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toddler dinner rut

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We're in a dinner rut. Looking for yummy and toddler-friendly healthy dinner ideas. Not into faux meat. Right now mac and cheese, spaghetti, black rice with edamame and corn, cheese omelettes, and soup are on high rotation. Any inspiration out there? My 2 year old and 3 year old thank you in advance :-)

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  1. We do a Greek night with hummus & pita, (store-bought) dolmas, feta and salad. I also made sliders today -- mini-hamburger buns from KAF and mini-black bean burgers from Cooking Light. Really tasty and, since they are small, they don't fall apart. We also have make-your-own-soft taco night. Looking forward to other suggestions!

    7 Replies
    1. re: jessinEC

      Our toddler is younger (to be honest, we still call her baby) at 14 months. Her favorite thing to eat is avocados and we do avocados on toast, rice and beans with chopped avocado, avocado mashed with cereal.

      Also, lots of Indian food. She loves green peas in onion-tomato-cumin-coriander sauce. Potatoes always go over well and I try to mix in some greens -- as in mashed potatoes with some pureed spinach/kale mixed in. Just recently started her on chickpeas as well now that she has more teeth.

      1. re: nazinbrooklyn

        my kids love mujadarra--thanks for the reminder!

        1. re: noya

          My daughter likes mujDarra mixed with Greek yogurt and grated cucumbers. Easy for her to eat on her own

      2. re: jessinEC

        love the mini black bean burgers idea. thanks!

        1. re: jessinEC

          not a specific answer to your question, but;
          when my daughter was a toddler, she really enjoyed dipping her foods into sauces/spreads.
          sometimes the combos didn't make flavor-sense to me, but SHE enjoyed it (i.e. dipping blanched green beans into peanut butter, dipping cherry tomatoes into tahini or into guacamole, dipping cucumber slices into anything spreadable. tofu was good, but tofu DIPPED into peanut butter was better.)

          1. re: westsidegal

            Think a lot of her ideas actually look quite tasty :)

            1. re: westsidegal

              that is so cute.. When kids first eat veggies everything just seems so new and they're pallet explodes.. Best part of being a kid ever!

          2. The kids can eat anything you're eating.

            What are you having?

            6 Replies
            1. re: jmcarthur8

              we eat a lot of tough greens that they simply don't have the teeth to chew--kale, chard, etc...

              1. re: noya

                I wonder if you could puree those for the kids. Or chop them up fine after you cook them. It's been a while, as my boys are in their mid 20's now, but I don't recall fixing special kid meals for them. My husband and I were always pretty adventurous eaters, and the boys just ate what we did (other than some personal dislikes for each of them).

                Kids usually like things they can put together themselves, like mini-pizzas, tacos, even panini. A salad bar at home is fun for them, too.

                1. re: jmcarthur8

                  don't think so, but thanks. Not about adventure--about ability to chew. And again, we're talking about a 2 year old and a 3 year old--they can't dress themselves let alone put food together ;-)

                  1. re: noya

                    My 16mo likes kale. I finely chop it or shred it, sauté until soft with onions and garlic, mix with cottage cheese and eggs and bake it in cupcake pans.

                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      thanks! cute idea :-)
                      the context of the greens was to explain that our toddlers can't 'eat anything we're eating', not specifically kale. just our preferred preparation of it. but I digress--thanks for this idea--we'll hope they like it!

                2. re: noya

                  a good thing to do with curly kale (dino kale has been too bitter) is to put in the vitamin with ice, frozen mango chunks, fuji apple, water, chia seeds, and lime for a kale smoothie...of course that doesn't address your dinner dilemma...

              2. Mini quiches, anything in pancake form, mini veggie frittatas, butternut squash pasta, "slurp-able" soups, tofu tacos, mini bean wraps or burritos, baked "summer pasta."

                Spinach pesto. Mixed with pasta, stirred into bown rice, spread on grilled cheese, topping for vegetable soup....

                1. Are you okay with tofu? I cut it into fingers, cover it in honey-mustard dressing, then roll it in bread crumbs, and bake. I could see them really liking that!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: katecm

                    mmm! that sounds like a great idea. they do like tofu. Thanks! Any specific honey mustard dressing recipe you're fond of? What temp do you bake the tofu?

                    1. re: noya

                      I usually just mix whatever honey and mustard I have on hand, then a dash of worcestershire and sriracha. You might need to skip the sriracha for them! I usually bake them at around 400 so that the breading gets good and crispy.

