Toddler vs. Vegetable: Meatloaf

So I’ve been talking about getting my toddler to eat vegetables but she’s also started being extremely picky about meat! As you can imagine, she eats a lot of eggs and fruit. One type of meat that she LOVES and never turns away is meatloaf. Now the following concept can work with probably any meatloaf recipe and there are many styles so if you have one that you love, follow those directions and adjust as you see fit.

Two meatloafs: 1 with jalapeno for daddy and one with zucchini and onions for mommy and baby

Two meatloafs: 1 with jalapeno for daddy and one with zucchini and onions for mommy and baby

It’s strange to think about, but meatloaf is actually a great way to sneak in some veggies! Here is my basic list of ingredients:

  • Your meat! We’ve been using groundvenison lately because my grandfather likes to hunt and has gotten lucky which means our freezer has been full of deer meat but when we don’t have venison we like both ground turkey and ground beef. This is totally preference. Keep in mind that turkey and venison typically has less fat than beef so you may have to add more in or more binder to get it to bake as a loaf.
  • Bread crumbs. I use Italian but panko or other would work. I started using bread crumbs with venison to help with that binding but it’s not necessary.
  • Ketchup. Many people use a tomato sauce or tomato paste but I like the tang of ketchup. I’ve been using an all natural brand from Hunt’s lately.
  • Barbeque sauce. I like a sweet and spicy red BBQ sauce – I’m not sure how a mustard BBQ would work but might be worth trying. I tend to use more BBQ sauce than ketchup because I like the taste.
  • Eggs (1-2 depending on amount of meat)
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped vegetables. Recently I have added zucchini, yellow squash, jalapenos… jalapenos are for my husband who recently bought a jalapeno plant and loves spice. I made him a separate loaf but if your child likes spicy, share away! Other types of peppers would work really well, too.
  • Garlic and other spices
  • Bacon or bacon fat. (optional but a great way to add in some more fat and more flavor)

meatloaf with vegatables(Sorry I don’t do measurements – if you are someone who needs them find a recipe you like online and like I said above, adjust as you want!)

Basically, you chop what needs chopping and then just mix it all together in a bowl. Put in a loaf pan, casserole dish or a muffin pan and bake at about 375 until down. Usually the top and sides will begin to brown. The type of meat you used and the thickness of the loaf will directly affect how long it will need to cook.

Evie loves the muffin size because they are super easy to eat but our whole family loves this dish. This week we paired it with green beans and corn muffins. It was a hit.

Toddler vs. Vegetable: Apples & Zucchini

I love zucchini. I love to saute it with onions, grill it in strips, bread and bake or fry for “fries,” roast it in the oven AND eat it in baked goods! It is one of those vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes that are delicious both sweet AND savory. Of course, my toddler isn’t interested in eating it on its own…

apples and zucchiniIt works great in egg muffins (with cheese or without) and I love to put it in baked goods in a banana or pumpkin bread. Recently, I tried something different! I’m not sure what gave me the idea but I had some apples that needed to be used, as well, and whereas I would normally put both apples and zucchinis in muffin form, I didn’t feel like baking. So, I chopped up the apples and zucchini pretty small and tossed them in a saute pan with some coconut oil. Any oil or butter would probably work. I sauteed them lightly (I didn’t want them mushy and I also knew they would be reheated in the future) and dusted them lightly with cinnamon.

zucchini, apple, cinnamon, coconut oilI have to admit that I did not taste this! But my daughter LOVED it. I felt really good that she got vegetables, fruit and some healthy fat.

You could peel each ingredient if your toddler is picky enough and smart enough to realize the green is a sneaky vegetable or just use green apples! :) And, if they don’t like this experiment, this could easily be put inside a baked good!

Have fun experimenting with different veggies and getting your toddler or child to enjoy eating healthy and interesting food! This was also a great food for Evie to practice eating with a spoon!

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Cheese-less Eggs

This recipe is pretty obvious, I think. It’s basically our Egg Muffins without the cheese!

As I’ve written about before, my daughter, who is now 19 months old used to love eating vegetables but now the only way she will eat them consistently is in things [aka hidden]. I typically offer her the vegetables in their regular state (cooked or raw, depending on the vegetable) a couple of times but then I find another way to use them before they go bad. The most popular way in our house, and probably the easiest is in eggs! And, pretty much any and every vegetable works. We have cooked black beans, green beans, carrots, and other veggies that you wouldn’t normally think of including. Sometimes, I hand chop them up and other times I use the food processor to get them a little finer.

