Posts Tagged ‘Toddler Food’
Our pediatrician told us toddlers are grazers, but last night at dinner I watched my daughter re-enact The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
She started with the top of a broccoli tree chopped up, then asked for another. Three broccoli trees later, she managed to put away Bubbie’s brisket and half a small chicken breast. It was still hot from the broiler, and I’m not kidding, this child could barely wait for it to cool.
Last night John was working late. I was making whole wheat pasta for him while feeding Luci dinner, and of course she wanted some of that too. I rinsed strands of spaghetti under the sink so they wouldn’t burn her mouth, scorching my hands in the process. I put them in front of her and cut them up.
My mother and I frequently talk on FaceTime in the evenings when John works or goes to art class. As we went from broccoli to pasta, I saw the gamut of her expressions begin at proud, and slowly morph into concern, as Luci kept asking for “More! More!”
“She must be going through a growth spurt,” my mother said.
“Whatever it is, she’s hungry,” I replied, going to the sink to rinse more pasta.
I sat down with Luci again, trying to finish my own dinner. “More! More!” she yelled.
I offered her some pasta. She shook her head.
“How about dessert?” my mother said, from her seat at the kitchen table in Baltimore where we’d spent a good part of our trip last week.
“Please don’t say the c word,” I cautioned her.
It’s not that cookie is a bad word in our house, but after eating such a healthy meal I just couldn’t bring myself to give Luci an animal cracker, her standard dessert fare.
“How about some berries instead?”
I opened the fridge and took out the blueberries and strawberries. The strawberries especially were looking a little dry.
I still cut up several, and put them on her high chair tray along with a handful of blueberries. Bubbie, proud again, watched her granddaughter go to town.
Not wanting to waste the rest of the fruit, I put it in a small pot with a cup of water, 1 tsp. brown sugar, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
I boiled it down to a compote, which Luci enjoyed on her toast this morning. You can add a bit more white or brown sugar to suit your taste.
This dish was cooked spur of the moment, as most of my food recycling recipes are. If you have any good tips for preserving food that’s about to go bad and turning it into a completely different, delicious dish, please post in the comments section. Food recycling doesn’t get enough attention, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers.
Today Luci and I are taking the train to Baltimore to visit my family for Passover. John is joining us either tomorrow or Monday, depending on when he can get away. I miss him.
Traveling on a train or plane takes careful planning food-wise because once you board, you’re trapped. Unless you pack your own sustenance, you’re stuck buying stale bags of chips, and if you’re lucky, some sort of un-namable cheese product.
Last night I packed lunch using all our leftovers. John always says he will eat them whenever we go somewhere and he has to stay home, but then I get back, open the fridge, and am assaulted by a mess of smelly food that should have been eaten days before. So now I’ve gotten smart.
In a bowl, I mixed salmon and quinoa from last night’s dinner, then threw in some broccoli. After chopping all the ingredients, I tossed in a handful of sunflower seeds to provide some extra crunch. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, and my salad is complete. How easy is that?
I like this dish because it used up everything in the fridge, and I didn’t have to go shopping for anything extra. It’s also a great dish to take on the road while the weather’s still cold. I wouldn’t recommend it for a long trip once it warms up outside.
Now if only I could count on the train ride being this easy.
It wasn’t long after Luci started solids that I realized there is no better word in the English language than convenience. Yup, I LOVE convenience. The convenience of buying premade jars and pouches of baby food is an especially nice luxury.
I think it took all of two days before I announced I would not be spending time in the kitchen daily to prepare Luci’s baby food, and that I would, in fact, be buying the majority of it. I was relived that no one seemed to care. It might also be that no one was paying attention.
Browsing the aisles of my local grocery, I came to learn there are some amazing baby food brands out there. Happy Baby makes pouches of some of the most sophisticated mixes of ingredients. It’s stuff that I never would have eaten as a baby, like chicken, vegetables and quinoa. Luci also went crazy for their breakfast smoothie, consisting of banana and mangosteen. Um, I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know a mangosteen was a tropical fruit all its own. I thought it was just the longer version of the word mango.
I’m also embarrassed to admit that jars of Earth’s Best Chicken Soup still make me nostalgic when I walk by them at the store. All those little bits of carrot and pea just take me back to Luci’s days as a baby. Pea was the first food she asked for by name.
But her baby days are over, and as toddlerhood approached, I got my mom groove on a little better, a little straighter. I actually began getting some rest, and once my daughter hit the one-year mark, I was almost feeling like my old self again.
Now this is a completely different topic for a completely different kind of post, but suffice to say, when you start remembering how your life used to be before the baby came along, you realize you’re coming out from under that newborn stupor and emerging back into the world. For me, it was like breathing new air. I felt real again.
And feeling like me again meant back into the kitchen I went.
I think my husband was relieved. I would say that when I got pregnant, he got a little bit pregnant with me. Now we’re both on track to lose our baby weight, helmed by the healthier meals I’m cooking at home.
One of our favorite dishes pre-baby, were my stir frys. On Sunday nights I used to chop and dice all kinds of meat and veggies, along with lots and lots of garlic and ginger. Then during the week, we’d pop our heads into the fridge Alton Brown style, choose which of the ingredients I’d prepped that we were in the mood for, and throw them into the wok. Add some steamed some brown rice, and you have a delicious meal on the table in about twenty minutes.
I’m starting to do that again, only now I use less oil. I also dice everything a bit finer for Luci’s tiny mouth. The quinoa and mangosteen opened the gateway for her to enjoy all kinds of flavors, including the garlic and ginger that are the foundation of every good stir fry.
It’s so much fun to put her in her high chair and let her watch the way the vegetables soften in the wok over the heat before we add chicken or beef. We turn up the flame, and we have the music up high too, making the atmosphere warm and inviting. I hope one day Luci will have even vague memories of her first experiences cooking with Mommy.
Making dinner has become a special time for us. One night as I was cooking, she asked for broccoli. I had already steamed string beans, but I took the broccoli out anyway and made her some as a side dish to the broiled chicken, loving how much Luci delighted in contributing to the meal. This gave me an idea.
As Luci’s food vocabulary develops, why not have her help prepare her own meals the way I used to prepare stir frys? So now on Sunday nights, in addition to whatever else I’m cooking, I make pasta, brown rice or quinoa, steamed veggies and broiled meats or fish. During the week I ask Luci what she wants for dinner, and she picks out a starch, a protein, and an unlimited array of veggies. We heat them up, put them in her special bowl, and dinner is ready.
I love how this gives Luci a hand in choosing her own meals, and an early start in picking what’s healthy and fresh. We make lunch and dinner like this several times a week. Other nights I’m inspired to cook something on the spot depending on a craving me or John might have, or we go out. It’s a good balance, and a good way to set up a lifetime for family meals together.