Toddler Meals: On Our Table this Week

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Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Carrots

We spent nearly a month in Mexico, returned to california and immediately moved ( not recommended). Things are finally getting back to normal around here and I’m thinking potty training is our next big “to do”. It would be AWESOME to get Fig fully trained by the time our new baby arrives in October but I think its best if we limit our expectations given that today little Fig handed me what I first thought was dirt, excitedly proclaiming ” mama look!”. I soon realized the ugly truth, that this had come straight from his diaper and then promptly barfed in my mouth. This all went down while I was cooking lunch to make matters worse.

Enough of the potty talk, here is what has been on our table the last week ( or two!).

Caper and Heirloom Salad Pasta Salad

Caper and Heirloom Tomato Pasta Salad

Hazelnut and Tahini Pasta with Pine  Nuts and Greens

Hazelnut and Tahini Pasta with Pine Nuts and Greens

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Burrito

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Burrito

Sumac Spiced Black Lentils with Mint. Roasted Carrots.

Sumac and Mint Spiced Black Lentils with  a  side of Roasted Carrots.

Cream Cheese and Salmon Sandwich with sprouts with Fresh Strawberries.

Cream Cheese and Salmon Sandwich with sprouts with Fresh Strawberries.

Spinach Cakes with Lemon Grass Infused Creme Fraiche

Spinach Cakes with Lemon Grass Infused Creme Fraiche

Pumpernickel Squares with Corn and Peas.

Pumpernickel Squares with Corn and Peas.

Open Faced Tuna Sandwich

Open Faced Tuna Sandwich

Fig and Halloumi Pesto Pizza

Fig and Halloumi Pesto Pizza

Fruit Salad!

Fruit Salad!

Mint and Blueberry Popsicles

Mint and Blueberry Popsicles

Scrubbing Beets for our Juice

Scrubbing Beets for our Juice

Beet, Carrot, Apple, and Lime Juice

Freshly Squeezed Beet, Carrot, Apple, and Lime Juice

 

Spinach Cakes with Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche

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Today I share with you one of our favorite Monday meals. This is one of several “go to” 20 minute meals that I make when we are short on time and don’t have a lot of food in the fridge. Fig loves these spinach cakes and can put more than a few back under proper conditions. It’s also a great meal to make with a toddler since it’s so simple and requires measuring and mixing; two toddler favorites.

I’ve tried these cakes with chard, tomatoes, kale, and a number of other vegetables. All of the cakes turned out delicious, but the simple spinach recipe remains our favorite.

Spinach Cakes with Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche.

Ingredients for the Spinach Cakes:

  • 1 cup of pastry flour
  • 1 ¼ cup of finely chopped spinach
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp of ghee, melted ( clarified butter)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • ½ of a medium sized shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 egg white
  • Oil for frying

Ingredients for the Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche:

  • ¼ lemongrass stalk
  • 1/2 cup of crème fraiche
  • Juice from 1 small lime
  • ½ tsp of sea salt

For the Spinach Cakes:

  • Chop spinach finely (I typically use the organic bagged triple-washed spinach for this recipe to save myself the “hassle” of washing and drying the leaves )
  • Next mix the flour, baking powder, whole egg, ghee, salt, cumin and milk in a large bowl
  • Add the spinach, mixing well.
  • Finally, add the egg white, folding it into the batter.
  • Turn a frying pan on medium and place about 2-3 tablespoons of batter. Pat down to desired thickness. The cake is ready to be flipped when little bubbles appear on the surface, usually a few minutes at most depending on thickness.

For the Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche:

  • Grind the lemongrass in a spice blender and whisk with other ingredients. Alternatively, you can finely chop the lemongrass and whisk all ingredients together.

Serve the pancakes warm with a dollop of lemongrass crème fraiche and top with sprouts. Literally, this recipe is a piece of cake! Oh, and don’t forget to do the dishes…Fig never let’s me forget since it’s quite possible he loves cleaning the dishes more than cooking ( that will last forever right?)

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Baking with Toddlers: Bliss Muffins

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True Life: My son’s a muffin addict.

In fact, several nights ago we awoke out of our sleep to the screams of “MUFFINSSSS!!!!” coming from my son’s bed. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that little Fig was having a passionate and vivid muffin dream. Muffins rock my little guy’s world and I’m happy to supply his daily fix.

