Carrot Cake Salad is a lunch staple in my house. The recipe was born out of a need to get my kiddos to eat raw veggies before they could munch safely on crunchy food. It’s packed full of healthy food, although the end result is that it tastes like cake batter. There is no sugar added and it’s high in protein, iron, beta carotene, fiber and vitamins. I always have these ingredients on hand, so I prepare it a couple of times a week. Although I make it for children, it is tasty and many adults enjoy it as well.
Carrot Cake Salad
1. Scrub and grate carrot. There is no need to peel. Chop walnuts to small bits. If your child doesn’t like them, keep chopping into a powder. This doesn’t take long and the kids can’t detect it in the mix. You can gradually increase the size of the bits as they become accustomed to the flavor.
2. Mix everything together and serve. Enjoy!
Halloween lunch at our house:
Food Critic, Max (aka Superman) gave a rave top this “spooky” lunch. Jack (aka Little Lamb) took a break from his two-year old tantrums to smile and eat it “all gone.”
Don’t let the name of this recipe fool you, these breakfast muffins are delicious for all ages. I call them toddler muffins, because my kiddos love them and it’s an easy way for me to get more veggies is my picky eater’s tummy. They’re very easy to make. I like to serve them with a glass of milk and a few fruit slices. It’s a great way to have a peaceful, healthy start to the day.
1 1/2 c flour
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Whisk gently to combine.
2. In another bowl, combine applesauce, zest, sugar, coconut oil and egg. Use an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add grated veggies. Mix to combine.
3. Take a spoonful of flour mixture and lightly toss it with the raisins. This prevents the raisins from sinking. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, mixing until just combined. Add the raisins and stir to distribute evenly.
4. Either fill a muffin tin with papers, or lightly grease the tin. Fill each muffin 3/4 full. Sprinkle each muffin with oatmeal.
5. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!
It wasn’t until I was old enough to babysit that I ever tried Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. The parents who hired me left a box for me to prepare for their kids. I followed the directions, plopping in globs of margarine and sprinkling the mysterious orange cheese powder over the pasta elbows. When I tasted it, it was like nothing I’d ever had! My mother rarely prepared Mac and Cheese, but when she did it was with milk and cheddar cheese. The boxed variety tasted nothing like the homemade version. I admit, I did fall in love with the processed crap. I begged Mom to buy it; she refused. I had to wait until freshman year of college to truly indulge in the box. And that’s just what I did until one day I realized that all the food I ate was yellow-orange: mac and cheese, ramen and Rice a Roni. All the directions were the same too: boil, add margarine and sprinkle a flavoring packet. Everything tasted the same: salty chemicals.
The Mac and Cheese I prepare my kiddos resembles the boxed version in appearance alone. I just love that bright orange color, but in my version the color comes from butternut squash. Like I said, it tastes completely different. This is a rather sophisticated flavor profile, but my family loves it. If you want a more traditional version, simply leave out the squash and add an extra cup of milk, but I think the squash is yummy. It’s one of those sneaky ways to get kids to eat their veggies. This meal comes from pantry staples, so it’s one of my Go To Dinners when the day gets ahead of me. The sauce is quick and easy, so this recipe takes however long it takes for your pot to come to a boil and cook the pasta.
1 box elbow (or shell) pasta (you can choose whole wheat if you like)
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once bubbly, add about a tablespoon of salt and your pasta. Cook according to the package directions, minus one minute. Before draining save a cup of the pasta water.
2. While water is coming to a boil, make your sauce in another rather large pot. Heat over a medium high flame. Melt butter and oil. Add flour and whisk to combine. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add milk all at once and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps. Once you have a smooth consistency add bay leaf, tabasco, white pepper and nutmeg. Stir frequently as sauce thickens.
3. Once sauce has thickened (about 3 minutes), remove bay leaf, add cheese and stir. Add thawed squash and stir well. Season with sea salt. Taste and adjust spices to your pallet. Sometimes I add a bit of pumpkin pie spice. Turn off heat and wait for pasta.
