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: The Messy Aftermath

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Until I started cooking with Fig I never fully grasped the real meaning of a mess. I don’t mean the kind of mess than can be solved with a bit of tidying up. No I mean, the walls must be scrubbed and the dog washed kind of mess. The kind of mess that makes you question why you even did this in the first place.

I have this thought regularly. Fig really excels in the mess-making department.

His penchant for mess making is further exasperated by his burgeoning listening skills. And when I say burgeoning , I really mean non-existent but we’re-working-on-it listening skills. He basically listens to 5% of what I tell him.

Just the other day we had poured a healthy amount of coconut oil and maple syrup over the oats we were preparing for granola.

” I need to grab a spoon; please don’t stick your hands in the mix”. I turn the corner and on cue, hear him stick his hands in the mixture….and then the scream.

There was a trash truck on our street. Ever see a thirteen year old girl at a One Direction concert (hands go up the air, uncontrollable shrieking and full body convulsions take over)? That is pretty much Fig’s reaction when he see’s a trash truck.

The next 45 minutes were spent scrubbing maple syrup off the walls, out of Fig’s hair, from the couch and off the window that he had smashed himself against trying to get a better look at the truck.

It was two hours later, when I went to sit on the couch, did I realize I had indeed missed a spot. The 6 billion ants that had swarmed on a drop of maple syrup tipped me off.

Twas the mess that kept on giving.

Some days go really smooth but if you cook with little folks long enough you’ll surely experience apocalyptic messes. It is just an inevitable part of teaching children about food. If you’re cooking real food there will be a real mess.

 Reducing the Mess

  • Do food prep outside. Weather permitting, I try to do anything with big-mess potential outside. The squirrels and birds thank us.

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  • Have a plan before inviting your little one into the kitchen. I’ve let Fig join in nilly willy and paid for it dearly. Doing prep work and figuring out where/when to invite a toddler into the kitchen will save you a lot of mess and stress.
  • Put an apron on them: There is nothing worse than scrubbing your kitchen AND your toddler from head-to-toe. An apron can save you a load of laundry.

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  • Clean as you go: In my pre-baby days I used to have 45 bags, jars and packages of things out on the counter as I cooked. The more exciting things on the counter the harder it will be for a little one not to dump them all out. Minimize the temptation.
  • That being said, Make sure you have all the ingredients handy. Leaving a toddler unattended for even a split second can end up badly. I make sure I have most of what we’ll be using on the adjacent counter; easy enough to reach when needed but far enough away from curious hands.
  • Leverage your Dog: Assuming that what you’re cooking is good for dogs; a little pooch can help mitigate the mess. Our dog Mafalda comes in especially handy when we are working with peas.

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  •  And finally, involve your toddler in the clean up. It is much quicker to simply send little ones out to play after they’ve wreaked havoc in your kitchen but I think involving kids in the tidying up process is equally important as the activity that created the mess in the first place. At two, Fig can easily help with dishes, light sweeping of the floors, and washing the counters.

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Happy cooking!