3 Toddler-friendly but Adult Dinner Ideas that I Love

It is no secret that toddler’s food preferences are constantly in flux. For concerned mamas everywhere, this means we are on a never-ending search for something that will end up in their stomach (not in their hair and on the dog) and actually be somewhat beneficial to them (I don’t know about you but I prefer not to be cleaning the organic berries and all-white-meat-no-preservatives-no-msg-chicken nuggets from the floor).  So we continue our creative quest to seek out age-appropriate foods that are wholesome and flavorful. And with any luck, something we could make for the whole family. But I have admitted defeat more times than I care to count.

After going through a recent rough feeding patch,  I had a victory.  I had been struggling with Michaela’s daycare meal schedule. For her early afternoon meal, I had been reverting to preparing purees since it seemed to be the only way to squeeze in some vegetables and non-dairy protein.  But after a few reports of her not eating these early afternoon meals,  I emailed her teacher asking her advice on this silly-but-overwhelming-to-me matter.  Her advice struck the “I am failing as a mother” chord. It went something like “Maybe she can start eating more table food now that she has more teeth and likes picking up food by herself…”   Now I’m sure she meant well but all things aligned in the universe in such a way that it brewed and stewed in my head and in my heart all day long until it finally it loomed so large that I texted my husband. To forewarn him of my failures, of course.  However, he always sends me the best responses that simply and completely deflate whatever bubble I am living in –  helping me see the reality of the situation and also the good in it. She was just trying to help. She is not looking down at me as a mom.  And I’m pretty sure he’s always right.

But in the days that followed, I over-analyzed and over-thought every single thing I put on this poor child’s plate.  No more puree! Purees are for babies! So I marched on with new and different food preparations.  And she continued to be her usual 14-month old self.  Picking and choosing with such meticulous care as if she was the head of the selection committee for an elite college admissions department, tossing aside any morsel that did not meet her criteria.

Then.  Two days later, it happened.  I made this dinner recipe. It had  pasta and white beans and a flavorful but mild sauce made of pureed vegetables and tomato paste.  With any luck, I thought, she would eat the pasta and maybe some vegetable sauce would sneak in too.  But do you know what she did? She picked out ALL THE BEANS and ATE them. The beans!

And I cried.

Because if anyone knows anything about motherhood it is this — that we never stop taking chances on our children. Despite periods of self-doubt and droughts of creativity, somewhere in our depths is a determined spirit that summons the energy we didn’t think we had to keep going when we didn’t think we could.

We take chances that don’t make sense. And we keep showing up.

So here it is – 3 meals that our family is loving right now (all three of us = two adults and one toddler) for all the reasons stated above.

1. Pasta and White Beans with Garlic-rosemary OilWell Michaela girl just loved this meal – first time around and for leftovers too (although when it was leftovers she decided she wanted to eat all of the pasta instead)! Mike liked it too and he is hard to please when it comes to meals without meat! It was deliciously satisfying and a recipe that we have added to our meatless menu rotation.

2. Ground Turkey Tacos: It was so surprising to me that toddlers might enjoy spicy food but it turns out that if it’s not too spicy, they just think it’s super flavorful! We just picked up a pack of these taco shells and used ground turkey for taco meat.  Mike set aside some more mild meat for her before kicking it up a notch for us.  She enjoyed the meat and tortilla shell separately but then when we rolled it up all together with some cheese – she loved it even more! We usually heat up some rice and fresh vegetable on the side too.

3. Baked Pesto Chicken & Parmesan Orzo: I don’t have a recipe for this but it is so simple. Take a 1-lb package of skinless, boneless, thin-cut chicken breasts. Usually there are about 6 pieces in a package which is perfect for our little family.  On a foil-lined baking sheet, lay each piece flat and spread 1-2 tablespoons of this amazing pesto on each one. Then bake at 350F for about 20-25 minutes.  While the chicken is baking, boil water for the orzo pasta.  Cook up orzo pasta to desired texture, drain, and add EVOO, salt, pepper, basil, and freshly grated Parmesan. Stir and serve. [For the orzo proportions, I use 1 cu. dry orzo and 1/3-1/2 cu. parm cheese, with just a splash of EVOO, S&P to taste, and dried basil from my spice rack).  To finish out the meal, I usually heat up some frozen veggies that I have on hand like broccoli or green beans.  Michaela goes crazy for this chicken which is enough for me to make this pretty regularly! Good thing it’s so easy!

Back soon with a typical meal schedule for this now-15-month old of ours!


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