weeknight gourmet

Category : Baby food

Healthy Toddler Meals: Charlotte’s Stir Fry

As Charlotte grows, I’m trying to introduce different flavors to her in the hope that we’ll avoid the super picky eater stage that seems to hit most toddlers.  I was emailing with my friends Raina and Lara about baby / toddler food and Raina mentioned that she makes a tofu stir fry for her two kids.

Raina inspired me to make two different stir fries for Charlotte — one with tofu and one with chicken.  Both were a hit though I think she preferred the tofu over the chicken, adding further evidence to my hunch that Charlotte might be a vegetarian at heart.  The veggies are always the first thing she picks off her plate!

You can use whatever veggies your child enjoys.  I used broccoli because that is Charlotte’s absolute favorite.  I also added some sliced mushrooms.

I used a stir fry sauce from Trader Joe’s called Trader Joe San® Soyaki but you can use whatever you sauce you prefer.  I added a touch of corn starch — just a teaspoon — to the sauce to thicken it.

I served the stir fry with brown rice.  Charlotte and I both enjoyed it — though I did add some hot sauce to mine to spice it up a bit more.

Charlotte’s Stir Fry

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (or a few tenderloins) sliced into bite sized pieces
    1 package of firm tofu cubed
  • 1/2 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup stir fry sauce (mix in 1 teaspoon of corn starch if you wish to thicken the sauce)
  • brown rice for serving

Heat oil in sauté panAdd garlic.  Cook for 1 minute.

If using chicken, add in chicken and cook until nearly cooked through.  Add in vegetables.  Cook until starting to soften.  Add in stir fry sauce and cook until the veggies are cooked to desired doneness and the chicken is cooked through.


If using tofu, add in veggies.  Cook until starting to soften.  Add in cubed tofu and stir fry sauce.  Cook until tofu is warmed through and the veggies are cooked to desired doneness.

Serve over brown rice.

Toddler Super Food: Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn

Trying to ignore the loud rain hammering the house and the tornado warnings for the county south of us to write this blog post!

As we prepped for Hurricane Irene and the prospect of losing power, I decided to make Charlotte some food that might be ok without refrigeration.  Over the past couple of weeks, she’s tried and loved both black beans and corn so I decided to make a quinoa dish with both of those ingredients.

In case you are not familiar with quinoa, I think of it as a nuttier couscous.  Quinoa is incredibly high in protein and fiber, but is also gluten-free so it is easily digestible.

Charlotte loved the quinoa!  She gobbled it up and exclaimed “YUM” after each bite.  So happy she loved such a delicious, protein packed meal!

 Quinoa with Black Beans & Corn

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup corn kernels
1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir corn into the saucepan (if frozen), and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through.  Mix in the black beans and corn (if not frozen) and serve.

Finger Food Fun: Fish Sticks

We’re very lucky — our Charlotte is a great eater!  She loves broccoli, green beans, fruit, and cheese and is even willing to eat fish!

Charlotte loves these fish sticks!  They are so easy to make and you can make a big batch and freeze a portion.  I’ve made these using tilapia but you can make with any firm fish.

Baby’s First First Fish Sticks

  • 1 tilapia filet
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut tilapia filet lengthwise along the center.  The cut the smaller filets horizontally into fingers.

Dip the fingers into the egg and then the breadcrumbs.  Place on a very lightly oiled cookie sheet.

Baked for 12 to 15 minutes flipping the fingers

FInger Food Fun: Charlotte’s Healthy Chicken Nuggets

After our success with the Broccoli Cheese Nuggets, I thought I would give homemade chicken nuggets a try.  These nuggets are not pretty and almost look like a meatball, but, regardless of their appearance, Charlotte loved them!  I had a taste and thought they were quite good.  There is touch of sweetness from the sweet potato and the yogurt coating helps keep the nugget quite moist.

If you don’t have seasoned breadcrumbs, just use plain breadcrumbs and add some Italian seasoning (no salt added) or other dried herbs (e.g., basil, oregano).