The other weekend, I had some zucchini – a veggie we don’t have often but they were just beautiful at the store. I cooked some up with some onions on the stove for myself and my husband – yum. But Evie wasn’t interested. I also made some chicken sausage. I have been loving chicken sausage lately; this was a variety with apple. Meat – another thing that Evie is not loving these days!

cheeseless vegetable egg muffinsSo I chopped some of the zucchini, onions and the sausage and threw them in basically what was a scrambled egg mix. If you want to know measurements, you’ve come to the wrong place – I tend to eyeball things. I want to make sure that there is a good amount of mix-ins in comparison to the eggs. Evie loves cheese so I thought why not see if she will eat these without the cheese? It was something of an experiment and had she hated them, the adults would have eaten them! But, she loved them. You can make these in small muffin size or normal tins. Cook them anywhere between 10-15 min at around 350 or 375. Just keep an eye on them – the edges will start to brown and they won’t be jiggly.

These are great because I can throw in anything! It gives Evie something healthy to eat and eliminates waste. I should also say that if you need something quick, I have microwaved these eggs many times. In a ceramic ramekin or coffee mug for 1-2 minutes depending on how much mixture you put in! My husband doesn’t like the consistency of a microwaved egg but Evie doesn’t mind (and neither, really, do I).

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Grits

I continue to record the many ways that I have experimented successfully in the kitchen to get my 18-month-old daughter to eat her vegetables. If you’ve been reading then you’ve seen several muffin recipes and I did promise that I wouldn’t just include those!

This grits idea was actually inspired one day when I was making some egg muffins. We had a veggie tray leftover from a party. There was broccoli and cauliflower left over and I had just gotten a Ninja food processor. This food processor has led to quite a bit of fun in the kitchen. I threw the broccoli and cauliflower into the processor with the idea of putting them into some egg muffins. And I did. But, as I was pulverizing the cauliflower I noticed how much it looked like grits!

Evie loves grits. She doesn’t get them often because I never think to make them. I did cheat and buy some instant although I am somewhat embarrassed because the ingredient list is long and I try to keep our, but especially her, foods to recognizable, natural ingredients. Oh well. I won’t buy it again. I got sucked in by a sale.

Back to the cauliflower – I added them to some of those grits! Evie loved them! Who knows if she could tell the difference but it was about a 50/50 mix. Not only can you mix the cauliflower into the grits at whatever ratio you want BUT you could probably make 100% cauliflower “grits” and flavor with your preferred butter and/or cheese.

I have some other ideas about how to use cauliflower and I am curious about making pizza dough with it. I look forward to trying these and sharing their results!

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Smoothies

green smoothieSmoothies provide a wonderful way for adults and kids alike to get in several servings of fruit and vegetables. The “green” smoothie became popular several years ago and for good reason. You can throw in the green of your choice (spinach, kale, etc.) into the blender with your smoothie ingredients and boom, you’ve included a serving of vegetables. We prefer spinach at our house because you cannot taste it and because we always have it in the freezer. We like spinach salads, spinach smoothies, sauteed spinach by itself or mixed in with rice, pasta and other dishes. We also put spinach in our eggs and egg muffins.

Smoothies are super easy to make! Just throw your ingredients in the blender and press go! I recommend adding greens, fruit (some frozen for texture but fresh works or a blend of the two), and a liquid (juice, almond milk or water). We also either add yogurt or protein powder most days for an extra punch of protein. Really, it just depends on what we have in our fridge and freezer and our preferences! My husband likes his smoothies with juice, I prefer mine with protein powder and water. Evie gets whatever we make that day!

You can make a super thick smoothie and put into your own refillable pouch for easy sucking down for the kiddos. I typically just pour a little bit of mine into a cup with a straw for Evie. She actually gets really upset if I don’t share with her.

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Oat Muffins

oat muffins with vegetables and fruit

Enjoying her oat muffins for breakfast

I will admit that the majority of what I make in order to sneak in those veggies is done in a muffin tin, preferably my trusty silicon mini muffin sheet. I need more than one. You can find similar ones here. They’re convenient to grab, pack and easy for toddler hands to hold and bite into. I don’t have to spray them and things don’t stick. It’s great. Like I said, I need at least one more.

When I do my food prep for Evie, I tend to make more than one recipe. One will be in the minis and one will be in a standard muffin pan. Today, I made egg muffins and some oat muffins. These oat muffins are so versatile you can use almost anything just make sure that you include enough binder, a fruit for sweetness and a vegetable (that’s the point).

