Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our toddler is becoming a picky eater

We'd been lucky up 'till now.  Sure, sometimes I enjoyed thinking that it was due to our merit, but overall, we'd been aware that Babygirl's grand experimental appetite was something to be celebrated, and very much a part of her personality.   I mean, she used to eat whatever we'd put on her plate with gusto.

Alas, it is no more.

As of a week ago, due to mysterious reasons (most likely being almost two years old), Babygirl has decided that she no longer likes vegetables and many previously beloved fruits.  It's an annoying setback, but certainly nothing to fret over. While I'd prefer that she eat wholesome balanced meals with a healthy heap of leafy greens, it's also true that even if this new development not ideal, she will still survive and thrive.  We will keep offering her healthy food options off our own plates and maybe she'll have some, maybe she wont, but in the end, as long as she's having some lean proteins, fruits and some good carbs, nothing is too tragic.

Our main focus is keeping meals happy occasions.  I never want to force Babygirl to eat anything against her will, and have her hate dinner time as a result.  And while I'm not above "hiding" veggies in the recipes, I still think she needs to be aware of exactly what she's putting in her mouth.  It's a trust thing, really.  If I tell her something is a bite of chicken, but it's actually chicken and mushrooms (which can look similar due to their coloring, but definitely taste different), then she might not trust me again next time I offer her chicken.  Right?

So far this problem hasn't been too daunting, because she has picked her favorites, and they're mostly healthy and simple to prepare.  We'll see how this progresses, and I'm mentally preparing myself for much worse.  Meanwhile, I still refuse to accommodate this pickiness too much.  We are not running an a-la-carte kitchen here, after all.

Foods she still loves:  chicken (cooked in any way imaginable), rice (brown and white), whole wheat pasta, turkey deli meat, salmon, bananas, apples, oranges, cheddar cheese, greek yogurt, butternut squash, tomatoes depending on the preparation, tortillas, whole wheat bread, whole-wheat waffles, crackers

Foods she used to love and is now refusing:  zucchini, mushrooms, hamburger, yellow squash, peas, blueberries, grapes, asparagus, strawberries, carrots, mashed potatoes, hummus

Foods she loves and I wish she didn't like so much:  french fries, goldfish crackers, cupcakes (any type of cake, really, she can spot those a mile away)

And she refuses to drink any type of  juice, which is still very amusing.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pesto Pasta with Chicken

I've had this strange fear of pesto for a while.  Even though "they" say it's actually very easy to make, it always seemed like a daunting restaurant type dish.   But then I realized that if I can make risotto, then pesto pasta should be a piece of cake.  And it is, seriously, so easy.  I almost feel foolish for not having this dish in our weekly rotation until now.

I decided to start with a very traditional pesto, which consists of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.   Once I get the hang of this, I shall expand to some of the flavored pestos of the world.  I'm really curious about infusing some bell peppers into this business.

I've also discovered that our immersion blender once again rocks our world.  We haven't had a proper blender for a while (it got fried blending baby food... I know, right?), so we figured we'd just go for it and use our $30 immersion blender.  Let me tell you, it works well.  And clean up is much easier when you don't have to deal with separating the blades from the container, etc.   I'm all about minimizing clean up, y'all.

The recipe calls for what seems to be a lot of olive oil, but the end result didn't feel terribly greasy.  In any case, I've done the calorie count, and by the time you factor in pasta and chicken breast, the total meal comes out to be heart healthy enough.  Not the lowest fat dinner out there, but we all need treats once in a while.

This recipe is adapted from Pasta, from Parragon Publishers.

