Cooking for toddlers (and their parents)

I was recently asked to talk about how I cooked for my twin daughters when they were toddlers. Although it was a long time ago (they’re 7 now), I vividly recall feeling that I wanted my children to eat the same things my husband and I were eating for dinner. This isn’t to say I placed a plate a pork chops in front of their hungry little faces. Instead, I took whatever ingredients I was using that evening and modified how I cooked them for my girls. So, if we were having some sort of meat dish, I would finely chop the meat (often in a small cuisinart) and cook it with whatever side dishes we were having. I would then often top whatever they were having with a dollop of cottage cheese, which made the entire dish creamy for them, while also immediately cooling it off so they could eat without waiting. The cottage cheese also provided another way for me to add more calcium into their diets.

Here is one of my girls’ favorite toddler recipes with a companion parent recipe. It’s easy and fun to introduce your children to new foods and to make dinners that they love. The hard part comes when you have to wipe half of it off the floor!

Turkey meatballs with rice and peas

Kids dish

1 tsp olive oil

¼ cup ground turkey

¼ cup frozen peas

¼ cup cooked white or brown rice (or couscous or pasta or any other grain)

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp cottage cheese

In a small sauté pan, cook ground turkey in olive oil on medium heat until heated thoroughly. Add peas and salt to taste. If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Cook until peas are thoroughly cooked. Mix in rice. Place a serving on your child’s plate and then mix in the cottage cheese. Serve.

Note: Although I would sometimes serve the parent portion of this dish with mashed potatoes, I always served it to my daughters with rice as they for some reason hated mashed potatoes. Actually, they still hate them. Go figure. Anyway, if your child likes mashed potatoes, feel free to use those instead.

Parents’ dish

Olive oil

1 lb ground turkey

½ cup plain or Italian bread crumbs

1 egg

1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley

2 shallots chopped or a ½ small onion chopped

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup frozen peas

1 ½ tsp flour

Mix all ingredients except the oil (I do this in my kitchen aid). Shape small- to medium-sized meatballs out of the mixture. Heat a large skillet (on medium high) with enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When oil is hot, cook meatballs in batches, browning each side. When all meatballs are browned, sauté the mushrooms in the now empty pan, adding more oil if necessary. When mushrooms are soft, mix in the flour. Add the chicken broth. Stir well, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze all the wonderful crispy turkey and mushroom bits. Add the meatballs back into the pan along with the peas and cover. Simmer until meatballs are thoroughly cooked through. Serve on top of mashed potatoes or rice.


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