Next time I might try making a meatball with ground turkey and some sweet potato or squash.  Finger food fun continues!

Charlotte’s Healthy Chicken Nuggets

  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk organic plain yogurt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil with a baking sheet lined with foil.

Chop the chicken breast into small pieces.  Combine the chicken with the mashed sweet potato.  Form mixture into nuggets or balls.

Coat the nuggets in yogurt and toss with the breadcrumbs.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Carefully turn the nuggets over and bake for another 10 minutes.

Finger Food Fun: Broccoli Cheese Nuggets & Avocado Spread

Hard to believe Charlotte is 10 months old!  As you can tell by her cheeks, she’s a good eater.

We have moved beyond smooth purees and are fully into chunky mixtures and finger foods.  Charlotte loves fruit — pears and bananas are her favorites — and enjoys many veggies — especially roasted broccoli and string beans.   She has really taken to yogurt, hummus, and string cheese.  Turkey seems to be her favorite meat.   And, nothing can compare to her favorite snack food — Happy Baby Puffs!  Any flavor will do!

Angus is loving Charlotte’s growing eating repertoire as well.  He gobbles up anything that falls to the floor.  And, when her hands get messy, Charlotte offers them up to Angus for a lick.  Kind of gross, I know!  But it is heartwarming to see Charlotte and the pup forge a friendship.

Here are a couple of finger food recipes Charlotte has enjoyed.  I’ve adapted them from some similar recipes I’ve seen in cookbooks and on WholesomeBaby.com.

The first recipe is for baked veggie nuggets made with chopped broccoli, shredded cheese, and breadcrumbs.  Beaten eggs bind the mixture together.  If you haven’t introduced egg whites to your baby yet, just add some extra yolks (which is what I did).  I used a shredded cheese blend from Trader Joe’s that consists of mozzarella, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses.

Charlotte loves the nuggets, and Tim and I thought they were super tasty as well!

Broccoli & Cheese Nuggets

  • 16 oz. frozen broccoli, cooked, drained, and chopped
  • 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese
  • 3 eggs beaten (you can use 5 egg yolks if you have not introduced egg whites yet)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.  Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.  Roll the mixture into ball place on baking tray.  Bake for 25 minutes, turn nuggets over after 15 minutes.  Serve warm. Break up into appropriately sized pieces for your little one!


The other finger food is a spread I make with avocado, plain yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg yolk.  I spread the mixture on a piece of thinly sliced rye toast with the crusts cut off and then cut into tiny squares.  Typically I feed about half to Charlotte (so I can ensure she is actually getting some in her mouth) and then let her feed the rest to herself.  It is a little messy but Charlotte loves it and can gobble up a whole slice of bread with the avocado spread on it!

Avocado – Yogurt Spread

  • Half of a ripe avocado, mashed
  • 1 hard-boiled egg yolk, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon of whole-milk organic plain yogurt
  • 1 slice of bread, toasted

Combine the avocado, yogurt, and egg yolk.  Spread on toast.


I look forward to introducing Charlotte to other delicious flavors and dishes!

Cooking for Charlotte: First Baby Food

We’ve been blessed with a good eater (as evidenced by her cheeks and thighs)!  Charlotte transitioned to solids very easily a few months ago.  We started with the basic (and bland) rice cereal and then introduced a variety of fruit and veggie purees.  Other than the cereal, I’ve been preparing Charlotte’s food.  Some things like mashed banana and avocado, don’t really require much effort.  Some of the other purees take a little advanced thought, but it is easy to make a big batch and freeze in individual servings.  I like Baeba’s trays and Baby Cubes.  But you can also just use an ice cube tray.  I use a Baeba Babycook as well as my All-Clad Steamer and a Cuisinart Mini-prep to prepare the food.  The Babycook is a steamer and mini food processor in one but you really don’t need one if you have a steamer and mini-prep or food mill.

