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cooking for toddler / fussy one year old - cookbook recommendations?

I saw some posts for cooking for babies, but my son is past the baby-food stage. I'm finding it challenging to think of what to feed him (and he seems to hate green veggies, so it's even harder to work those in).
Does anyone have any good cookbook recommendatinos that are specifically geared towards toddlers?

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  1. I strongly suggest that you read "French Kids Eat Everything."

      1. Some of my friends like Annabel Karmel's books. I didnt use them so I can't give you specific suggestions...but I do have an idea for the green veggies.

        My sneaky way: save your broccoli stems, peel them and shred them fine. Add the shredded stems to waffle batter. I use a cornmeal waffle recipe from Dorie Greenspan, and add a little grated cheese to it too. You don't really taste either the broccoli or the cheese - the overall effect is just a rich, moist waffle with a crisp exterior (thanks to the cornmeal). freeze the extras and you have great walking-around food - waffles don't crumble all over the stroller or carseat.

        You can also use grated broccoli stems, or shredded zucchini, etc in a Korean pancake (jeon).

        My not-so-sneaky, though somewhat coercive way: take a container with steamed broocili (or green beans, any veggie) with you to the playground. Don't take any other snacks. On your way home from the playground, simply hand your child the veggies; if they're hungry, they might take a bite. If they complain, you say Sorry honey, all I have right now is broccoli. You can eat that now or wait until we get home (and then let them have something else when you get home, if they want it. But hopefully they'll eat the veggies!).

        1. Few kids will eat "veggies" without some coaxing or slight of hand. Just about every kid will eat something in the veggie line (peeled celery with peanut butter for the older kid) but when I raised mine I found that identifying something that they liked (soup, gravey, meat loaf, etc.) into which I could combine veggies was the easiest way to include those in their diet. One of my kids hated celery, but when I blended it into a lime Jello salad which I whipped with cream and included bits of pineapple he asked for more.
          You don't need a cookbook, you need to stay with what you regularly prepare and use some imagination.

          1. I did use the Annabel Karmel books when my kids were young and I really liked them. One I have heard recommended but my kids were older when it was published is Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton.

            1. Is it not possible to separate out the various parts of your dinner and put them through the immersion blender to create food your toddler will eat?

              2 Replies
              1. re: escondido123

                Unfortunately no. He's not unto really mushy food anymore. He likes to feed himself (using his hands--not quite up to a spoon yet)--but he's just not so excited about many of the things I've tried to feed him, and I'm hoping to get him beyond a diet of chicken nuggets and grilled cheese. :(

                1. re: jskang47

                  "and I'm hoping to get him beyond a diet of chicken nuggets and grilled cheese". :(

                  That's an easy fix....Tell his momma to stop cooking chicken nuggets, and grilled cheese sandwiches....which only reenforces his "picky" eating habits. ~~ Offer a well balanced diet, mainly off the table (same food you eat) I promise you, he will not starve to death....In fact I garontee it!!


              2. We've really enjoyed Tyler Florence's /Start Fresh/ cookbook. The kids really enjoyed the butternut squash mac and cheese, roasted banana and blueberry puree, among other recipes. The one miss that was in there, though, was the lasagna.

                1. I haven't read this book yet because it was just recently recommended to me (by an early childhood educator for a class I was taking), but you might have a look at Ellyn Satter's: Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook. It's both a philosophy of feeding children and a recipe book. She also has a website: http://www.ellynsatter.com/11-to-36-m... Basically her philosophy is the parents control the when where and what of eating and then it's up to the child to figure out the how and how much of eating, even if "how much" means none when it comes to broccoli. She believes if presented with an array of healthy, well-balanced meals, over time (say over the course of one week, not necessarily one day) a child will choose to eat a balanced diet.

                  You know, I bought a ton of baby/toddler cookbooks, but once we got out of the "purees" stage, they were all pretty useless as it turns out my toddler wants to eat anything that comes off of my plate for the most part.