  • 1 lb chicken breast, skinless, boneless
  • Farfalle Pasta (one 14oz bag)
  • 3 1/2 shredded fresh basil
  • 4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cook pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water according to package directions.  Drain, but do not rinse.
  2. Cook chicken breast on a lightly oiled skillet, until the the middle is no longer pink.  I find it useful to cut the chicken into strips before placing it on skillet.  When it's done, cut cooked chicken into small cubes.
  3. To make pesto, place basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt into a blender/ food processor. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in cheese (this step is not necessary if you use an immersion blender.  yay!).  This is also a good time to season with salt and pepper.
  4. Combine pasta, chicken cubes, and pesto on a warm serving dish (or if you're trying to minimize dish-washing, into the same pot where you cooked the pasta). 
  5. Toss well to mix, and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Toddler Ratings   hearth healthy: yes     spicy: no      easy to chew: yes      ease of preparation: easy      reheating:  tastes even better reheated   food groups: carbs, protein, veggies, healthy oil

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goat cheese, Tomato and Bell pepper Frittata

Frittatas are one of those things that defy description.  I mean, they can be everything you want them to be.  You can change any ingredients or flavor profiles.  So long as it's egg based, and open faced, right?

This was my Easter Sunday last minute fridge version.  I meant to do a well-loved frittata recipe from The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook (which is actually a great resource for 2 person dishes), but I forgot to take the shopping list to Central Market with me, and I couldn't remember what I needed.  So I just figured I'd get some goat cheese, since you can't go wrong with that, and sort it out later based on what was in my fridge.  This one came out delicious, but you don't have to go by my "toppings".  Put whatever you want in it. The sky (and your wallet) are the limit.   I'm a sucker for presentation, though, so I try to get a diversity of colors.  In this case, we have white (cheese), red (tomato) and green (bell pepper), yellow (eggs).  My grandma once told me that a balanced meal has at least 3 colors, and I've always tried to honor this advice.

The main thing to remember is that the skillet will end up in the oven, so make sure there's cheese to melt on top.  Oh, and make sure you have good oven-friendly cookware.  We have some nice cast-iron pans, and they rock.

  • Half yellow onion, diced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 - 3 oz goat cheese
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat broiler
  2. On an oven proof large skillet, saute onion and bell pepper until onion is translucent and peppers are soft.  Set aside.  Make sure you do this step, otherwise the onion and pepper wont release their yummy sweetness
  3. While the veggies are sauteing.  On a medium bowl, whisk eggs and milk together.  Add salt and pepper.  
  4. Pour mixture on skillet, and add the previously cooked onions ad peppers.  Add chopped tomatoes.  Cook uncovered on medium-low heat.  Scatter goat cheese on top
  5. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom, probably about 5 - 10 minutes (depending on how preheated your skillet was).  While the eggs are cooking, lift an edge of the frittata with a spatula and let the uncooked eggs flow underneath.  Repeat in a few places.  This is also a good time to season.
  6. When the eggs are almost cooked, put skillet in the broiler.  Cook for 2-5 minutes, until the eggs are set  n the center.
  7. Let cool for a few minutes and... Enjoy!

Now for a confession... Babygirl didn't really eat this.  This doesn't, however, mean that it's not toddler friendly.  She has a mild egg allergy, where she gets a slight rash on her face when she eats them.  It really feels like something she'll grow out of, but as a result she hasn't developed a taste for eggs.  Her loss, I guess, right?  She's got the rest of her life to embrace breakfast foods.

Toddler Ratings   hearth healthy: not on its own, but this should be part of a balanced breakfast     spicy: no      easy to chew: yes      ease of preparation: easy      reheating:  yes      food groups: eggs, dairy, veggies

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cauliflower Quiche (without crust)

Can it really be called a quiche if it doesn't have a crust?  A simple Google search tells me YES, though it seems I should specify its crust status, should it otherwise upset quiche purists.  Purists be damned.  I'm not even sure this is a proper quiche, since it's more of a dinner side dish.

This is also a good item for potlucks, as it travels and reheats very well.  Babygirl enjoyed it, though I think she found this version a bit too mushy.  Usually I leave some pieces of cauliflower unblended for extra crunchiness, but we were going for speed rather than perfection.  This recipe is either super easy or incredibly laborious depending on how you feel about cleaning your blender.  I hate having to take it apart and washing it, so I seldom make this dish.