                      1. re: katecm

                        really really thank you! wonderful idea!! and I will leave that sriracha out ;-)

                        1. re: katecm

                          remember that worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, so a vegetarian version should be used if you want to keep vegetarian...

                    2. These zucchini (or other veg) pancakes might be a good fit. They can be made with cottage cheese or ricotta, and you can sub other vegetables for the shredded zucchini; they even work well with shredded winter squash. For a dozen 3-inch or so pancakes, whisk together 3 eggs, about a cup of cottage cheese or ricotta, a cup of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, some salt, a cup and a half or so of shredded zucchini, and whatever herbs you like (dill is nice with zucchini). Cook them like you would any other pancakes in an oiled pan.

                      These make good finger food on their own (if you let the kids eat with their hands), and they're also good topped with tomato sauce or roasted red pepper sauce (just pureed roasted peppers with seasonings).

                      1 Reply
                      1. When my kids were really little I used to just steam broccoli or spinach, mix it with rice, and melt some cheese on it. (Now they are 7 and 9 and no way would they eat that!) They do still like pasta with cottage cheese, which I remember liking as a kid too.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: sciencediet

                          My daughters favorite meal is mashed potatoes or rice, mixed with cottage cheese and steamed vegetables

                          1. re: cheesecake17

                            how about cottage cheese casserole with broccoli. my friend who is a vegetarian serves this to her 2 yr old and he loves it.

                            1. re: trolley

                              Do you have a recipe? I usually mix cottAge cheese, spinach, sautéed onions, eggs, and sme shredded mozzarella and bake it in a Pyrex or muffin cups.

                              1. re: cheesecake17

                                i don't have a recipe. i can ask if you'd like. i know she uses broccoli instead of spinach. and sautés onion with broccoli first. i'm pretty sure there's eggs, sour cream and cheddar cheese as well.

                        2. My boys loved saag pander when they were little. They still do, of course.

                          1. It is really hard to cook for young ones. My son now eighteen loved fish sticks, chicken nuggets and KD. He seemed to be wired to reject all other types of food. He did like a soup I made, real easy, every vegetable cut and diced super super fine, carrots, potatoes, leeks, fennel,etc mixed with a can of vegetable broth and large can of tomato juice. Also you can mix mashed potatoes with sweet potato and sneek in a vegetable and then serve with the a main entree. Pasta seems to be a hit with children, so a spaghetti sauce made in advance, and if you want pasta like small rigatoni, with cheese. Also my son loveees shephard's pie, you can make a healthy version and great for a fall meal. If you are a vegetarian I guess you could use a soy product instead of ground beef.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Ruthie789

                              Sundays at the Moosewood has a very good vegetarian shepherd's pie with mushrooms instead of the beef. We used to make that all the time in the pre-kid days.

                              1. re: sciencediet

                                I make shepards pie with lentils instead of beef. Lentils, lots of finely chopped vegetables, topped with mashed plain or sweet potatoes.

                              2. re: Ruthie789

                                Leftover chili makes a good based for a veggie shepherds pie. Did some with lentil chili recently. A mix though of lentils and bulgar can be a decent ground beef substitute depending on the application.

                              3. What about sushi? since they eat black rice. I make my sushi with a mix of brown and white rice too! And it is stuffed with lots of veggies and kid friendly. I make korean sushi called kimbap but its just the same really. If you don't have a sushi mat, just use some seran wrap!

                                1 cup white rice (or brown and white mix if you like)
                                5 sheets of nori-seaweed
                                1 cup julienned carrots (matchstick size length 2 inch)
                                1/2 cup pickled radish/ daikon
                                1/4 cup blanched spinach (about a cup uncooked)
                                Sesame oil
                                Roasted sesame seeds

                                1/4 lb Ground beef
                                1 tbsp sesame oil
                                2 tbsp Soy sauce
                                1 tbsp mirin or any sweet cooking wine (like sake) or skip it

                                Special tools: Bamboo sushi rolling mat

                                Prepping the Filling

                                Peel and julienne carrots and the pickled radish (no peeling here).
                                Bring to boil about 2-3 cups of water in a sauce pan. Add a pinch of salt (this makes spinach greener when blanching!). Woa my mum's tip of the day! Add the spinach for about 45sec-1min. Rinse with cold water and squeeze out all the water from the spinach. Season with a pinch of salt and 1 tsp of sesame oil.