                  He also really, really likes spicy rather than bland food, so even if it comes off of my plate steak might have to have ketchup or bbq sauce on it in order to appeal to him. What has been most successful for us is to sit down to eat as a family and have all food served "family" style. I precut some foods for him before the meal is served, but after that I just let him point at what he wants more of and cut it up right there for him. I find a little parm cheese, butter, vinaigrette, salsa helpful to have on hand, too, in case he wants it less plain than I do...

                  This is his all time favorite recipe: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipe...

                  Other favorites that come to mind:
                  watermelon, bananas, grapes (at least quartered of course), pears, apples, pineapple
                  broccoli (florets only), peas, carrots, sweet potatoes
                  shredded pork, shredded chicken, diced ham, BBQ beef, fish
                  toast, noodles, dirty rice, waffles, pancakes
                  milk, yogurt

                  Also, what he "likes" changes frequently. Today, he picked all of the watermelon out of his fruit salad and refused to eat any mango. In the past, he's loved mango. He has a love-hate relationship with carrots.

                  Good luck!


                  6 Replies
                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I haven't read this book yet because it was just recently recommended to me by an early childhood educator, but you might have a look at Ellyn Satter's: Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook. It's both a philophy of feeding children and a recipe book. She also has a website: http://www.ellynsatter.com/11-to-36-m...


                    Ellyn Satter saved our sanity and thank goodness I read Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense while our son was still a baby. I am not familar with the book Diary Queen mentioned but I am sure it is a good one.

                    The gist of her advice is to not do any special, just feed your kids what you eat (within reason) and stay the course. Her explainations of how, when and why toddlers/little kids go through "picky" stages was life changing for me.

                    We feed our son off our plates (Satter addresses physical development and appropriate foods/portions) and in fact, never fed him commerical baby food or purees at all

                    1. re: cleobeach

                      Oh! I'm so glad to hear a thumbs up from another hound on Satter. My understanding is that Secrets of Feeding is supposed to be more practical (including with recipes) than Child of Mine which is more theory.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Her book was by far the single best book I read while pregnant and during the infant months. It is my gift to all pregnant parents.

                        The short version is both Mr. CB and I came from families with MAJOR food issues, which is why the education we got from her book was so valuable. Had we not read it, Mr. CB would have had me cooking 10 different things each night the first time our son turned up his nose at anything. Child of Mine was more theory based.

                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I was going to recommend the Ellyn Satter books also (Child of Mine, or How to Get Your Child to Eat But Not Too Much). We follow this approach loosely. I say "loosely" because we do not have family meals during the week, as my son needs to eat before my husband and I get home from work. We try to have family meals on the weekends and sometimes they work out well and he eats and sometimes he refuses to eat anything. I do, however, serve my toddler our leftovers for his meals and do not cook special meals for him. He has gone through varying degrees of pickiness but overall is slowly improving in terms of the variety of foods he eats. Like DQ says, he is also incredibly mercurial in his likes and dislikes. For example, one night for our family dinner I made mussels, not expecting him to have any. I couldn't believe how many mussels he ate! For a week afterwards he was asking for mussels. I made them again a couple of weeks after that, thinking I had a guaranteed winner, and he refused to have a single bite. If he refuses to eat anything at a family dinner, I do give him a substitute food (which is against Ellyn Satter's advice). It is usually something else I had made that is in the fridge and just needs to be heated up. I feel better doing this than having him eat only bread for dinner (which Ellyn Satter says is OK, but it kind of makes me cringe). I don't short-order cook for him.

                      Sometimes on the weekends if he refuses to eat his lunch, for example, it may just be that he's not that hungry. If I feel like he hasn't had enough "real food" that day, I will pack it into a little tupperware and take it to the playground. In an hour or so he is usually hungry and will eat what he had previously rejected only an hour earlier. Again, I don't think Ellyn Satter would approve of this, but it seems to work for us.