I’ve really enjoyed making Charlotte’s food and seeing her reaction to different tastes and textures.

She loves fruit!  I guess all babies prefer the sweetness of fruit to veggies.  But she does love butternut squash, sweet potato, and avocado (I know it is technically a fruit).  She will tolerate peas and green beans.

She hated my first attempt at carrots.  I am hoping the gagging and coughing when she doesn’t like something is not the sign of a drama queen in the making.

We just tried meat for the first time last week.  She enjoyed the turkey but hated the lamb.  More coughing and gagging.  She also now knows that Angus is eager to eat whatever she is eating so she’s been spotted lowering a hand covered with food for Angus to lick.  Angus will be a friend for life.

I love cooking for Charlotte.  As I begin to wean Charlotte, I love that I am continuing to nourish her with the baby food I am preparing.  Cooking for my loved ones is so important to me and I am happy that I have been able to do so for Charlotte so early in her life.  I look forward to many more years of cooking for my gorgeous girl!

Here are a few of Charlotte’s favorites:

Charlotte’s Pear Puree

1 ripe pear

1. Peel and cube a fully ripened pear
2. Mash or puree as desired

Pears do not need to be steamed but it is recommended for babies under 8 months. 

Charlotte’s Peach Puree

1 bag frozen peaches, defrosted

Steam for 3 to 5 minutes.  Puree to desired consistency.

Charlotte’s Sweet Potato

1 sweet potato

Prick potato several times with a fork.  Roast potato at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on size of potato).  The potato skin will separate easily from the potato.  Mash with a potato masher.  Add liquid, depending on desired consistency.

Charlotte’s Turkey

1/2 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup water

Combine ground turkey and water in a frying pan.  Cook until turkey is browned.  Puree turkey and cooking liquid until desired consistency.

Feeding Charlotte

I prepared my first baby food this week –pureed sweet potatoes!  I can hardly believe Charlotte is eating solids.  While I now understand why so many new parents say they can hardly remember life without their little one, in many ways the first five months has passed in the blink of an eye.  They are babies for such a short period of time.  I am so excited for each milestone and development, but am continuously shocked (and a little saddened) at how quickly Charlotte’s babyhood is passing.

While I was pregnant and thought about feeding our baby, I was always focused on this new phase, preparing homemade baby food.  Now, five months into breast feeding, it’s funny to me that I didn’t realize how much time, energy, and effort I would spend breastfeeding Charlotte.  Perhaps it was because I was somewhat daunted and anxious about breastfeeding.  I wanted to breastfeed but knew that it didn’t work out for every mother.

I was very lucky and Charlotte has been a good eater from the start.  I’m surprised how much I love nursing my girl (although I do find pumping to be a chore).  I love our quiet time together and am continuously amazed by the fact that for her 9 months in the womb and for the five months since she was born, my body has sustained Charlotte.  The human body is truly amazing!

Because I had to start working part-time when Charlotte was two-month-old and full-time when she was three-months-old, breastfeeding has allowed me to do something for her while I am away from home.  Pumping milk, while not among my most favorite tasks, at least makes me feel like I am making a contribution while I’m in the office.

And, nursing Charlotte when she wakes up and before bed is such a special time.  I look down at the beautiful creature Tim and I created and am just overcome with love.  Originally, I was just planning to breastfeed for six months, but, as that milestone approaches, I am thinking that I’d like to continue for a while longer.  I am sure Charlotte won’t object.

But this next phase of solid food is exciting!  Now that I have prepared my first trays of pureed sweet potato and pear, I look forward to sharing my love of food and cooking with my precious girl.  So, look out for some baby food recipes on the Weeknight Gourmet!

The Commander in Chef

Amanda Hesser writes a great op-ed piece in today’s New York Times about the need for a “cooking” role model in the White House.  Growing and buying local isn’t enough.  You actually need to cook with those local ingredients!

Click here to read the piece.