ingredients:

  • 20 radishes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste.

Directions: 

  • Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  • Clean radishes.
  • Place in baking dish and coat with olive oil and salt.
  • Bake in the oven until the radishes are crisp which is about 15-18 minutes.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe:

  • Harvesting the radishes from the garden
  • Washing/scrubbing the radishes
  • Chopping off the stems and placing them in a baking dish.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Popcorn with Nutritional Yeast

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Fig and I have been making big plans for our garden. He thinks we should only grow flowers; dandelions to be exact. I take a more pragmatic approach, suggesting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. He’s been rather recalcitrant, as two year olds are often prone to, but I may have changed his mind after introducing him to popcorn. At least he’s open to growing a bit of zea mays now.

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To say the transformation of hard corn kernels into soft and airy delectable morsels blew Fig’s mind would be an understatement. Popcorn literally rocks his world now. The act of making popcorn is really a dramatic affair for a two year old when you get to thinking of it. Warming up the big cast iron pot with oil, waiting for those first few kernels to pop and then BAM all the kernels go pouring into the pot and pop, pop, pop, pop! After the popcorn was sufficiently popped, we waited in anticipation for it cool, sprinkled a bit of salt and nutritional yeast on it.

Fig was content to putz around the garden with a freshly popped batched of his corn. Sometimes cooking with toddlers is as easy as letting little ones get their hands on some corn seeds and watching a transformation happen.

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Sauerkraut with Toddlers

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When I was pregnant with Fig I craved onion, garlic, kimchi and sauerkraut. The most unholiest of combinations was my personal heaven. Bliss was a loaded garlic kimchi scooped directly from the jar and straight into my mouth. Our apartment also smelled like a dumpster.

I ate so much fermented goodness that it occurred to me I may have slightly fermented Fig in utero. It wouldn’t surprise me since Fig is a bit on the kooky side. Much like sauerkraut, Fig is deliciously bonkers but in the most wonderful way. You can tell something funky’s going on but you can’t help but go back for more.

I’ve been making sauerkraut for quite some time by myself. It recently dawned on me that kraut and toddlers are a match made in microbial heaven and that it was time Fig jump on the fermentation bandwagon with me. It’s fantastically simple to make and involves chopping, salting, massaging, and packing into jars, a sensory wonderland for little ones.

Fig helped me chop and was a huge fan of massaging the cabbage. There is nothing quite like submerging your hands and having your way with a bowl full of cabbage when you’re two. Packing it in the jar was also quite fun but I had to temper his enjoyment lest he broke the glass jar with his tamping vigor.

Basic Sauerkraut

I make my sauerkraut by taste nowadays. I sprinkle salt as I go and taste it rather than measure it out religiously. This was after I followed a poorly written recipe that was so salty I nearly mummified myself right on the spot. The general cabbage-to-salt ratio is 5:3. For every 5 pounds of cabbage you need 3 tablespoons of salt. Our family never makes it through 5 pounds of sauerkraut so I usually use one large cabbage ( which is around 2 pounds). That amount will fit nicely into a pint mason jar. You pretty much can’t go wrong if you follow Sandor Katz’s recipes. His book Wild Fermentation is a true gem and everything I’ve made from there has turned out delicious.

Directions:

  • Finely chop the cabbage.
  • Sprinkle salt on the cut cabbage and, with your hands, massage it very well to draw all the excess water out.
  • If you don’t have a fermentation crock, pack the cabbage into a mason jar. Pack as tightly as you can since this will help to draw the water out further. Cover the jar so that flies will stay away but it will be exposed to the air. I put a sprouting lid on our mason jars. A cloth will work just as well.
  • It’s important to keep the cabbage submerged in the salty water, the brine, completely while it’s in the mason jar. Because we don’t have a crock, I usually check on the kraut several times a day and just tamp it down when I see the cabbage emerging from the water line.
  • Check periodically after a few days. It should taste a little tangy by the third or fourth day, increasing in tanginess as time goes on.
  • After the kraut has fermented to my liking ( around a week or so), I put a lid on it and store in the fridge.
    • If you’re pregnant, you can enjoy a delicious batch of freshly fermented kraut on ice cream, a pb&j or in some granola. These are all time tested and pregnancy-approved ways to eat sauerkraut.
    • If you are not pregnant, you will most likely find the above suggestions repulsive and may find eating it on bread or crackers more to your liking-suit yourself but you only live once!

Our Favorite Fermentation Resources:

Wild Fermentation

Nourished Kitchen

On a final note, I’m sure there are those of you, probably with toddlers, wondering if Fig actually eats the kraut. He certainly ate quite a few cabbage leaves during the prep but he’s a little less enthusiastic about the kraut itself. While I was hoping he would turn into a pint sized fermento, I’m dismayed to report this has not happened. He will eat exactly one bite per my suggestion but that’s about it. I suppose one bite is better than no bites, so I’ll count it as a win.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

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When you’re two and you have an attitude the best thing to do is squeeze some OJ.

Fig has his moments, usually in the afternoon, in which he wanders around the house like a zombie with a low-grade sob and utters ” I don’t want that“. That is an umbrella term Fig uses for anything and everything that displeases him at any given moment. For example, should I be drinking a cup of coffee when he is in one of these moods, he’ll point with a quivering lip and proclaim ” I don’t want that“; followed by a river of tears . Should I put in a load of laundry?  I don’t want that“; again cue dramatic weeping. Things like air, gravity and birds have also been cause for alligator tears.

I’ve come to realize, the only thing that will snap him out of these moods is giving him something sensory to do with his hands. Washing dishes, peeling, shelling, and lately, squeezing oranges.

The key with squeezing oranges is they must be quite soft. Too firm and little ones won’t be able to get much juice out of them. Mandarins and clementines are the best. We had some blood oranges that were a bit past their prime and quite soft. I demonstrated with a few and then Fig hit the ground running.

20 minutes later, he was enjoying a glass of freshly squeezed OJ in the garden and with his zest for life restored, returned to cavorting with the family of squirrels that have taken residence in our backyard.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Peeling Carrots

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I wonder if I can make Chicken Kiev with Fig? That was an actual thought I had a few days ago while I was under the influence of butter. Deliciously fragrant butter messes with your mind I tell you.

In my butter-induced altered state, I began contemplating some of the best times Fig and I have had in the kitchen. All of them have a commonality about them. Rather spontaneous and simple, they’ve emerged out of moments of quiet where I’ve been busily working in the kitchen only to feel a small tug of my pants and soft utterance of  “can I help please?

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To which the answer is always yes ( most of the time.) Peeling carrots is one of those easy kitchen activities that can provide minutes ( let’s be real about toddlers attention spans) of focused attention from an eager child and it’s about as simple as you can get.

It also happens to be the most reliable way I can get Fig to eat carrots. It was my intention to serve what was left of the carrots ( which by the time Fig was done peeling happened to be three) for dinner; roasted to perfection and served with garlic salt. But once these beauties were roasted we made the executive decision to sample just one more….which resulted their complete disappearance at the hands of a two year old.

A few hours later I saw the dog going at a carrot that had been apparently left in the grass by Fig. I left her alone in carrot bliss.

The next day, as I watched Fig putz around the garden I noticed him gnawing on something. A closer inspection revealed it was the same dirty dog carrot. Apparently roasted carrots are even better the next day with a hint of dog slobber and bit of morning dew.

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