                      Although I don't make special toddler meals, I do try to keep his preferences in mind when cooking. So, for example, I don't make our foods as spicy as I used to do because he is more sensitive to spices. He's not a big meat eater generally but likes ground meats, so I make dishes with ground meat sometimes, like pasta sauce, curry or meatballs, which I never used to do because I always thought ground meat was kind of gross, but I am learning ways to cook it that we all can enjoy. I cut veggies smaller and cook them softer than I used to do so that they are easier for him to eat.

                      On the subject of vegetables, my son is extremely unlikely to eat veggies when they are presented on their own, with the exception of a few sweet veggies like sweet potatoes and beets. However, he eats a good variety of veggies when they are incorporated into other things. Here are some ways to add veggies to the diet:

                      Eggs - scrambled or frittata with any kind of veggie leftovers, especially greens.
                      In pasta sauce
                      In soup
                      On pizza
                      Grated and incorporated into savory pancakes
                      Chopped small and incorporated into a grain salad, like tabbouleh, especially one that has a lot of other vibrant flavors. He loves this one as long as the kale is chopped very small: http://food52.com/recipes/2434_one_po...
                      In grilled cheese or quesadillas - this didn't go over so well for us but it might work for you since your son likes grilled cheese.

                      Note that none of these foods involve "hiding" the vegetables so that they are in disguise. The veggies are clearly visible, but cut small and cooked soft and incorporated into foods that have other additional flavors that he likes.

                      Also keep in mind that fruits have the same nutrients as veggies and many toddlers do much better with fruits. Learning to like veggies takes more practice. So don't forget to encourage your toddler to eat a variety of fruit while he is working on veggies.

                      Toddlers are weird and picky with what they will eat and don't eat. You just have to try presenting the foods over and over again and don't take it personally when they reject what you have made. Also don't assume that they won't like something - give them the choice to accept or reject a food. Just keep trying and they will get better over time. That's what we have done anyway, and though we are far from perfect, overall it seems to be working for us.

                      1. re: Westminstress

                        While I don't recommend hiding, the book Sneaky Veggies has some nice simple recipes for making the more fun. Not one of those purée books which I tried with my SO who didn't used to eat veggies. Got rid of all those.

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I like Ellyn Satter's advice, too. It brings a no stress level to feeding your kids because the last thing you want is for food to be a fight in the family. It should be more about enjoyment. And, stages come and go. One day, kids eat something, the next day they stop and vice versa. Saddest thing was when my daughter came home from a friend's house when she was 12 and said, "I like soda now" because until then she hated it.

                        To the OP, take what foods your toddler likes and find a way to sneak vegetables into it, if you want. Cannelini beans can be smooshed; cauliflower in undetectable in mac and cheese; tomato sauce is a great way to get vegetables in them; puree vegetables to thicken soup; roasted kale chips/brussel sprout chips are great.

                      3. I usually make my daughter a smaller portion of what we are eating for dinner.
                        I add spinach, peas, or steamed broccoli into the ricotta mixture of lasagna.
                        Baked potato stuffed with mashed potato, spinach, cottage cheese.
                        Mac and cheese with butternut squash.
                        eggplant parm, sometimes with a zucchini layer.

                        She also likes to hold her food and eat herself. Steamed broccoli, red pepper strips, roasted cauliflower, Cucumbers. Also she will eat a triangle of puff pastry or phyllo filled with anything - meat, cheese, potato, spinach, eggplant. As she's between bites, I try to give her bites of another food.

                        Don't stress, most kids will eventually eat what you give them as long as you keep trying. It helps to point out to your son wha other kids are eating.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: cheesecake17

                          it's so interesting how kids are different in their tastes. My daughter (now 3.5) is a good eater, but wants were flavors to be separate -- not mixed together. If i tried to mix in veggies into her protiens, etc. she would more likely than not reject them. On the other hand, she loves and eats a good variety of veggies simply steamed, sauteed or with simple seasoning -- asparagus, steamed or sauteed brocooli, roasted cauliflower, steamed or grilled corn, green beans, beets, butternut squash and peas are all on regular rotation for her. She'll usually have 2-3 of them with dinner along with whatever protein i've made for us/her, plus she loves rice. she'd have rice with dinner everyday if available. But if she's eating salmon and 3 veggies + fruit for "dessert" i'm not going to object very often.

