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: Flower Petal Cookies

Flower Petal Cookies

Toddlers love to pluck and pick things from the earth. I know because I have a bald apple tree. My dear little toddler has managed to pluck off the vast majority of blossoms from our beautiful apple tree. I also caught him “pruning” the lilac trees. And by pruning I mean ripping all the flowers, branches and leaves off.

Clearly Fig is into flowers.

In an attempt to quell his shrubbery inquisition (before I lost every single tree and plant in our yard) we decided to gather all our edible flowers and turn them into a cookie.

Most toddlers will be keen on flower gathering. It’s an easy way to involve them in the kitchen even if you don’t have the time or desire to involve them in the rest of the recipe.  It’s also a natural way to teach kids about flowers without actually any formal lesson. I explained to Fig that we only wanted the flower petals for this cookie; not the leaves, not the stems, not the sepals etc. After a bit, he got the hang of it.

You can use any edible flowers for these cookies. We choose lavender, calendula, lilacs, kale flowers ( also known as kale raab) and clover. A combination of fresh and dried will do just fine. Make sure you don’t put too much lavender in these cookies or they will start tasting like a face mask.

More information on edible flowers can be found here.

Cooking with Toddlers

Cooking with Toddlers

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Cooking with Flowers

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of edible flowers, dried or fresh.
  • 1 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup of hemp seeds
  • 1 cup of almond flower
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk ( any milk will do if you don’t have almond milk handy)
  • 3 tbs of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil, melted

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 325 F
  • Wash flowers well and pick off petals and place in a large mixing bowl.
  • Combine flowers with sunflower seeds, flax, hemp, almond flowers and chia seeds. Mix well.
  • Stir in the melted coconut oil, maple syrup and almond milk to the dry ingredients. Mix well.
  • Line a baking sheet and spread out mixture to about 1/4 of an inch high.
  • Bake for between 20-25 minutes; checking frequently to ensure the cookies are not browning too much. They should be lightly toasted.
  • Cool, cut, and serve with tea.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe:

  • Gathering edible flowers
  • Plucking the petals off the flowers
  • Measuring out the seeds
  • Stirring the cookie mix

Flower Petal Cookies

Flower Petal Cookies

 

 

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!

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Blue Corn Fish Tacos with Mandarin and Grapefruit Salsa

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Toddler hands. Honestly, I’m a little freaked out by them.  A quick 10 minute observation of Fig in the garden saw him digging in the worm bin, touching a random cat’s tail, finding a slug ( which brought into the house and promptly put on my pillow) and manhandling the bottom of his shoe.

Not exactly the kind of hand activity you want by the person who’s going to make dinner. I wash his hands better than a surgeon does but I’m still a little paranoid that I’m going to catch squirrel-ebola or some other remote disease from little Fig’s hands.

That being said sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, take the necessary sanitary precautions and make tacos. Fig likes fish tacos but he doesn’t love them. What he does love is thoroughly handling the expensive battered halibut and then not eating it.  You have to catch him in the right mood or else the tortilla will be eaten and little else. Which leaves you with $10 of inedible halibut unless of course you want to catch the aforementioned squirrel-ebola.

Enter Mandarin and Grapefruit Salsa and the problem is solved; at least for Fig. He loves a healthy dose of fruit and pretty much forgot the taco even contained fish.

And while I had the best intentions of making the tortillas and fish from scratch, those dreams were quickly thrown in the trash because it turned out to be one of those days. Pre-battered halibut from whole foods and tortillas from Three Sisters Nixtmal for the win!

Lastly, I want to thank my husband for moonlighting as my handsome hand model. It’s a hard job but somebody has to do it.

Mandarin and Grapefruit Salsa

  • 1 Large Grapefruit
  • 2 Mandarins (through in a few more for good measure since your child will eat them during the chopping process)
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • 1 green onion, diced.
  • Salt to Taste

Directions:

  • Take all the skin off the grapefruit wedges.
  • Chop the grapefruit and mandarins into small pieces
  • In a bowl, combine the chopped fruit, cilantro, onion and season with salt to taste.Mix well.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe:

  • Chopping the fruit
  • Mixing the Salsa
  • Testing the fruit as needed…you know, for safety reasons :)

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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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Foraging with Toddlers: Dandelion Flower Lemonade

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I started foraging when I was around 5. One day, after relentless hours were spent in search of food my sister and I finally struck the motherload; a batch of what we concluded to be wild onions. Big and bulbous we uncovered close to 15 “onions” and proceeded to hack them up with our shovels. We were backyard pioneers in search of nourishment after all.

“Gwaddddammitt girlsssss”. My mother appeared from the top balcony in near hysterics. Apparently we had not found wild onions but dahlia bulbs. Dahilas she had just planted that day and according to her, were very expensive. They now lay finely minced in a pile on the grass. Opppps.

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Despite mistaking dahlia bulbs for onions, I’ve never lost the thrill of foraging and it’s such a fun way to wile away a warm spring afternoon. Children, as I can personally attest to, love plucking things from the ground so it comes quite naturally to them.

Dandelions are probably one of the easiest plants to identify and forage safely with toddlers and they’re quite abundant. The flowers, leaves and root can all be used but its the flowers that caught Fig’s attention.

Our backyard is overflowing with the flowers so we don’t have to venture very far in search of them. I never forage in places where the plants could possibly be sprayed with chemicals, especially when I’m giving foraged food to my kids.

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Dandelion Flower Ice Tea:

Ingredients: 

  • Dandelion Flowers ( Thoroughly rinsed to avoid making lemonade with bugs)
  • Lemons
  • Coconut Sugar
  • Water

Directions 

  • There are no specific quantities listed above because nature is not like a grocery store and you may not be able to find exactly a cup of flowers. Generally, I would add two cups of water for every cup of dandelion flowers you have.
  • Lemons and sugar will be to taste. We had about three cups of dandelion flowers and used 5 lemons and 1/4 cup of sugar.
  • Combine flowers and water together. Place the jar in a warm sunny spot and let sit for a few hours.
  • Add the lemons and sugar. You can strain out the flowers at this point or leave them in. Chill for a few hours or serve at room temperature depending on your preference.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe:

  • Foraging for dandelion flowers
  • Rinsing leaves
  • Squeezing lemons
  • Mixing and stirring

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