In my attempt to make the healthiest muffins on the block, I stumbled across this recipe for “bread”. I’ve made several loaves, all of which were scrumptious but had no luck convincing the little guy to eat it. So, I’ve been experimenting with several different variations over the last few weeks. Eventually I decided to load it with dried fruit and make it into the revered muffin.

Nicknamed The Bliss Muffin ( for the bliss it supplies Fig), these Muffins are a great activity for little kids to participate in. In fact, muffin making in general is a quick, easy, and super fun way to get little folks into the kitchen. Just watch out that the batter doesn’t disappear before your eyes. All that goodness can be hard to resist!

The Bliss Muffin:

muffins1-5 First and foremost, I suggest you check out the original recipe ( found here) and even make a loaf or two of bread.

Ingredients for 12 Muffins:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shaved almonds
  • 1 ½ cup of rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of dried turkish apricots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup of currents
  • 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 4 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1 3/4 cups / 350ml water

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Fig thought adding a touch of Aloe soap might make this muffin recipe come alive! I persuaded him otherwise.

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl ( except the water, coconut oil and maple syrup)
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pot. Once melted, add the water and maple syrup to the pot. Mix well.
  • Add the mixed coconut oil, water, and maple syrup to the rest of the ingredients and make sure everything is mixed well and thoroughly coated.
  • Place batter in a muffin tin. Pack down batter as much as humanly possibly without the batter spilling over the top ( this is key).
  • Let batter set in the muffin tin for at least 2 hours. The longer the better.
  • Bake muffins at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
  • You’ll need to be very vigilant in watching the muffins to make sure they don’t over crisp.
  • Leave muffins to cool. Again, the longer the better. I left ours overnight and was amazed at how structurally sound they were compared to other batches that fell apart much easier.

Enjoy!

The Ravioli from Hell

The scene was grim. Surely anyone passing by our house would have thought I was murdering my son. My hands dripping red, my son screaming in pitches so high dog whistles would be put to shame and little red hand streaks strewn across the walls and doors.

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But no, this was just a scene from our recent experience with The Ravioli from Hell.

Let me explain further:

Have you ever thought about making that complicated, multi-step, several-hour dish you’ve been dreaming of the day after a 14 hour international flight while you’re alone with an angry little toddler? Yeah, me too!

Words of wisdom: Don’t do it. Run far, far away from that awful idea. In fact, run all the way to the frozen pizza aisle and don’t look back.

Should you need further convincing, I share with you the following story.

While in Mexico I spotted a recipe for Beet Ravioli. The gorgeous color, the scrumptious filling, the imagined taste. I immediately fell in love and decided I HAD to make this. I even went so far as to buy a ravioli maker just for the occasion. Since we’d been in Mexico for so long, I was desperate to get my hands dirty in a new dish and decided that this Beet Ravioli would be THE dish.

How wrong I was.

Several problems. First, this dish takes like 3 hours ( not consecutive albeit) to complete at best. Add the additional time a toddler tacks on and were somewhere around 5 hours. Secondly, I’ve never made ravioli before. Thirdly,  I suck at following recipes. Lastly, this was a Monday. Which meant I was alone, taking care of a toddler, and trying to work at my actual job while trying to make this “dinner”.

And to top it all off, Toddlerzilla was in the house. Who is Toddlerzilla you ask? My son between the approximate hours of 3-5 PM. No matter the time, no matter the place, no matter the circumstances; when my son wakes up from his afternoon nap he is in the kind of mood that can only be described as a cross between a starving great white shark and an angry silverback gorilla who has a propensity for hysterical sobbing and need to be carried.

And this goes on for hours.

Since clearly the environment was oh-so-conducive to cooking this dish, I plunged full steam ahead deciding it was best for little Fig to start washing veggies.

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All was going ok until it was time for the dough. Oh this god forsaken dough. I don’t know how I screwed this up, but I did. Big time. After letting it “rest” for the allotted time, I laid it out to roll into thin sheets only to find it was no longer dough and instead a hostile and violent version of Flubber ( if you haven’t seen the movie Flubber google it). It was so sticky and thick, I actually started to feel my hands go numb from loss of circulation due to the weight of handling it. And the mess, oh god, the mess. The red hued demon dough was everywhere.

Around this time, I hear my son start whaling and screaming at me to pick him ” UP UPS!!!!”. After explaining I was a bit occupied, I set him up with a little dough rolling station hoping that would buy me some much needed time to whip this dough into shape.