In the pan

  • 1 cauliflower head, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 -2 cups of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese *
  • salt and pepper

Bear with me as I try condense into writing something I've always eyeballed. I think I got it right, but if at any point while you're cooking, something is looking off, trust your chef gut and change it.  For reals.
  • Set aside a fourth of the cauliflower and chop into very tiny pieces.  Leave on a separate bowl.
  • On a blender, add some of cauliflower (from the main batch) and milk (enough to cover it) and blend until smooth.  Add more cauliflower slowly, and milk if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency.  (You might not use all 2 cups of milk, and that's okay, since it really depends on how much cauliflower you had to begin with.)
  • Add eggs and mozzarella and blend again
  • On an oven container (I use this pirex dish, for reference), pour mixture and add extra mozzarella and the extra cauliflower previously set aside. **
  • Put in the oven for.... man, I'm not sure, was it 20 minutes at 350?  I've also made it in the microwave for 20 minutes.  I would recommend doing the "knife check" after 15 - 20 minutes, and add time as necessary. (You know, that baking trick where you put a knife into your item, and if the knife comes out streak free it means it's been properly baked)

* My mom and I have an ongoing discussion of whether this should be shredded commercial mozzarella or fresh mozzarella balls chopped into pieces.  The fresh mozzarella is definitely tastier and creamier, that's for sure.  But I usually use the shredded type for three very simple reasons:  1) it's pre-cut, which is just easier  2) spreads more evenly in the mixture 3) there's low fat and skim options, which makes a big difference for our heart-healthy purposes

**  The extra mozzarella and cauliflower are for additional crunchiness and texture.  Many times, when in a rush, I end up skipping this step and the quiche comes out just fine.  You can also add some shredded Parmesan cheese at this point since it cooks so nice in the oven.

Toddler Ratings   hearth healthy: not the lowest fat item out there, but hey, it's got a veggie!      spicy: no      easy to chew: yes      ease of preparation: easy      reheating: yes      food groups: dairy, veggies

Friday, March 30, 2012

Wacky Cake

You know what makes this cake wacky?  No eggs or milk!  So... I guess it's a certified vegan dessert.  (Except the frosting, which originally didn't have butter or milk, but my family added them at some point for taste.)

We've been making Wacky Cake in my family since I can remember, and it's always been the go-to dessert  for every birthday.  My aunt learned it in her childhood from a school friend.  Apparently, Wacky Cake is a  US depression era dessert, when people had to rely more on their pantry non-perishables.  Curiously enough, even though my aunt grew up in Peru, her school friend had US relatives, so I'm pretty certain my Peruvian family has been making an American dessert classic all these years, without knowing it.   I love the idea of recipes being passed through oral tradition, and it goes something like this  Person in US --> Peruvian relative --> daughter --> my aunt -->  my mother  --> me  --> you

This is also a great dessert to make with  your kids, since its a pretty straightforward single bowl concoction.   Babygirl is still too young, and doesn't have the attention span, but she did stir the wooden spoon a few times, and thus did participate.

One of my favorite things growing up was decorating the cake.  I would use Lentejitas (the Peruvian M&Ms) and make all sorts of visual patterns and pictures using the different colors.  Sometimes it was geometric, sometime we'd spell things, but it was always festive.

Cake a la mode


  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 400 °F
  2. On a large mixing bowl, mix all the sifted dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cocoa).  Mix with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl, in no particular order (oil, water, vinegar, vanilla).  Mix thoroughly with a large wooden spoon as you add each one.  (you don't need to use any electric blenders)
  4. Put mixture on a buttered 9" mold, and bake for 50 minutes.  At that point, check with a knife if the cake is made, otherwise, leave inside for 10 - 15 more minutes.  The knife should come out streak free.
Chocolate frosting

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. On a small bowl, sift sugar and cocoa.  On a different small cup, mix corn starch into milk
  2. Melt butter on a small pan, under low heat
  3. Add dry ingredients to butter and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon, and quickly add milk/corn starch mixture.  Add vanilla and salt
  4. Keep stirring on low heat for 15 minutes or more until mixture feels thick, yet still liquid.  You do NOT need to see the bottom of the pan when you stir.  This frosting will not have the consistency of store-bought hard frosting
  5. While still warm, pour frosting on cake, it should move like a liquid.  After it cools, it will harden.
Toddler Ratings    heart healthy: no, but it's a special occasion dessert, all part of a balanced diet      spicy: no      easy to chew: yes      ease of preparation: simple      reheating: not necessary     food groups : sweets

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Banana bread

Hands down, the easiest solution to the dreaded browning-banana problem.  I don't know about you, but we end up with a surplus of bananas in this house.  Mostly because Babygirl loves bananas, and it's our panacea for all food related issues.  In fact, she even takes a banana to preschool every day, just in case she doesn't like the lunch/snack and needs something to eat.  We average one banana per day.  