                                In a frying pan up carrots first in a sauce pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and fry for about 30sec. Because you want some crunch factor and no mushy carrot in your kimbap. But remember to taste test! Next, fry up the ground beef...
                                In the same frying pan add some sesame oil and when its hot, add your beef. When it is slightly pink, add the soy sauce and mirin.

                                Rolling it out
                                This kimbap is thinner and taller than your usual kimbap because you add less rice and more veggies so cut out about an inch from the length of the seaweed sheet. Or make your kimbap fatter.
                                To the cooled down/warm-ish rice add about 1 tsp sesame oil and 2 tsp sesame seeds and fluff up the rice with a paddle. Don't mush it or overwork it. The oil helps the rice be not to sticky.

                                On a sheet of seaweed placed on a sushi mat, add a thin layer of rice (2-3 grains thick) and leave about 1 cm at the top. Add the spinach and carrot in equal parts and a little less of the pickled radish and ground beef.

                                Roll the kimbap to tuck in all the filling (away from you) and quickly roll it to let the rice stick on the seaweed. Using the sushi mat, knead lightly and roll a little to keep the kimbap in place. Repeat until no more ingredients to work with!

                                To cut the kimbap, lightly oil your hands with sesame oil and run along the roll of kimbap. Sprinkle some sesame seeds too. Then using a sharp knife, cut them into 1 inch height.

                                HERE"S THE LINK

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MDcooksfor2

                                  although i think this is a great idea (my son loves sushi too) i think the OP may be looking for vegetarian version. instead of ground beef you could use sweet egg. mix a few tablespoons of mirin and a dash of salt and white pepper in the egg before cooking and you can get a nice sweet egg to replace the beef.

                                2. These are all such great ideas. I can add soba noodles with a mild coconut/ peanut sauce, pesto with pasta or on a pizza, red beans and rice, polenta, chickpea fritters or felafel, risotto and quinoa dishes, and grilled "cheese" sandwiches. I can recommend the blog by Vegan Dad, as well. Great family friendly recipes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mvi

                                    I make my pesto with half basil and half fresh baby spinach. Keeps the color green, not as powerful, and has a great bright flavor.

                                  2. Have you looked up anything on a website called Weelicious?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                      never heard of it--thank you so much for directing me there!

                                    2. The best thing about babies is they will tell you what they like. I would try with some of their favorites and do a re-make. Like spaghetti squash spaghetti or appetizer sized foods.. Like Italian tomatoes on toast like Julia Child made, Rachael Ray has her kids line and there is alot of nutrition in there. When the kids get older the kids cookbook shows how you can get your kids into healthy eating. I love that book! Tofu egg breakfast burritos. Kids like food they can feel and taste I loved granola., but that is a ways off. Peach Cobbler is a good snack food and you can deconstruct and it still taste the same.
                                      I used to watch a Vegan mom make dinners from her garden and organic markets for like 10 people. Then make the kids something totally different, you just have to keep making sure to reach the nutritional dietary needs in their food pyramid. Have staples around and prepp till your heart is content.

                                      1. When I was a child, I ate what my parents ate though it wasn't a vegetarian diet. I think that is the best way to go in raising a child who will have healthy eating attitudes & know they must eat vegetables, etc. and not be a pain to be around into adulthood. It would be "toddler-friendly" to be sure they are getting enough vegetables, not just pasta and cheese. The vegetables can be put in the other dishes too, of course, not just as a side dish.

                                        It might be fun for toddlers to see the different types of pasta available since the bow-tied ones are just plain cute. You might teach them different shapes through different shapes of pasta? (I always say that when someone calls it "mac n cheese" they are eating too much of it for good health.)

                                        It is getting to be a time of year that soups might be good -- pumpkin soup or cream of mushroom soup or celery soup.

                                        Boiled okra & field peas was always a wonderful treat as a child. I was fond of butterbeans too.

                                        I wonder if someone knows of a cookbook that lists what foods toddlers need to supplement their diets if they aren't going to eat, say, chicken.

                                        Salads get quite mushy if marinated over just a few hours in, say, a honey vinaigrette and would be easier to eat for children that way.

                                        Fun but non-healthy variety could be peanut-butter&jelly sandwiches or peanut-butter and banana sandwiches but not until after this last recall is done with. (I trust everyone here checks fda.gov every day for food recalls especially since toddlers are more susceptible to some of the salmonella & other exposure problems just as the elderly are.) There are many ongoing peanut butter recalls right now.