I have a confession to make.

I’ve never once considered buying a Gerber Graduate Meal. And I never once bought baby food.
I understand that they are nutritionally balanced, perfectly proportioned for my tike. I understand that they are wholesome, delicious(?), and convenient. More suitable for our crazy life that spending 90 minutes in the kitchen each night.
But slimy, algae-colored peas scare me. What makes them that color? Or glow-in-the-dark pureed carrots? There is nothing natural about ‘veggies’ that are the color of cheese puffs. What is put into these pre-packaged conveniences that allow that to stay pretty much indefinitely on your pantry shelf and still be edible?
I know, I know. They are FDA approved and perfectly safe. Still…
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not that crunchy at my house. I don’t drink wheat germ shakes and I do buy the Gerber snacks (the lil crunchies or puffs – – but I’ll pass on the yogurt bites. They’re chalk-like and leave dust on your hands. If I wouldn’t eat it, why would I give it to my kid?). But I firmly believe meal times are for fresh veggies, meats, pastas and rice. Especially dinner.
Cooking for a toddler can be a frightening proposition. What if you slave over the stove for an hour only to have your pint-sized cutie take one look at the gourmet meal and scream? You’d deflate like a balloon. Or I would anyway.
But the reality is I don’t have 90 minutes to slave over the stove every night. Some nights I barely have 20 seconds. Scrambled eggs or frittatas are our go-to meals when we’re too tired to cook. What’s for dinner for Pat and me is also on the menu for the Bug. I don’t have the creativity (or energy!) to make two different meals…
Usually the Bug eats a deconstructed version of what Pat and I are having (see that, Top Chef? I did learn something from watching your show!). For example, last night Pat and I had slow cooked beef short ribs, smashed red potatoes, mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette and plums, and bruschetta. Lila had diced plums, matchstick carrots and lettuce with ranch dressing, diced tomatoes with basil, smashed potatoes, a pinch of shredded cheese and cut-up short rib. A little bit of a lot of things go a long way – – she doesn’t get bored and end up throwing half her meal on the floor.
Yesterday, I stumbled upon Paula Bernstein’s post about Parenting.com’s Top 10 Power Foods for Kids. (If you’re a fan of ours on Facebook, you probably saw the link!) I was pleasantly surprised to see most of the foods on their list were already in my pantry or fridge: blueberries, tomatoes (cooked tomatoes are even better!), low-fat greek yogurt, cabbage, salmon, cocoa, black beans, basil and cinnamon. Although we don’t have tofu in our house, we always have frozen shelled edamame on hand (both are soy products). According to Bernstein’s post, soy is “especially beneficial for young girls because it has a ‘protect effect as their bodies and breast tissue are developing — which lasts until adulthood.'” (Note: Bernstein was quoting Rachel Beller from the Parenting Magazine article). Are these foods in your pantry?
Toddler diets must be on everyone’s minds today. I just read Evan Serpick’s confessional on vegetable and fruit toddler subterfuge. I’m all for getting the fruits and veggies in any way you can – – provided they start in some sort of state and color you recognize. I love the broccoli in the meatballs idea. Maybe Pat would eat broccoli, too, then? We’ll have to give that a try.
So, in true Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Style, we’re going to start sharing some of the Bug’s favorite recipes so that maybe you’ll ditch the freeze dried, overcome toddler cooking anxiety, or be inspired to try something new!
Power-Fueled Edamame
(It’s got three of the 10 Power Foods for Kids in one Punch!)
Frozen Edamame
Diced Cherry Tomatoes
Coarsely chopped Fresh Basil
Celery Salt
Olive Oil
Place frozen edamame in medium-sized pot. Cook over high heat until thawed (you’ll need to stir frequently!). Remove from heat. Toss in cherry tomatoes. Season with basil, celery salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Drizzle olive oil and toss until coated. Serve hot or at room temperature.