Tuesday, September 16, 2014

5 Surprising Toddler Foods

Toddlers are notorious for their picking eating. Our little guy (19 months) definitely has a strong opinion about what he will and will not eat. He never liked pureed food and still won't touch yogurt or cheese; all things I thought were typical toddler foods. Of course he'll eat crackers and ice-cream but at this stage in life kids aren't eating a lot so we try and make what does make it into his mouth count. To do this I simply try everything. I don't assume he won't like something just because it isn't a normal food I would think of for a toddler. So here is my list of healthy foods he loves, even though I think they are odd. These items may not be weird to you because your kid loves them too. I'd love to hear about in the comments section. Below the list is more tips for feeding your toddler.

1) Bone-In Meat

Turkey leg
My son is definitely a carnivore, and I'm not talking about chicken nuggets. He loves bacon (not suprising) and will pick meat out of a meal and just eat that. However, what he loves most is bone-in meat. I'm talking about chicken or turkey legs and ribs. He loves being able to hold it and he gnaws on the bone and cartilage. Obviously keep a watchful eye if you do this as pieces of the bone or cartilage can come off.

2) Bone Broth

Egg drop soup
To go along with all the bone-in meat we are eating, I like to make bone broth once a week. Bone broth is just stock made out of bones and vegetables. I put about 2 pounds of bones (chicken or beef) with a gallon of water, a quart size freezer bag of vegetable scraps, and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (which helps to draw out the minerals in the bones) in my slow cooker and cook on low for 1-2 days (here is an easy recipe to follow). The result is a broth rich in protein, specifically gelatin. There are numerous benefits of cosuming gelatin (read about it here). The best part is that my son adores it. I will make soup with it but he prefers some warm broth straight.

3) Coconut Oil

You've probably heard about all the benefits of coconut oil. It certainly has a place in our home both as a food and a beauty product. Coconut oil was one of the first foods I introduced to my son. I mixed his probiotics into a small amount and he ate it off a spoon. He also like these banana stacks. We all need healthy fats, but especially little ones. I also cook most of our food in it, or make "bullet proof" coffee (or herbal tea in his case).

4) Herbal Tea

My son loves his herbal tea (and coconut oil!). Herbal tea's are not only a great sugar free alternative to water but they can also be used medicinally. I give my son a mixture of chamomile and catnip tea in the evenings to improve sleep. Chamomile is naturally sweet so he loves it. Read more about some good tea's for tot's here.

5) Seaweed

My son loves toasted nori sheets. They sell small snack packs of them but he prefers the regular size sheets for making sushi. I'm guessing he thinks it's paper that he's allowed to eat, and I'm happy about the minerals and iodine he gets from them.

Other Tips

1) Like I said before, don't assume your toddler won't like something just because it isn't typical toddler food. My son loves raw spinach and sardines. He will eat sauerkraut and snack on green olives. I know all this because I just let him try those foods. I've had plenty of items spit back at me but I'm happy to let his palate develop naturally and not hold anything back. 

2) My son has recently gotten into dipping. He will eat just about anything if he can dip it. Think beyond honey mustard or ketchup; you can use thick soup or hummus as a dip for vegetables, yogurt as a dip for fruit, or I like to make homemade fig butter or date caramel as a dip for sausage. I do often catch him just eating the dip, so I always make sure that the dip is just as healthy as the dipping vessel.

3) You know that saying "out of sight, out of mind?", well the reverse is also true. I leave lots of fruit out in our fruit basket. My son will inevitably walk by and ask for a 'nana' or an 'appa'. This way my son choose a healthy snack that he will actually eat because it was his idea. I also leave is cup of water out so he'll swing by and take sips, because you know, he's got very important playing business to attend to!

4) Speaking of "appa's" (which is an apple for those of you who don't speak toddler), my son prefers them whole not sliced. He's been able to handle a whole apple since he was 9 months old, thanks to his rapid teeth sprouting (lucky us). If your toddler doesn't like a food initially, try cutting it (or not cutting it) a different way. Sometimes in all in the presentation.

5) This is probably an age old wisdom; "try and try again." My son loved eggs for awhile and now he won't touch them. He used to hate spinach and now loves it. Our pallets never stop developing so we try to always offer our son whatever we are eating. He won't always sit still for dinner but he always gets a plate of whatever we are eating with a little bit of everything.

Do you have any tips for feeding toddlers?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Butternut Spiced Soup

I love winter squashes, as a group they are one of my favorite foods. They are sweet, creamy, and nutritionally and flavorfully quite a bang for your buck. You can't imagine how thrilled I was to see some varieties all ready showing up at the farmers market. It took me a long time to like squash soup. I used to make it often, because my husband liked it, but never really enjoyed the flavor. Finally I realized that every recipe I tried included heavy cream or coconut milk. For me, the squash are plenty creamy on their own. In fact I think the added cream takes away from the complex flavors in the squash. I made this recipe with butternut, but other varieties of winter squash would taste great. I recommend acorn, pumpkin, or kabocha; just make sure to roast whatever kind you choose as it brings out the sweetness of the squash. This recipe is very simple and adaptable. Enjoy!