4. When pasta is ready, drain and add it to the sauce. Stir to coat. If the sauce needs to loosen, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Serve and enjoy!
* I frequently cook well before dinner time and have noticed that as it sits, the pasta absorbs the sauce. If that happens, add a bit of the pasta water right before serving.
* For a baby food version, omit the tabasco and overcook your pasta by 2 minutes. Cut into pieces if necessary. Do introduce tabasco to toddlers if you want them to develop a well-rounded pallet. The amount in this dish is not that much, so it’s a great introduction to heat.
* To make this recipe greener, you can roast your own squash. This does take more time and effort, although if you kept homemade purees in the freezer, it could still be a fast meal.
* You can add breadcrumbs and broil before serving if you like a crunchy crust. Or get creative and add caramelized onions or golden raisins or whatever else you like.
The Bottom Line
I thought that this homemade version of Mac and Cheese would be more expensive than the processed version, but it’s actually about the same if you take into account the quantity. It cost me $3.21 to make my version which was double or triple the size of Kraft’s which costs $1.40. Nutritionally my version is much stronger with dramatically less sodium, no trans fat, and a vegetable serving.
The taste difference is remarkable. The homemade version doesn’t taste like a meal cop-out. It’s quite satisfying and doesn’t take long to cook. To be fair, people who love the box version will have to adjust to these flavors. The boxed version has a distinctively processed taste to it. If I were weaning a child from the boxed version, I might add less squash and more sea salt in the beginning and allow their taste buds to adjust gradually.
It does take longer to make this as you can’t simply microwave it, but it’s less than 20 minutes and most of that time is just boiling water. With hands free, you can use those minutes to whip up a salad or slice some apples to go along side. Enjoy!
Brrr… Baby, it’s cold outside. Here’s a wonderfully warming breakfast. It tastes a lot like pumpkin pie so your little pumpkins will enjoy it. Let’s not tell them that it has 2 fruits and 1 vegetable in it! Sometimes, when a day has gotten ahead of me and suddenly it’s dinnertime and there’s nothing to eat, I prepare this. It’s always gobbled up, seconds requested. The kids get vitamins, minerals, protein and whole grains, so I’m happy. Serves 4. Enjoy!
1 1/2 c milk
1. Add milk, pumpkin, applesauce, vanilla, spices, brown sugar and a pinch of sea salt to a saucepan. Turn on the stove to a medium flame. Use a whisk to gently incorporate all the ingredients together. Go ahead and taste it; it’s divine. If you’d like to add a pat of butter, you can do it now or right before you serve. This is something my mom always did with oatmeal. Obviously it’s not the healthiest choice, but it sure is good.
2. Once mixture is almost to a boil, add the oats and raisins. Stir frequently and let cook for about 5 minutes, until the oats are a texture you like. Serve with warm milk. If your littlest people are eating this, you can serve with yogurt which helps baby get the food into his mouth with more success and less mess. Bon appetite, mon petite!
Baby needs to get into all the harvest food celebrations! Here’s a simple recipe for babies from about 9 months, as soon as baby is eating a little dairy and citrus. It’s not a traditional mouse, but it’s texture is light and airy. It’s one of those yummy baby foods, where mom can’t help but lick the spoon. It’s popular with finicky toddlers as well. Enjoy!
1/4 c pureed sweet potato
1. Whisk all ingredients together. Either use a strong arm or an electric mixer. You want the texture to be light and fluffy.
2. Left-overs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Recipe can easily be doubled. Bon appetite, mon petite!
Here’s a wonderful entree for baby (starting at 11-12 months) which the whole family can enjoy. In fact, this recipe was created before I even had children. It’s full of veggies, but also on the sweet side, which tends to make it popular with kiddos. Many fried rice recipes are too greasy and, frankly, leave me gassy. I use a technique I learned in Japan to keep this one healthier and even more delicious.
