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: Quinoa and Inca Berry Breakfast Bowl

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Our breakfasts’ are in need of some serious overhaul. They go something like this; oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal, pancakes. Really exciting.

Don’t get me wrong oatmeal is awesome but it becomes a little ho hum, as Fig will tell you, if you’ve had it every day of your life for the past two years. I’ve been thinking about quinoa for quite some time and thought there might be some potential if dressed in oatmeal’s clothing; chia, inca berries, hemp, sunflower seeds, maple syrup and cinnamon.

Inca Berry, sometimes called Peruvian Ground Cherry, originates from the high altitude regions of peru. They are ridiculously expensive but equally delicious so we only buy them in very small quantities. If you can’t find any, cranberries or raisins will suffice just fine.

Fig was totally into building his own breakfast bowl since he got to put the fixings on himself. He’s really into mixing and pouring right now, so despite this being extraordinarily simple to set up, he had inordinate amounts of fun concocting his own little quinoa bowl.

Since this had the potential to create an epic mess ( think sunflower and hemp seed explosion) I let him build his bowl outside. This saves me a ton of time on cleanup and makes the process of cooking with toddlers a bit easier for all parties.

Later that day I saw a little bunny fufu hopping around the site, probably munching on some $15-a-pound Inca berries that were left in the quinoa-bowl-making wake. Eat well my little furry friend!

Quinoa and Incan Berry Breakfast Bowl

Serves 4

  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup of incan berries
  • 1/4 cup of hemp
  • 1/4 cup of almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seed
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Maple syrup to taste

In a bowl combine the quinoa with all the fixings and add your milk of choice.

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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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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: Sage Crackers

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We recently moved into a new place with a massive front and backyard. The previous owners had the teeniest tiniest patch of garden and I never understood why until we started expanding it. The amount of crap we’ve unearthed is truly astounding ( see picture below for a sampling of the loot).

My first thought when we commenced Project Garden Expansion and quickly started exhuming a multitude of thingy-ma jigs was “What if we find buried treasure!” quickly followed by the morose thought of ” What if we find a coffin?”. This second scenario is much more likely  given the trajectory of our findings ( i.e. glasses , cuff links and a hammer).

Anyway, we’ve also realized that the previous folks remedy to every garden conundrum was to “put some hay on it!”. Have you seen that Portlandia skit where they put a bird on everything? This hay situation is pretty much the exact the same thing. HAY ON EVERYTHING. My husband and I joke that they probably didn’t even clean the house, they just threw some hay on it!

However, after some deep meditative thought I realized I am in no place to judge our hay-loving friends given I do the exact same thing with sage.

I solve any and all recipe problems with sage.  In fact, my first thought when thinking of what to cook for dinner typically starts with ” I wonder what I could do with all that sage in the fridge. There is usually no less than several bushels of Sage in our fridge. Yes I said bushels.

So yet again, Fig and I found our way into the kitchen after a long day out in the garden hauling hay and busted out the sage for some good old fashioned crackers. Really, can you ever have enough sage?

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Sage Crackers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoons of cold butter
  • 1 bunch of chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • Olive oil for brushing

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Add the salt and flour to a large mixing bowl
  • With your hands work in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs ( this can take upwards of 5 solid minutes).
  • Chop sage finely and add it to the flour.
  • Pour in heavy cream and stir well. Let dough sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  • With your hands  knead the dough well and then divide it into two pieces. With a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball very thin ( as thin as you want the crackers to be).
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt before placing in the oven.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden.
  • Cool and then slice into little squares and eat!

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe: 

  • Mixing the salt and flour
  • Working in the butter
  • Chopping with sage ( with a kid-friendly knife and supervised)
  • Kneading Bread
  • Rolling out the dough ( I always give my little guy some “scrap” dough that he can play with)
  • Brushing the olive oil on the rolled out dough.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender Flower and Honey Bread

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The first time Fig and I ate this bread it was ,no joke, like eating a bar of soap. Needless to say, it took us a few attempts to get the proportions just right but once perfected I succumed to it’s deliciousness, devouring an entire loaf in one day. Since eating an entire loaf of bread is never good for one’s thighs, Fig and I have vowed to make this only for special occasions. Luckily we have Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve approaching. All legit holidays and thus a perfectly acceptable reason to make these loaves.

Despite this being insanely delicious and a perfect pairing with tea, the recipe was inspired by a not-so inspiring day of toddler shenanigans. A few weeks ago, Fig was having the worst day known to humanity. Everything was a major deal and cause for a complete breakdown. For example, forbidding him to clobber his baby brother with a wooden block? TEARS. Asking him to not paint on the wall with his watercolors. TEARS. Setting him down for lunch? TEARS. Taking away said lunch because nothing had been eaten? TEARS. No matter what I did or didn’t do that day resulted in, you guessed it, TEARS.

By 3 PM my patience was out and I was near tears myself when I decided we might as well bake some bread. Seeing as we both needed to unwind, lavender ( way too much of it in fact) was thrown into the dough last minute and upon trying it ( and consequently gagging), decided that it certainly had potential if we could make it less soapy and more bready.