Butternut Spiced Soup

Gluten Free, Vegan*
Makes 5 cups

1 large butternut squash (see notes)
2+ cups bone broth (chicken or beef) or vegetable stock*
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 inch by 1/2 inch piece of ginger, or to taste (1.5 tsp dry)
1 inch by 1/2 inch piece of turmeric, or to taste (1 tsp dry)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbl sea salt, or to taste
3 tbl coconut oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Split the squash and de-seed. My squash was large so I cut it into smaller pieces to make it more manageable. 
  2. Rub the flesh with a little coconut oil and salt, and place flesh side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 1 hour until the skin can easily be piereced and the flesh has begun to brown. Set it out to cool.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. Add the diced onions.
  4. Peel and dice the ginger and turmeric and add to the onions. Sauté for 8 minutes. If you do not have fresh turmeric or ginger then just use powdered kind but wait to add it until the next step. It would be about 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ginger.
  5. Once the onions have begun to brown, add the dry spices and sauté for about 30 seconds until they get very fragrant. Immediately pour about 1/4 cup of stock into the pot and turn off the heat. The stock will unstick any spices or onions and keep the spices from burning. 
  6. Scoop the flesh of the squash (I got about 3 1/2 cups), into a blender. Add the onion and spice mixture, salt, and 2 cups of stock. Depending on the size of your blender and squash, you may have to work in batches. Mine exactly fit into my 5 cup blender. 
  7. Blend until smooth and creamy. You can add more stock to achieve the consistency you like.
  8. To reheat pour back into the pot and warm on low. If you refrigerate it for later then you may want to add a couple tablespoons of stock or water when reheating as it thickens in the fridge. 
  9. Leftovers should be good for 5 days.

Notes and Substitutions

  • You can use other varieties of winter squash interchangeably. I didn't weigh my squash, but I did get about 3 1/2 cups, if you end up with way more then this then just save some for another use or freeze it for later. You can look at the picture to get an idea of how big my squash was on a standard size cutting board.
  • This soup definitely has a strong ginger bite, if you are sensitive to the flavor of ginger or do not want it so spicy then I would cut it in half and reduce the nutmeg to 1/4 tsp.
  • I topped it with a little cinnamon, but it would be great with a dollop of greek yogurt.
De-seed squash and rub with coconut oil and salt.

Place the squash flesh side down and roast on 375F for 1 hour.
Let the roasted squash cool.
Saute onions, ginger, and turmeric for 8 minutes.
Add the dry spices and sauté for 30 seconds,
 then add about 1/4 cup stock and turn off the heat.
Blend squash flesh, onion mixture, salt, and stock
until smooth and creamy.
Gently reheat on low and enjoy!

Do you like winter squash?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Low Allergen Blueberry Cobbler

I love visiting my husbands grandmother. She is the sweetest woman I have ever met and one hell of a cook. She still cans and preserves food and has figs, pecans, and blueberries on her property. Last time we visited we picked a ton of blueberries and I brought them home and froze them to have this winter. Since blueberries are officially out of season here I have all ready broken into my stash. This recipe is really simple to make, low in added sugar, and free of most of the common allergens. It would be great with some coconut ice-cream. Enjoy!

Our little guy loved picking blueberries.
We found many in his pockets later that day!

Low Allergen Blueberry Cobbler

Gluten Free, Vegan, Nut Free
Serves 4

2 cups frozen blueberries
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
coconut oil for the pan

2 Tbls coconut flour
2 Tbls tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt
1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tbl coconut oil, melted
1 tbl maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 375F
  • Combine the coconut flour, tapioca starch, baking soda, and sea salt. Mix out any lumps.
  • Add the lemon juice, coconut milk, melted coconut oil, and maple syrup to the dry ingredients. Mix well then let it sit for about 5 minutes so the coconut flour can absorb the moisture. It should be like thick pancake batter.
  • Oil a small baking dish (mine was 1 1/4 quart size, but I think and 8x8 or smaller would work, depending on how tall you want it, mine was flatter).
  • Mix the blueberries, vanilla, and cinnamon together and place in the dish.
  • Scoop the batter onto the blueberries. You can smooth it out but I prefer to plop it randomly over the top to get that 'cobblestone' look.
  • Bake for about 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling up the sides.
  • Let it cool slightly before serving.

Notes and Substitutions

  • My blueberries were very sweet (as fresh picked sun-ripened ones ought to be) so I didn't add any sweetener to them. I recommend tasting a couple of your berries and adding a tablespoon of maple syrup or coconut sugar to them if needed.
  • Sorry for the poor lighting on the photo's, it was really stormy this day and I had no natural light!
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Mix the dry ingredients

Mix in the wet ingredients, and let it sit for 5 minutes

Add blueberries, cinnamon, and vanilla to the oiled dish

Top with the batter sporadically

Bake on 375F for 35 minutes and enjoy!

What is your favorite flavor of cobbler?