2 bananas, sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1. Prep all ingredients before cooking. Prep work will take longer than actually cooking time. Cut all veggies into a small dice. The smaller the baby, the smaller the dice. Make sure the pieces are the same size, so they will cook evenly and look pretty.
2. This recipe comes together in three parts. First the bananas. Melt the butter in a large skillet over a medium-high flame. Add bananas and dust with cinnamon. Fry about 2 minutes on one side, until banana is brown and the pan releases it with a slight nudge of a spatula. Flip and cook about 1 minute on the other side. Remove from pan and set aside on a plate. Clear off any extra bits of banana from the pan.
3. The second part is the eggs. This is a technique I was taught in Japan. It’s unusual, but delicious. Gently whisk the eggs together with a 1/2 t each sugar and soy sauce. Heat your skillet to medium high. Add about 2 T either grape seed or olive oil. Once hot, add egg mixture and swirl in pan so you make a very thin omelette. Quickly remove from pan. Cut egg into this strips about 1/2 inch wide in one direction, then cut in half the other way. Set aside.
3. Now everything comes together. You should have a decent amount of oil left in the pan from the eggs, but you probably want to add another tablespoon. Heat up pan once again. Add onions and pepper and a small pinch of sea salt. Stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add carrots, celery, ginger, garlic and another pinch of sea salt. Stir fry for about 2 minutes. Add rice, soy sauce and a few good grates of fresh nutmeg. Stir fry for about 10 minutes allowing the rice to stick to the bottom of pan for a few minutes at a time to develop a crust.
4. Add bananas, egg strips* and cilantro. If you are serving to adults only, go ahead and eat. If baby will be eating this place a lid on either the whole dish or baby’s portion to allow the veggies to steam and soften. You can either keep it on low heat or turn the pan off to allow the residual heat to do its magic. It should be done in about 10 minutes, but you have to check it. Enjoy. It’s so fun to eat as a whole family.
*Note: Egg whites can be allergenic, so if you haven’t introduced baby to them, you can set aside his or her portion without eggs at this point. By 11 months my children were fine eating eggs, but you know what’s best for your baby. Tofu is a good substitute for extra protein.
Here’s a simple refreshing salad for babies starting around 10 months. Choose very ripe fruit so it has a soft texture and mince it finely for the littlest people. Grating and mincing fruits and veggies gives baby the opportunity to partake in fresh produce early in life. Always test the texture by putting a bit on your tongue and pressing it to the roof of your mouth. Baby will have a stronger force when gumming with the full use of his or her jaw, but you can get an idea if it’s just too hard. This recipe also is lovely for older children or adults; just chop larger pieces.
1 T cantaloupe
1. Finely mince the cantaloupe. Gently break apart raspberries into their smaller membranes. Cut small ribbons of mint.
2. Combine all ingredients together. You can serve it right away or let it rest for 15-30 minutes so fruits can soften and flavors can meld. Bon appetite, mon petite!
This is baby’s first foray into Latin cuisine. Bursting with color, flavor and nutrition, it’s a hit! Acquainting baby with diverse and savory flavors early on will create a global pallet for your little one. Mangoes are full of vitamins, particularly A & C. Avocados provide healthy fat to support growing brains. Black beans are a vitamin and fiber rich protein source. This dish is the baby of Black Bean and Mango Quesadilla, but it would satisfy an adult as is. Serve to babies 9 months or older.
2 T cooked brown rice
1. Dice veggies to the size your baby can handle. Babies who are being fed by a spoon need a smaller dice. Babies who are self-feeding with hands need larger chunks to grasp. Be mindful of baby’s gumming ability and mash beans slightly if they aren’t soft enough.
2. Combine all ingredients except rice. Allow flavors to meld for about a half an hour if you have the time.
3. Spoon mixture over well-cooked brown rice and serve. Bon appetite, mon petite!