                          I don't cater meals to her, but do keep her tastes in mind when i'm preparing things. During the week, she normally has dinner before my husband and I are home. Normally that consists of some protein that i've made from the night before + veggies/rice. I'm trying to get her to be more interested in sauced foods -- lasagna, chili, etc. are not welcomed right now. when we are all eating together, i ask her to try whatever it is we are eating, even if outside her comfort zone. As long as she tries a bite, I'm good. She'll get there eventually.

                          I also invovle her in cooking whenever I can -- prepping our dinner right before her bedtime (after she's eaten), which she may eat the next day, or on weekends...she's a great helper. tonight she helped me "paint" the salmon with dijon, sprinkle the panko, sprinkle the dried thyme, etc. She loves helping, and we've talked about how great it feels to eat things that you created. So, she may not eat everything i want her to all the time, but i think she's growing into the right attitudes about food -- involvement, willingness to try things, appreciation for ingredients and where they come from, etc. And we are having fun.

                          1. re: MAH

                            My daughter will eat foods separately, but if I gave her cottage cheese, spinach, and baked potato she would take a bite of each and that would be dinner. When it's mixed, she'll eat more.

                            Fish is also a winnner. I drizzle tilapia with olive oil and cornflake crumbs and bake. We haven't tried salmon yet. I make my own chicken fingers and she will eat one or two with vegetables for dinner.

                            Rice, like you mentioned, is always eaten. I usually incorporate something into the rice- lentils and yogurt, peppers and onions, peas...

                            Next time you make lasagna, leave the components separate for your child. Make her a plate with plain lasagna noodles, a dollop of ricotta filling (no eggs), and a spoonful of whatever else you put in. Leave the center of the plate empty and encourage her to mix small pieces to find a combo she likes.

                        2. Never been a mother but with all the posts I read, I'm wondering why a child would be fed anything different from one the family is eating. Are their certain nutritional considerations or foods they can't eat? Once I could eat solid food, my family pretty much ate the same thing, and if someone was picky they got scrambled eggs or the like.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: escondido123

                            Good question. Setting aside any developmental disabilitiies or allegeries, no, kids don't need different food.

                            In my opinion, I think parents have been brainwashed by corporate America into thinking kids need what the (big business) are selling - baby food from a jar versus just mashing your own veggies, those awful "puffs", yogurt with cartoon characters on the packaging, etc.

                            1. re: cleobeach

                              Those puffs aren't "awful." I varied puffs with Cheerios and my daughter figured out how to pick them up and put them in her mouth.

                              Baby food from a jar is convenient. I left a few jars in relatives houses so that there would always be something available for her to eat. When we were home, i usuall prepared my own food.

                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                Mine never took to eating mush food from a jar. There is something wrong when you feed your child something you won't eat yourself.

                                1. re: lilham

                                  I don't drink breastmilk. There are quite a few foods I've fed my kids that I don't eat, or don't like. Mine never cared for baby food but sometimes people do things out of necessity and it doesn't make them bad parents.

                                  1. re: lilham

                                    You know, as a chowhound, I'd love to say that I never fed my child puffs or food from a jar, but I would be lying.

                                    I wish I could have cooked every morsel my child ever eats from scratch myself, but that's just not the reality I live in. The great thing about the food from a jar is that it was developmentally appropriate in terms of texture and serving size and it was shelf-stable. Some days, that was a godsend for me.

                                    I understand your point that you shouldn't feed your child something you won't eat yourself, but the truth is, at the time I was feeding my child from a jar occasionally, I had teeth and he didn't. I did read labels on everything I fed him and didn't feed him anything that sounded like junk to me. And I tasted everything I fed him from a jar. If I didn't think it tasted like a banana or sweet potatoes or whatever, I chucked it.

                                    I do think there is some middle ground.