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Even Fig is suspicious of this dough.

Giving Fig the dough was an epically bad idea since beets stain red. He was cool with this activity for about 5 minutes before deciding he’d much rather scream and sob his head off while running around staining the walls red.

It occurred it to me that the police might show up at any minute. Between the hysterical screaming of my two year old, my beet stained body, and his little red hand prints up and down the walls; clearly some form of crime was taking place.

I was about ready to throw everything in the trash when I decided to improvise. The thought occurred to me that maybe between the desperate toddler, the complete pig sty of my house, and my waning patience that perhaps I might hit upon a stroke of genius. Maybe, just maybe, I would create something so delicious and revolutionary, it would be noted throughout the ages and remembered for epochs to come!

Nope. A big fat NO.

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What resulted can only be described as Obese Open Faced Ravioli that tasted like a cross between a stale cow patty and dirt with just a  hint of beet. The dish was so utterly bad that my tongue still burns with the horrificness of its flavor. *

So, take it from me: Save the extreme kitchen experimenting for those blessed days without tiny munchkins and whatever you do, don’t turn your back on a baby with beets.

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Hard as a rock with a flavor like dirt!

Kitchen Activities for Toddlers

If you’re looking to incorporate your toddler into meal preparation, you probably fall into one of two categories. Those that are interested in teaching their young children about food for some specific reason ( perhaps to help a picky eater or teach children early kitchen skills) or those, like me, who can’t manage to prepare a meal without a little person sobbing at their feet desperate to be picked up. But whatever your motive or need, there are a few simple kitchen activities that are great for toddlers.

#1: Doing the Dishes: This is my “go to” kitchen activity for Fig when there isn’t much else for him to do and he’s needy. Not only is this a fun sensory activity for toddlers but the warm water is soothing and usually calms him down when he’s in a mood. I throw in some plastic cups, utensils, and anything else that isn’t breakable and let him play in the water for as long as he wishes. This activity is also the one that keeps him occupied the longest, upwards of 20-30 minutes.

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Cleaning Up

#2: Shelling Peas or Beans: Fig won’t eat peas in a dish but will eat them as he shells. In fact, he’s notorious for finishing off an entire batch of spring peas before they make their way into our meal. For this reason,  I usually keep extra peas on hand and let him go crazy. This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and inspiring some healthy snacking along the way.

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3) Pouding/Mashing: Toddlers love destruction. Whether it be garlic, mashing avocados, or breaking nuts, pounding is a great activity for little kids. Of course, you must demonstrate the proper technique and supervise since an overenthusiastic toddler could easily pound their fingers along with the rest of the ingredients.

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#4) Sorting: Another great kitchen activity if you don’t have much else to give your toddler. I grab some nuts and a few empty jars and tell him to transfer the nuts into the various jars.

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#5) Stirring, Mixing, Measuring, and Transferring Dough: These activities can result in epic messes if not properly supervised ( take it from me, I’ve cleaned far too many flour explosions in my days). If you have the time to demonstrate and supervise, these activities can be really fun for both toddler and parent. Working with dough is a time tested toddler approved activity. Giving your little person a tiny batch of dough for themselves is even better as it allows you time to finish what you’re working on. Mixing and measuring is a great way to effortlessly and naturally introduce quantities and measurements to toddlers. Transferring dough into a muffin pan is not only fun but a great way to improve motor skills and accuracy.

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Making Sopes

#6) Cleaning Vegetables: This is an easy way to involve little kids in the beginning of meal preparation. Taking the outer layers of an onion or garlic off, scrubbing root vegetables or rinsing fresh greens in the sink have all proven to be engrossing activities for my little guy.

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#7) Chopping: After the initial time investment it takes to teach proper knife skills, this can be a great activity for little hands. In fact, once Fig gets chopping he typically doesn’t want to stop and keeps asking for more and more items to chop; which of course can be problematic! Read about my post regarding kitchen and knife safety here.

Parsley

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#8) Juicing: Last but not least, helping a toddler squeeze juice from fresh fruit is super satisfying for little folks. Not only does my little guy enjoy squeezing fresh oranges, he also loves using a citrus reamer and working with lemons and limes. Just make sure your toddler doesn’t have any open cuts on their hands or touch their eyes ( again, learned the hard way).

