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Sunday, August 18

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This is the final article in a series on how to cook for babies and toddlers. Check the archives for previous articles in the series.

Ah, toddlers! The joy, the cuteness, the learning, and the temper tantrums. I witnessed the latter while babysitting last weekend after I informed my favorite toddler (thankfully there is only one in my life) that she had washed her hands enough for one night. I was able to distract her by offering to read her a book, for the 40th time that night, but I was nervous about snack-time.

I'd seen this same cute and charming little girl nod eagerly when her mother asked her if she wanted a grilled cheese sandwich and then throw the sandwich off her plate while screaming "No" repeatedly. Eventually she told me she was hungry and she began calling for a sippy-cup of milk and I kept repeating "water". She followed me to the kitchen pleading for moo-juice and as I filled up her cup with water, she pointed at the apples in the fruit bin and said "apple". Repeatedly and with the joy and speed only capable from a hungry toddler. She then pointed at the grapes and wanted those as well.

Thankfully snack-time was a healthy, happy, and tantrum-free. But I feel like I escaped too easily. I was worried that my lack of a functioning kitchen and my desire to not feed her cookies and other processed snack-foods would mean my evening would be filled with shrieks.

But since my kitchen will be finished soon I know next time I'm babysitting I'll have many more options for dealing with this young person who is slowly discovering the boundaries and the rules of the adults in her life.

The appetites of the average toddler are fickle and ever-changing, or they'll end up wanting the same thing every day for weeks before they emphatically decide they never want to eat it again. It's a struggle to introduce nutritious foods to a self-determined child who really only wants white bread and mashed potatoes.

The appetites of the average toddler are fickle and ever-changing. They'll end up wanting the same thing every day for weeks before they emphatically decide they never want to eat it again. It's a struggle to introduce nutritious foods to a self-determined child who really only wants white bread and mashed potatoes.

Thankfully these are two things which can be highly nutritious if homemade. Fellow staffer Brian Sobolak has written several columns about how to make bread which I recommend highly. Even if your toddler will only eat white bread, if you're making it yourself instead of buying it at the megamart, it's much better for them. Homemade bread not only tastes better, it is much, much more nutritious. Those "added vitamins" stickers don't fool someone who realizes that half of the ingredients are preservatives.

I hate wasting food, but I know that toddlers don't have any frugal hang-ups. When they're done eating, they're done. Instead of forcing a toddler to eat food once they've stopped, they should be praised for what they have eaten. Forcing a child of this age to empty their plate isn't going to benefit either party.

Parents should be encouraged to continue introducing new foods to their children. And just because a child doesn't like something at 18 months doesn't mean they won’t love it at 22 months. Potatoes and cheese are easy to get kids to eat. Hummus makes a healthy dip for veggies or even grilled cheese sandwiches and I’ve even come across a recipe that might get kids and adults to eat their lima beans.

Spicy Cheese and Potato Sticks

2 large potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 beaten egg yolk
Flour for dusting a counter-top
Egg white for brushing on sticks
1 tablespoon of seed mixture made from sesame, sunflower, caraway, or fennel

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the mashed potatoes, cheese, coriander and egg yolk in a bowl. Flour your counterop lightly and roll out the potato mixture so it is about 1 inch thick. Cut these into 1 inch wide strips about a 4-5 inches in length. Brush the egg white over the sticks and roll them in the seed mixture. Place them slightly apart on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until they’re crispy and golden. You can even bake these, freeze them, and reheat them later. Fresh they’ll stay good for about 2 days in the refrigerator and you should get about 10-12 potato sticks out of this recipe.

Hummus

13 ounce can of chickpeas (drain and rinse them)
3 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons tahini*
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley

Put the chickpeas and water in a food processor and blend until the mixture is smooth. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, tahini and garlic and process to mix. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

*If there are any possible nut allergies, delete the tahini and add more water or lemon juice or oil.

Lima Beans au Gratin

1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 small leek, washed well and finely chopped
1/2 small grated carrot (or you can try parsnip or turnip)
1 clove of minced garlic (1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger can be substituted for the garlic)
2 tablespoons of canned lima beans that have been drained and rinsed
2/3 cup of water or stock
1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh parsley, thyme, or basil
1/4 red or yellow pepper chopped fine
1 roma tomato cut into thin rings
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the leek and carrot and fry gently for about 5 minutes or until the leek is translucent and soft. Add the garlic and lima beans and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 more minutes. Add the stock and herbs. (If your child is fussy about the texture of beans, you can puree the mixture in a blender.) Mix in the red pepper and pour in an ovenproof dish. Arrange the tomato rings on top. Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the top. Bake in the oven until it’s golden brown and bubbling hot, about 20 minutes. Let cool and serve.

Bread and Butter Pudding

4 large slices of whole wheat or white bread which have been buttered on one side
3 teaspoons of raisins, currants, cranberries or other dried fruit that have been finely chopped
1/2 ripe apple or pear with core removed and chopped into small pieces
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, rosemary, or thyme
Zest from 1/2 lemon or small orange
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups of whole milk
Drizzle of olive oil or a few small dabs of butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the slives of bread in halves or quarters and line the bottom of a greased ovenproof dish with one layer of the bread, butered side up. Sprinkle with some of the dried fruit and the apple, cover with another layer of bread and repeat until everything is in the dish. Whisk the eggs, honey, zest, cinnamon and milk together in a bowl and pour over the bread. Let the dish stand for 30 minutes. If necessary squish the top layer of bread with the back of a spatula every once in a while to keep the top layer wet. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil or put a few dabs of butter on top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Cooking for small children can be trying but a little bit of extra effort can have major benefits in developing healthy and versatile eating habits and preparing dishes you enjoy can create a time to bond and give you something to share.

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