                                    As far as the puffs, we found ourselves in a lot of social situations where all of the other (slightly older) kids were getting snacks he was a little too young for, Cheerios and goldfish, etc.. We didn't want our kid to be the one who didn't get a snack when all of the other kids got a snack, so the puffs were a good compromise for us. Again, I read the labels very carefully (my biggest thing is that I didn't want anything with rice syrup in it.) Plus, I just don't think you want anything to be a forbidden food because I think that just makes it super appealing to your kid...

                                    But, it is really rewarding to cook from scratch for my little one. It's so much easier (for me anyway) to be relaxed at the toddler stage than it was at the infant stage.


                                    1. re: lilham

                                      My son sometimes ate food from jars - mostly veggies and fruits. I tried them first, and I would eat them myself. Well, I don't too much care for strained, unsalted vegetables, even homemade ones, but the jarred fruits were actually quite good. Between working full-time and pumping and nursing to provide enough breastmilk (his primary and most important nutrition) I didn't always have time to prepare his food. I was grateful that good and healthy alternatives were commercially available.

                                      As for puffs, my son wasn't ever that into them, but we did have them sometimes. It is important for babies to experience crunchy textures and there are very few foods that can provide crunch but yet are not choking hazards.

                                      1. re: lilham

                                        There's nothing wrong when the "mush" is butternut squash or green beans. I personally never bought the jars that had other ingredients or that we're mixtures.

                                        Certain foods just didn't make sense to prepare myself, like mango or peaches, but I wanted my daughter to taste them.

                                        I did taste most of the jars, and they were pretty good tasting. My husband would walk in from work and polish off the pears or peaches.

                                        Not saying jars are the only way to feed a kid, but they worked for me. At 13 months my daughter will eat pretty much whatever is offered to her.

                                        1. re: cheesecake17

                                          I think the difference might be we get a year of maternity leave here. So there isn't any pumping when I went back to work. (Hats off to you that you can manage that). Also, my post was a respond to @cheesecake17 and @escondido123 . I did give my daughter ready made baby rice cakes, breadsticks and fruit/veg bars. @cheesecake17, about leaving the jars so they have something to eat at a relatives place, which is a response to @escondido123 about whether they need special food. The answer to that I'd maintain is no, they don't need special food. I have, shame to admit, give my daughter nandos, pizza hut and fish & chips on the odd occasion.

                                          As for why some food doesn't make sense to prepare yourself, like mango and peaches. My question is why? Is it that hard to cut up a mango or a peach, and remove the stone? If you are not at home, you can even just take a bite off the fruit and hand the pieces to them. Or are they very rare where you are from? I have always found soft fruit being the easiest thing to give to a baby.

                                          1. re: lilham

                                            Most fruits, especially peaches, are very seasonal. Where I live, you can get nice, sweet, juicy ones only a few months out of every year. Frozen or from a jar are your best bet the other 9-10 months of the year... Plus, several of those fruits are ones I'd only buy organic of...


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Exactly. Peaches and mangos are not commonly found in NYC in the winter, and if they are avail, they are not usually sweet. The organic jars were available and sweet.

                                  2. re: escondido123

                                    Depending on who you talk to, there are some foods you shouldn't feed young children (depending upon the age of the child) or that have to be introduced slowly or carefully, but for the most part, a child of the age described by the OP should be able to eat most things, as long is the foods are soft enough for the child to chew (a one-year old may not have a full set of molars yet) and aren't so big as to be choking hazards. (At our house, we still can't do strawberries or raw honey or shellfish or popcorn. We're okay with small amounts of nut pastes, but no whole or even chopped nuts yet.)

                                    The bigger issue when it comes to "picky eating" is that a child of the age described by the OP has a developing palate. Tastes, textures, temperature, all of this is new. You just have to be patient and calm and keep at it.


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Yeah, my "kids don't need different food" is a little general. Allergies, physical development, choking hazards, etc. need to be considered.