So why so many extras?  Well, it's simple.  When you know your toddler needs their daily banana, you end up buying a bunch every time you go to the store, and sometimes we buy too many.  Also, I'm discovering that not all bananas are created equal, and some brown much faster than others.  (Mental note: look into why this is, and how to keep bananas fresh longer.)

I'm a fan of single-bowl baking projects, and this bread is as easy as they come. The recipe is pretty low in sugar and fat (considering how bad it could be), and we've liked it as a transitional sweet.  In fact, this was the first "dessert" Babygirl ever tasted, when we had a playgroup goodbye picnic before our last move.

what happens when your toddler attacks a loaf of banana bread

The recipe came from some Internet source, I believe  Who knows, it's been transcribed to paper, to a shopping list, and then to email, and this is my latest copy of it

  • 3 bananas, well mashed
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mash bananas in mixing bowl.  Add sugar, eggs  and oil, making sure to mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon each time
  3. Mix dry ingredients together and add to the banana mixture
  4. Pour in greased loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes

Toddle ratingsheart healthy: yes     spicy: no     easy to chew: yes, finger food     ease of preparation:very simple     reheating: not necessary, easy     Food groups: carbohydrate, fruit?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pan fried salmon with butternut squash mashed potatoes

It's only the second Weekly Challenge (along with our friends from read it // eat it) and we're already behind.  Funny thing happens when you blog about feeding a toddler, yeah, sometimes that toddler takes a lot of attention.  

Read more here about this week's theme: the Ocean.  We decided to go with salmon because we love it's natural fatty buttery flavors, and it's a fairly easy protein to cook.  We are trying to give Babygirl more fish, since "they" say omega oils are good for the brain, right?  We need her learning more animal sounds.

The fish is simply pan-fried; nothing fancy or complicated.  It's pretty similar to how my mom cooked fish when I was growing up.  Really, with salmon, there's no reason to add any seasoning beyond salt and pepper, the fish itself is rich and creamy.

The mashed potatoes with butternut squash is my idea, based on something I must have read on the Internet at some point of my life, though I'd be hard-pressed to figure out where.  It substitutes butternut squash, a naturally buttery tasting vegetable, for cheese, butter and/or cream.  Result: non-fat (yet creamy) mashed potatoes.

Babygirl's Plate

Adult Plate


  • Salmon (a single portion is 6 oz) *
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced 
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Mashed potatoes

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (this is the part where I specify the best potato for mashing, but I'm not that knowledgeable.  For the record, I am content to use russet)
  • salt and pepper


  1. On a large pan, place butternut squash and potatoes.  Cover with water and set to boil.  Once boiling, lower temperature to keep at a slow simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, until both squash and potatoes are soft.
  2. On a medium pan, heat a small bit of olive oil (just a tiny tiny bit, but you need it for the onions).  Cook onions until they are translucent
  3. Season fish with salt and pepper on both sides and put on the pan, over the cooked onions.
  4. After the fish is cooked on one side, flip it over to cook on the other.  Salmon turns a distinctive "salmon" color when cooked.  I personally let it brown a bit on both sides, as I think it makes it tastier.  And yes, the fish often falls apart during the flipping process; it's no biggie.
  5. Check on the mashed potatoes, and if cooked through, remove extra liquid.  Mash until desired consistency and season.
  6. Done !
* My new discovery for removing salmon skin: the fish monger will do it for you!!!  At lest they do at Whole Foods, though I'm sure other places would too.  

Toddle ratings: heart healthy: yes     spicy: no     easy to chew: yes, super mushy     ease of preparation: very simple     reheating: only mashed potatoes, but they can be a side to any protein     3 food groups: protein, vegetable, carbohydrate