Oat Muffins

Here is the basic list of ingredients:

  • oats (I use plain and often toss in a package of flavored like apple cinnamon for that added sweetness since I never add additional sugar)
  • an egg
  • carrots (raw or cooked)
  • apple or pear (raw or cooked)
  • splash of milk

That’s it, the simplest version. Mix together and bake at around 350 for 10-15 minutes. Most weeks I use these ingredients because I can always count on having them in our fridge and pantry but I often add other items like:

  • melted butter or coconut oil (used instead of milk often)
  • crushed nuts (I prefer pecans but have used almonds)
  • apple sauce
  • avocado
  • flour (can be used with the oats or instead of, any flour you have)
  • spices like cinnamon and nutmeg (I never add sugar but if you’re making for adults honey or maple syrup would be tasty)
  • nut butter

You can pretty much use any fruit or vegetable with this BUT I think there are some that just naturally work better than others. Today’s mix was butternut squash and banana. The great thing about starchy foods like these is that they help bind the other ingredients. You can forgo an egg if you have enough other binding ingredients if you are looking to stay vegan. Here are some other good options you can sub or add:

  • banana
  • butternut squash or any kind of winter squash (cooked)
  • sweet potato (cooked)
  • pumpkin (cooked or canned)
  • any kind of berry, whole or pureed (but whole they will potentially change the texture)
  • zucchini or yellow squash (cooked or raw)

These muffins are a great way to minimize food waste as well. Similar to how I use whatever cheese I need to use before it spoils in our egg muffins, I tend to throw in whatever fruit or vegetable I have on hand before they go bad. The idea for these muffins actually came from some carrots that Evie decided she didn’t want. You know how it is, you make a cup of carrots knowing that your kiddo loves them and then they refuse to eat them… I could eat them, yes, but my food tends to come second place. So I threw those carrots into a bowl with a bunch of stuff and behold, you have the first generation of these muffins!

 

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Nut Muffins

Another muffin! I promise I won’t just post muffin recipes but you can see other muffin recipes here:

This recipe was inspired by the oat muffins that we make often. It’s just a little twist! The base for this recipe is nuts instead of oats! I understand that many people are afraid of giving their child nuts due to allergies, but I have always been on the side of giving allergens early to hopefully avoid allergies rather than avoiding them. We introduced eggs, peanut butter, dairy early on. This is totally up to each family and how they feel, as well as, their family health history. If I had a nut allergy, I might have felt differently! I also probably wouldn’t have nuts on hand all the time.

I noticed that most of Evie’s regular snacks are extremely carb or processed food heavy like goldfish, cheerios, animal crackers, etc. Now, I am not against carbs by any means but I strive to provide her with a balanced diet, same as I do myself! If I eat bread or pasta for one meal I try to not eat it for another that day. It’s all about balance. Some people avoid carbs for weight but please do not think that has anything to do with my decision to somewhat limit them for Evie.

As you might be able to tell from my lack of strict recipe following, I’m a little bit of an experimentalist in the kitchen. Who knows why I try what I do except that I just have something on hand and it needs to be used. In this case, I had a lot of pecans in our freezer from my grandparent’s yard.

I love my little Ninja food processor so I threw a bunch of pecans in it and pulverized them – basically, I made my own coarse pecan flour. From there I added many of the same ingredients that are in my oat muffins (sometimes even oats themselves). Here is the basic recipe:

  1. Put pecans, chopped raw carrots, and cut apple into a food processor and grind 
  2. Add an egg
  3. Mix
  4. Put into muffin pan
  5. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes

Like most of my recipes you can add or sub whatever you have in your kitchen! I’ve added oats and flour to this recipe. I’ve yet to try it with different vegetables or fruit but I’m sure there are several great options worth trying. If you try a great version and it works well please let me know so we can add it to our repertoire!

Toddler vs. Vegetables: No Bake Nut Balls

no bake peanut butter carrot ballsWe continue to struggle to get Evie to eat her vegetables. She used to eat so many and now I feel like I have to mask every vegetable to get them inside her little belly. Last night I fed her carrots by hiding them in a rice and quinoa mix. Tonight I put black beans in her pasta with red sauce. For lunch she ate several of these no bake nut balls I made over the weekend.

Once again, Evie refused to eat her carrots. Seriously, I can’t even think of any other veggies to even try to get her to eat. I feel like I’ve tried everything readily available to me. So, I had a plate full of carrots that I wanted to use but I didn’t want to fall back on the same oat muffins I’ve been making. I didn’t want to actually cook anything so I went to Google and found this recipe: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/61752/bake-carrot-balls which inspired what I would do next.

Like usual, I didn’t really follow this recipe but it was great inspiration.