                                  3. I've tried toddler cookbooks and honestly I can't think of anything more pointless. The recipes aren't that different from regular recipes, and the portions are usually too small for a family meal. I could tell you what my kids like, but even they have completely opposite tastes so who knows if your son would actually like them. I think you just need to accept that sometimes (most of the time?) he won't eat what you give him and there is going to be wasted food. And making special foods for him will drive you to despair because it's bad enough when they won't eat dinner - when they won't eat the food you prepared lovingly especially for them you'll want to kill yourself.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. I did have one experience with a toddler, my niece. My sister came to visit with her and went to the store to buy special food for her because she was a "fussy" eater. Well, one night she rejected whatever my sister had offered her and was sitting on my husband's lap while the rest of us ate roast chicken. As my husband pulled pieces of meat off the leg, she reached out for some. The first bite lead to another until she'd basically eaten half the leg. Turned out that what she was looking for was good food and for the rest of the visit she ate whatever we were having.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        As a toddler, having gotten enough teeth to handle it, my grandson refused to eat broccoli -
                                        unless it was raw and he could dip it into ice water. I have no explanation for that but I figured; the kid will eat raw broccoli if he's allowed to dip into ice water first, so give the kid some ice water.
                                        He also refused to eat sour cream. But if I put a layer of it between two layers of Jello mixed with fruit he offered no objection - I guess he thought it was whipped cream.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          It's funny that you don't have kids because what you're saying (and said above) is basically what Ellyn Satter says in her book. Make dinner, don't make a special meal for a child, but make sure there's something in the meal that the child will eat. BUT, then serve dinner and don't make comments on it. Don't assume the child will or will not eat any part of the meal. Don't tell the child, the xxxx is for you. Don't act surprised when a child eats something. Serve and eat.

                                          1. re: escondido123

                                            You just never know with toddlers. One day it can be "No, no, no" and the next day any hint of objection will have vanished. Honestly, I don't think toddlers have refined enough palates to know good food as much as they may be in an experimental mood one day or, conversely, they might be feeling the need for comfort or security. They are growing and changing so much. Most toddlers are copy cats. They want to do eat what you eat, and play with what you play with (keys, remote control, i-phone, etc.) so I think just letting them eat as much like a grown up as possible can be very appealing, including whatever it is right off your plate.


                                          2. I don't have a rec on cookbooks. It's all trial and error.

                                            In regards to leafy greens, a baby's palate can easily be overwhelmed by new flavors. Greens tend to be overly bitter and pungent to young children. It depends upon how you cook them too.

                                            I would guess your child doesn't have problems with sweeter vegetables like carrots, peas and squash.

                                            It's okay that children don't eat a lot of leafy greens at this age. Their other foods are usually fortified to make up for it.

                                            1. No cookbook recs, but I second Child of Mine, as well as the basic idea of not turning food into an issue -- ever. My daughter is almost three. When she was younger, I tried to give her food that was somehow related to what we were eating. For instance, no way would that kid eat a taco, but she would happily snarf down refried beans, chopped tomatoes, and shredded cheese. If I made chicken and dumplings, she'd avoid the chicken, but happily eat a dumpling soaked in gravy. (And of course, pretty much anything covered in butter and parmesan was a hit.) The best advice I ever got was to think of it in terms of what the kid eats in a week, rather than what he eats in a day. You might as well cook what you like; he'll be eating with you for the next 17 years, at least, so he might as well get used to the things you cook.

                                              I will say that I think I got lucky. My daughter never met a fruit she didn't like, and never had trouble tolerating any of it, so when dinner was a bust I just gave her a bowl of fruit and called it good. In terms of green veggies, keeping a batch of these in the freezer continues to save my sanity to this day:


                                              Now that she's older, the game has changed a bit; a two-year-old will try to control absolutely everything they can, and one of the things they can control is what they put in their mouth and swallow. We recently started a new policy; if she eats one bite of dinner and doesn't like it, she can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The first week we made seven peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but noticed that once she actually had the sandwich, she usually ate a little of whatever dinner was along with it. Now it's a month later and I haven't made a PB&J in over a week. Small victories!