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.

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Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

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!

 

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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Chia Seed and Hazelnut Brittle

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Today was really the perfect day to make a nutty brittle given that my patience is brittle and I’m feeling pretty nutty.

There were so many things that went south today including a certain two year old who tried to kamikaze himself out of the stroller every 15 seconds during my run, or the baby who wouldn’t take a nap, or the toddler who was hell bent on destroying every plot at the community garden.

But it all pales in comparison to my little Fig, who on our walk home from the community garden, managed to pick up an entire pile of …brown stuff. This was no ordinary excrement mind you. Based on my visual inspection alone, I concluded this was the kind of dung that carries with it such rare afflictions as spongiform encephalopathy or tetanus. This was most certainly death poo.

Gripped with panic, I attempted to collect Fig and get him to soap and a sink asap. But oh no, little Fig did not want to leave and decided to employ his supremely effective and equally infuriating “jello-legs” tactic. This resulted in me pretty much dragging a limp and screaming two year old home by his shirt collar (with a baby one the other hip mind you) while garnering strange looks  by onlookers who clearly thought I was some sort of monster.

Upon reaching home I scrubbed his hands for a good 10 minutes and then decided that soap would simply not do. After all, this was death poo. After quickly realizing we had no rubbing alchohol, I decided that the next best thing was pinot grigio. While I’ve seen no studies on the effectiveness of pinot grigio on death poo germs, I’m pretty confident that my cocktail of wine, hand sanitizer and soap should kill everything in it’s wake.

But by the time I had procured and opened my bottle of reserved and aged germ-annihilating Pinot, Fig has managed to escape the bathroom and was outside half naked.

And this is how I found myself outside chasing a naked two year old, waving an open bottle of Pinot while screaming discombobulated sentences that included the words crap and wine and germs at my sweet little two year old.

I can only hope none of our neighbors were home.

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Chia Hazelnut and Pumpkin Seed Brittle

This can be sold as a dessert but works well as a snack since it’s not too sweet and loaded with goodness. This recipe serves about 5.

  • 1/4 cup of Chia Seed
  • 1/3  cup of crushed Hazelnut Seed
  • 1 cup of crushed Pumpkin Seed
  • 1/4 cup of Sunflower Seed
  • 1/4 cup of Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 cup of Coconut Oil, melted.
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  • Heat oven to 350 F.
  • Crush the hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds into small pieces. Combine in a large bowl with all other dry ingredients.
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pan.
  • Combine the coconut oil and maple syrup with the nut/seed mix. Stir well.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Spread mixture thinly on the paper and bake until golden brown. Every oven is a bit different so check frequently. It took ours around 18 minutes to be done.
  • Let cool and break into pieces.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe:

  • Crushing the seeds in plastic bags
  • Mixing the seed mixture
  • Spreading out the mixture on the baking sheet

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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: Cabbage Bowls with Quinoa and Sorrel in an Almond Sauce

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Cabbage bowls; the perfect dish for when all your dishes are dirty.

Our house is wired in such a way that you can’t have both the laundry machine and the dishwasher going simultaneously. This is rather unfortunate given that Fig rolls around in the mud all day long and has a remarkable talent for dirtying up clothes. I often find myself pondering if I should wash the feral cat poo Fig accidentally meandered into or the dishes. Poo always wins.

Which is why you’ll frequently find Fig eating his lunch on cutting boards or devouring his sandwich out of a bowl ( mom fail). A two year old could really care less if his quesadilla is jammed into a bowl but it always gives me pause. It was on a particularly horrendous laundry day that we decided to test out cabbage leaves in lieu of proper dishware. Not only are they pretty but there are no extra dishes! The scraps were fed to our worm farm post-lunch.

The wonderful thing about these bowls is you can really dress them up anyway you want and include a little one in the process. We chose quinoa, corn, sorrel, and avocado (aka what was left over in our fridge) and dressed it up with our homemade version of yum sauce.

Fig loves scooping and cutting and had a great deal of fun designing his own little bowl. His bowl turned out a little more messy avant garde but toddlers are passionate and temperamental artists and are best left alone in matters like these.

Cabbage Bowls:

These are quite simple. All you need is cabbage leaves, fixings and a killer sauce. Mix your fixings of choice in the cabbage bowl and drizzle with sauce. Relax for an extra 10 minutes after lunch since there are no dishes 🙂

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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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Cooking with Toddlers: Coconut Ice Cream with Bee Pollen

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Ice and cream; two words, when combined and subsequently uttered in the presence of a two year old, will result in deliberate, merciless and unrelenting harassment.

“Hey Fig, want to help mama make some ice cream?”. The words just slipped out of my mouth before I knew it and everything went downhill from there.

Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Mom can I have some ice cream? Is the ice cream ready? Ice cream. I want ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Hey mom, is the ice cream ready. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. iceeee creaam ….

This went on for an entire day because, as the name implies, making homemade frozen desserts requires time to freeze. Time and toddlers don’t go well together especially when ice cream is on the line.

While this is an incredibly easy recipe to make with a toddler, I’d suggest you don’t mention what it is unless you want to be pecked to death for the next 12 hours.

No Churn Coconut Ice Cream with Bee Pollen

Everything is in bloom here, spring is everywhere and so are our allergies. I decided to throw some local bee pollen in for decoration + to help with our runny eyes. This is vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free.

Ingredients:

  • Two 15 oz cans of coconut cream.
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar (optional, but adds a bit of sweetness to this rich cream).
  • Bee pollen for garnish.

Directions

  • Scoop out the two cans of coconut cream into a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
  • Whisk on high for several minutes until the cream is light and fluffy.
  • Pour mixture into a 12 X 8 baking dish and freeze ( we left ours for 12 hours).
  • Once the ice cream is frozen, you’ll need to let it thaw for quite some time. We let ours sit in the sun for around 20 minutes before we were able to scoop it out.
  • Serve in cones or bowls and sprinkle with bee pollen.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe

  • Scoping the coconut cream into the bowl.
  • Pouring in the vanilla extract.
  • Licking the whisk attachment ( Fig considers this crucial).
  • Sprinkling the bee pollen on the cones.

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Cooking with Todders: Easy Peasy

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I haven’t been able to pull Fig out of the garden lately. Not even the lure of a cheesy quesadilla will do it. He’s having too much fun romping around. Between trying to make friends with a few feral cats ( with limited success), patrolling for squirrels ( with great success) and fishing in the grass for twout (trout), he’s too busy to be bothered with the going-ons of the kitchen.

So in light of the delicious spring weather and his complete resistance to being indoors, I’ve resorted to bringing his lunch and snacks outside. This has also saved me quite a bit of time cleaning the explosion of food scraps that are left under Fig’s chair post-meal time.

Fig has always loved peas and shelling them to uncover the sweet rounds of goodness pretty much rocks his world. As with most two year olds, he’s constantly in-motion. It always takes me by surprise when he focuses so intently on a task and shelling peas, with their promise of sweet succulence, requires all his energies.

But Fig is not the only one who loves a good batch of fresh peas…….

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IMG_5917Oh yes, Mafalda the Dachshund, whose love of peas was documented here, will give her right paw for a mouthful of peas. The dog will stick her nose up at sweet fruit but will nearly rip your finger off trying to snag a pea. Fig is happy to share his beloved peas with her and I’m quite happy to see that both my kids got their greens in.

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