I threw the probably half carrot’s worth of cooked carrots in with a full raw carrot – I only had one in the fridge – into the food processor. I think added about 1/4 cup of pecans – I didn’t measure, it’s just the last of the bag we had. I threw in some raisins because that’s the only dried fruit I had on hand and I processed it until I could tell it wasn’t getting any finer. I then put all of that in a bowl and put in 3-4 spoonfuls of peanut butter. I kept putting it in until I could tell it was enough to keep everything together in balls.

Here are the ingredients in list form:

- cooked and/or raw carrots (1-2)
- handful of raisins
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pecans (or other nut)
- peanut butter (or any nut butter)

peanut butter carrot no bake balls ingredientsI did not have shaved coconut like the inspiration recipe calls for so I pull out some animal crackers and processed them until fine for our finishing coat. Graham crackers would also be a good substitute for this coating. Once my mix was together, I formed them into balls and rolled them in the cracker dust.

 

As I rolled I found myself making them smaller and smaller. The first ones were a great adult bite but I needed smaller for an Evie bite.

no bake carrot peanut butter ballsOnce I had everything rolled, I put them in the fridge! That is actually a lie. Evie and I both tasted some and deemed them good. They do stay together once they’ve been refrigerated overnight. They are also easy to pinch and then re-roll which I have done to make some of the larger balls smaller for Evie’s little fingers and mouth.

These have made great snacks (for Evie and Mommy alike), lunch in and lunch out. Today, we took them to the park and they were great for her to eat on the go. We paired them with a pouch that included some additional veggies, and lots of grapes. I really like that these have a lot or protein and healthy fat in them plus a healthy dose of vegetables.

no bake carrot peanut butter ballsThey were fun and easy to make. I can see these being a regular in the future. When she is older, I can only imagine how fun it will be to have Evie help me roll them and dip them in the cracker crumbs. These would probably freeze really well too.

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Egg Muffins

FullSizeRenderThis was Evie’s plate for dinner tonight:

  • Peas, used to be a favorite but she’s not loving them these days
  • Butternut squash covered in butter and cheese. I’ve learned that she will eat almost anything covered in cheese.
  • Carrots with ketchup. Yes, I discovered she liked ketchup when she kept eating the avocado off of my burger only because it had ketchup on it.

Despite the tricks I tried, cheese, butter, ketchup, old favorites, Evie had no interest. A part of me wants to say the old, “I’m not a short-order cook, eat what is on your plate.” But at 18 months old, I just don’t think she understands that reasoning. I would prefer for her to eat, be full and sleep all night than fight that battle. When she is older, hopefully, I will take more of a stand.

I’d like to say that Evie eats what we eat but that’s just not always possible, mostly because she eats earlier at 5:30. She will probably get our leftovers the next day, which is what eat as well. Just like I prepare food for myself and the husband earlier in the week to eat throughout, I also prepare foods for Evie that I know she likes and are easy to grab for meals and pack for school lunch.

FullSizeRender-3The Egg Muffin

Fortunately, today I had prepared two sets of such items that I was able to grab for dinner. Enter the egg muffin. She ate five of them.

A quick note about my cooking style, I don’t really follow recipes. I usually loosely follow one the first time around, loosely, and then I go from memory each subsequent time I make them making substitutions and additions depending on what we have in our kitchen.

I make these every other week probably.

The basic recipe for these egg muffins is:

  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese

Whisk together, pour into muffin tins (greased) and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350.

I still basically follow this but I don’t really measure. If I have the frozen spinach I use it. Today, I had fresh spinach and kale that I threw into the food processor. A few handfuls. I only used 3 eggs and I used cottage cheese plus a small handful of shredded mixed cheddar. This recipe is awesome for using up any cheese you may have. Evie used to love cottage cheese – not this week – so I used it today. (Cottage cheese makes really fluffy scrambled eggs, FYI.) I’ve used ricotta before and any kind of shredded cheese works. Sometimes I’ll throw in some kind of seasoning, never salt, but it’s really not needed. I bake in regular muffin tins or my well-loved silicon mini-muffin pan. Today, I had oat muffins in the mini so these are in the standard muffin tin. You can fill them up as much as you want! These are great for kids and adults alike.

Ideas for add-ons or substitutes:

  • broccoli or cauliflower, food processed or chopped small
  • peppers
  • zucchini
  • really any kind of vegetable!

The only thing you really need for these are eggs! In fact, you could do these with just eggs although I’d recommend some milk or water when whisking for moistness – just like scrambled eggs. Speaking of scrambled eggs, you can take this mixture and scramble it instead of making muffins!