Making Juice

My toddler ate dog food and other concerns

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So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in enticing Fig to eat avocados. This is a pity because avocados are one of my favorite foods not to mention superbly nutritious. S0, when I stumbled across this recipe by Oh, She Glows for 15 minute creamy avocado pasta I was confident I’d hit the jackpot. Not only does it take 15 minutes to make ( 30 with a toddler) but because Fig is a sucker for all things pasta,  I was confident it would be the solution to our avocado woes.

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And because Pasta is the perfect vehicle to sneak more veggies into my little guy, I decided to add freshly shelled sweet peas, fresh corn  and a little cilantro; we are in Mexico after all. All was going as planned until I left for two minutes.

As any mama knows, a toddler can accomplish an incredible amount of mischief in less than 30 seconds flat. Less time is needed with an accomplice.

Enter, Mafalda the Dachshund. A sneaky, sassy little sausage dog with a weakness for freshly shelled pea. 2 minutes is all it took for 1/2 our peas to go down the hatch of a veggie loving dachshund with the help of a two year old sous chef.

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Dog

I walked in on the pea debacle in full swing, quickly realizing I had nobody to blame but myself. Rule # 1 of cooking with toddlers, never leave them unattended, especially with a dog.

We had plenty of corn and cilantro, so our recipe wasn’t shot yet.  Next we set out to make the avocado sauce only to find that Mexico City’s rainy season had other plans for us. With the power going on and off, we weren’t able to make use of the blender. No matter, hand grinding did the trick and was deliciously fun for my little chef.

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With the avocado’s prepared, back to the kitchen we went to assemble our creation. As I’m adding the garlic, lemon, and cilantro the dish I feel Fig’s presence behind me; quietly absorbed in some task. I want to take a picture of our final product since it looks quite lovely and am scrambling to do so before the lights turn off from the storm.

2 minutes pass with no peep from Fig. As I turn around to bring the meal towards the table I see him squatted by the dog’s bowl, back towards me, the rhythmic motion of his jaws moving up and down.  It takes me a full 5 seconds to realize he is scarfing down the dog’s food.

That night, Fig did not eat his Avocado Pasta. He was too full off of kibble ( albeit, high quality organic kibble from Whole Foods, but kibble nonetheless).My only consolation was the several dozen peas that made it into his stomach prior to giving the rest to the dog, the tiny bit of avocado he tried while processing it, and the plethora of dried vegetables and fruit found in the kibble.

We’ll redefine success for the day and call it a win.

 

 

Toddler Meals: Mexico Addition

Pomegranate and Spinach Wrap

On our Table this week:

Our adventure in Mexico City wraps up this week. It certainly was a welcomed respite from our everyday life and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Although, I am excited to return home and get my little one back on a regular eating schedule. For the last few weeks, Fig’s eating has been something like this;  1st breakfast, 2nd breakfast, 3rd breakfast, after breakfast snack, afternoon snack, mid afternoon snack, late night snack. I’m beginning to think he’s a hobbit with all that breakfasting.

While I had several internal freak outs over what someone was giving my two year old (late night slice of cake anyone?), I had to remind myself that these moments don’t last forever and a few weeks of eating less than perfect isn’t going to ruin his health forever.

Most of what Fig ate these past weeks could be summed up in one word: Fruit. However, I did manage to get a few “real” meals into him. His favorite was the Pomegranate and Spinach Wrap, burritoed just so to hide the spinach. He also liked the Blue Corn Papaya Tacos , mostly due to the papaya ( obviously).

However, most surprising was his love of Nopal cactus. When cooked, the cactus turns a putrid shade of green and is slimy ( yes, slimy). No matter, he ate it with gusto and asked for more. This reinforces the importance of feeding little kids a lot of different foods even if you’re 99.99% sure they will hate it. You might just be surprised!

One final note; There is hardly any natural light in our Mexico house, so these pictures aren’t the best.

Ricotta with Quinoa

Ricotta with Quinoa, Carrots, and Guava Fruit

Papaya and Fruit Blue Corn Taco

Papaya and Fruit Blue Corn Taco

Cactus and Zucchini Flower Taco with Labne

Cactus and Zucchini Flower Taco with Labne

The Nopal and Flowers before cooking-much prettier!

The Nopal and Flowers before cooking-much prettier!

Helping sort the flowers

Helping sort the flowers

Juice Making

Juice Making

Delicious, fully ripe, oranges for juicing

Delicious, fully ripe, oranges for juicing