Now, after many attempts, and a few extra pounds, Fig and I give you our perfected Lavender Flower and Honey Bread; the perfect antidote for a stressed out mama and a cranky toddler. Making it soothing and so is eating it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of finely crushed lavender flowers
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 package of dry active yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 3/4 cups of warm water, possibly a bit more depending on how the kneading the dough goes.

Directions:

  • Crush lavender flowers finely ( I used a mortar and pestle to do this)
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, honey, sea salt, lavender, yeast, and warm water.
  • Knead very well ( 5 minutes or more) and form into a rounded ball.
  • Place bread in floured bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  • After two hours, divide dough in half. On a floured work surface, form each piece of dough into a rounded loaf shape.
  • Bake at 400 for about 30-35 minutes, checking frequently to ensure the bread doesn’t over-brown.
  • Let cool before serving.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Cucumbers with Minty Labne

 

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There are few dishes that don’t need a major intervention after Fig’s had his way with them. For Fig, making a salad  involves squishing the life out of a few tomatoes, throwing a half head of lettuce in the bowl (that has first been mercilessly stabbed to death by a blunt kids knife) and if he can get to it quick enough before I catch him, a good half a cup of salt.

Cucumbers with Minty Labne is the perfect side dish that requires minimal parental post-processing intervention. The dressing hides what can only be described as hideously chopped cucumbers compliments of a superbly blunt knife and an over-eager two year old. And peeling the cucumbers? Aside from intense supervision on my part to ensure no accident flailings took place, it is officially Fig’s new favorite kitchen activity.

We love this dish for it’s taste and ease but also because it reminds us of abuela. Fig’s grandmother is the most amazing cook. Every one of her dishes nearly brings tears of joy to my eyes; it’s that good! I only recently realized that probably 60% of everything I cook in a given week is either completely one of her dishes or at least inspired by it. Both Fig and I are so lucky to have her!

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Ingredients:

  • Two large cucumbers
  • A large handful of fresh mint, chopped finley
  • Juice from 1/2 a large lime or lemon
  • 1 cup of labne
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, mashed into a paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Chop cucumbers in small pieces
  • In a large bowl combine cucumbers, chopped mint, lime juice, labne, olive oil, garlic paste and salt.
  • Mix well and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Hemp, Tomato and Cilantro Salad

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Fig usually doesn’t help me with salad preparation except when all other attempts to “inspire” him to eat his veggies fail. No matter how I serve , prepare, or disguise it, there are some vegetables that Fig won’t come within a mile of unless he’s preparing them. Case in point this amazingly delicious Hemp, Tomato, and Cilantro salad. Fig categorically rejects all things involving fresh tomatoes unless he’s chopping them. Something about slicing those babies in half makes them suddenly OK to eat.

So, on this particular day, when Fig had pretty much only eaten cream cheese and bread all day I decided it was time to bust out his kid friendly knife and do some veggie chopping for my most beloved of all salads. Of course, I had to redo much of his work ( toddler’s apparently don’t pay much attention to aesthetics! ) but he ate about 10 tomatoes and about $10.00 worth of hemp seeds ( an excellent source of omega fatty acids) so I was happy to oblige.

I make this salad in massive bunches on the weekend for weekday lunches. By Tuesday it’s certainly gone and I’m always looking forward to making it again on the weekend, it’s that good.

Hemp, Cilantro, and Tomato Salad:

  • 1 cup of hemp seeds
  • I dry pint of cherries tomatoes
  • 1 cup of finely diced cilantro
  • 1/2 a lemon’s juice
  • 1 large garlic cloves, crushed into a paste with a pestle and mortar if possible.
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Try not to eat the entire salad in one sitting.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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We’re back after a little baby break. Now we are a family of four! Having a 2 year old and a newborn is way easier and way harder than I expected. Easier because I know what to expect with our new arrival. Fig is a different story however. Having a new brother has been a bit rough on him and he’s had no problem letting us know!

I think I laid in bed for nearly two weeks after Fig was born. This time I think I laid in bed for two hours after coming home before I decided that my postpartum r&r probably wasn’t going to happen with little Fig. So despite having a baby just day’s old, we headed out to a local farm to let Fig run off his energy while we harvested some awesome pumpkins and gourds for a few cooking projects we’ve been meaning to get our hands on.

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Once home we decided that roasted pumpkin seeds were in order. As with all things super messy, Fig loved the activity. Full of scooping, sorting, washing, drying, and organizing. Really a toddler’s sensory playground. The activity was made sweeter by the fact that this was Fig’s pumpkin; the one he had helped picked out at the farm. Connecting the land to our food is something I believe to be highly important and a connection I hope to continue to make throughout his childhood.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Cut pumpkin open and remove seeds.
  • Wash seeds under warm water; remove all pumpkin fiber strings.
  • Put seeds in a pot of water with salt; bring to boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. ( For every 1/2 cup of seeds use two cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt).
  • After seeds have boiled, toss lightly in olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet making sure there is ample space between seeds.
  • Roast for around 6-7 minutes at 350 degrees F. Check frequently to ensure they don’t over-toast. Ideally the seeds should be lightly browned.
    • Baking time will vary depending on pumpkin variety you use. My advice; check the seeds often!

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