One of the things that I love about this recipe is that they are hard to burn! Maybe it’s just me but I forget about things in the oven ALL the time these days! I just try to do way too much at once and forget to set a timer often. These muffins can get a little dry if overcooked but it’s really hard to burn them, fortunately!

I typically put half in the fridge and half straight in the freezer. Protein, veggies, fat, yumminess – adults and kiddos will like them!

 

Toddler vs. Vegetables: Pouches

I have not blogged in quite a while. When you have a baby, life just gets a little crazy and honestly, I just felt like my time was better spent elsewhere. There was also an element of just not having anything to say. Okay, so having a child provides lots of things to say but there is that lack of time thing again, desire for privacy, and preferring to share those things with my friends and family rather than the world. I actually do write 4-12 blogs per month but they happen to be for clients and not for myself.

This messy girl enjoyed her dinner!

This messy girl enjoyed her dinner!

Recently, I have been asked by several of my mom friends about Evie’s eating habits. Not because I’m an expert but we just use each other as sounding boards through the different stages our kiddos are going through. We just want the other mom to help us feel like our life is normal. Help! I’m frustrated! Does your kid do this too? What are you doing about…?

Through these conversations I discovered my desire to blog again. I’m going to begin this series of keeping track of what I have done to help my toddler like veggies and when she refused to eat them, get her to eat them anyway. I’m calling it “Toddlers vs. Veggies.” Hopefully, this is helpful for other moms out there and gives me a little bit of a personal outlet (what is that again?). Plus, I really enjoy cooking for my family. Please take it for what it is, one mom just writing about trials and errors that work for her family, or don’t work. I’m not an expert and do not want to be judged as one. One of the things that keep me from blogging about parenting is because there is SO much judgment out there. We are all just doing the best we can. Let’s just all agree that it is important for our children to eat their vegetables and that it can be incredibly difficult sometimes!

kale chips, toddler

Evie eating kale chips

Evie, our daughter who is 18 months old now (OMG), is a really great eater and has been from the start. Breastmilk, purees, table food. Veggies, fruit, beans, etc. She loves food. This morning between the hours of 7:30-11:30am she ate, 1 breakfast pouch, 1 banana, 1 scrambled egg, 1 teething cookie, 3 mini oatmeal muffins, an undetermined amount of corn puffs and raisins, a lunch pouch and half a sunbutter sandwich. I may be missing something in there too. I felt like I could not keep up. “Eat, eat!” was constantly coming out of her mouth.

This leads me to my first topic: Pouches. You know the ones, they are at your grocery store, Target, baby supply stores, Costco, you name it. How did our parents live without food pouches? You twist off the cap, it goes into their mouth and gets sucked down. Three seconds later they have ingested a few servings of fruits and vegetables. When Evie was eating purees only I would even put some on a spoon for her. When she was younger I made most of my own pureed food. If you have a blender, it’s super easy. But the pouches were great on-the-go. They are so great for when you are traveling, out running errands, at the park (like today) or need an easy and fast way to satisfy your toddler’s grumbling stomach with something healthier than goldfish. Who else’s child would subsist on goldfish if they could?

toddler, food pouch

Pouch in one hand, snack (probably goldfish) in the other

Right now Evie eats 2-3 pouches a day and it’s more because she eats more than we anticipate and also because she knows where they are stored in the cabinet and gets them out on her own. It’s not worth the meltdown to say no. Plus, they’re healthy. We always buy organic – now that I think of it, I’m not sure there are non-organic options! I prefer ones that are veggie heavy because she eats a lot of fruit and dairy anyway. She would happily eat fruit and cheese every meal.

There are two things I don’t like about some pouch options.

1: Additives. We only buy options that have fruit and vegetables only. The only additive I accept is lemon juice. There are some others in some of the ones with yogurt and grains in them but we try to keep them to a minimum. Sometimes, I feel like a hypocrite because we don’t always buy organic produce. It’s just not always available or affordable. We try but it’s not always possible. And then there are the processed snacks that we let Evie have like those goldfish. They are completely processed and who know what the ingredients are. I guess I try to control what she eats when I can.

toddler food pouches

Our favorite brands are Plum, Happy Baby or Happy Tot, Ella’s Kitchen and even the Target brand. Some brands, like Earth’s Best, are labeled organic but they sneak in additives that I cannot pronounce.

2. Meat. This is just a personal preference but pureed meat just sounds disgusting. I wouldn’t eat it so I don’t buy it for Evie. She likes meat, fish, beans and dairy so I feel like she gets enough protein.

Fortunately, Evie does not only eat store bought pureed food from the store. My next several posts will be recipes that are tried and true at our house that Evie loves and ensure that she is getting a well-balanced diet.