Category Archives: Baby Food

Have you discovered your muffin pan?

I LOVE TO COOK and when I am not cooking, I am searching for recipes and planning my next kitchen-creation. Sometimes I draw my inspiration from the ingredients in my refrigerator, but most of the time inspiration comes from the recipes that I find in a magazine,  the Internet, or a meal that is prepared on one of my favorite shows (I love you Michael Symon and the CHEW Crew!!)

One Saturday morning, while sitting at the kitchen table watching lil’ Jojo eat daddy’s homemade blueberry pancakes, I decided to scour the Internet for toddler friendly recipes. Since I was planning on going to the grocery store later in the day, it was imperative that I figure out what I was going to cook Jojo for the week . Yes, the art of planning is vital to my survival!! What would I make for his lunch? What would I make for his dinner? Will what I make be freezable? Will it be delicious, but still be filled with the right amount of fruits, veggies, grains and proteins? Will I have to stand in front of it while it cooks? Can I just let it bake? Is there a lot of prep? Will there be a mess? Is it something I can prepare even if I have to leave him whining in the highchair while I cook it? All are questions that a working & health-conscious mom needs to consider before committing to a recipe. Ya gotta have a game plan!

Considering these types of questions combined with the ridiculous amount of related/non-related information that comes up when you search “toddler friendly recipes” was enough to make me want to grab my coffee, sit on the couch and give up, when EUREKA! The perfect article from “parenting.com” appeared in the search results  that highlighted 5-Mini Meals (click this link to visit the recipes) that could be made using a muffin pan. The recipes seemed simple enough and delicious enough, and the idea of 5 Mini Mealsusing the muffin pan to cook was very alluring. I figured any recipe that  calls for quick prep time, one pan and oven baking was definitely one worth trying. And I am happy I did! Not only were the recipes yummy, but using the muffin pan completely revolutionized the way I think of preparing meals for Jojo.

I highly recommend visiting the site and preparing the Pot Pies, Broccoli & Ziti Cups and Chili Corn Muffins. Both Jojo and I loved them and they were sooo easy to prepare! Read below to see how I tweaked each recipe to meet Jojo’s yummy level (good enough that he’ll say yummmm when he eats it).

Of the 5 Mini Meals I recommend the Pot Pie, Ziti & Broccoli Cup and the Chili Corn Muffin. They are very basic and can easily be modified for your toddler’s tastes. Think of them as blank canvases.

Pot Pie – I added additional chicken, frozen vegetables and 1 tbsp of wheat germ.

Ziti & Broccoli Cups – I added a 1/4 cup of peas, 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/4 cup of whole milk yogurt, two additional tbsp of parmesan cheese and  used whole milk instead of heavy cream. (Just remember that whole milk will be more watery than heavy cream so you may have to adjust the cook time in the recipe).

Chili Corn Muffins – Instead of chili, I filled each corn muffin with taco. If you want the muffin to surround the meat you have to  only fill the cups half full and make sure that the muffin mix surrounds it. Also, since cornbread can tend do be a little dry you can either decide to take it out a few minutes early or be sure to top with a sauce to moisten the bread. Jojo liked a dollop of plain greek yogurt, diced tomatoes and a sprinkl of cheese.

If you plan on trying the mini calzones, make sure that you let your pizza dough cool otherwise you will be fighting to stretch the dough into the form.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as Jojo and I do.  I make them regularly and have them frozen for when I need a quick, healthy and delicious meal.

Tips for the Hubby: If you are planning on making this meal for your entire family, I would suggest that you make a side of gravy for dunking. Remember these are muffin size portions so I would also consider cooking a protein on the side. They make a great accompaniment to a baked chicken or even a chicken cutlet. You can roast sweet potatoes or carrots while baking the muffin cups and have a delicious no fuss meal.

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A few thoughts about Jojo’s first food experiences…

When Jojo was born, so was my “mom opinion”. I was instantly making certain types of decisions. Deciding to nurse was the first, going organic was second and cooking my own food when he was ready to eat was the third. Looking back, I am amazed at how quickly I made those decisions. It was almost like my instinct kicked in and said “hey, it’s me your mommy instinct & cooking DNA, it’s time to use me!”. And ever since, that’s where I’ve been. Figuring out the healthiest ways to raise my lil’ Jo.

After what seemed like a looooooooooong cereal stage, Jojo was ready for fruits and purees. I would go to the market every couple of weeks and buy a variety of fruits and veggies that were in season and steam and puree away. I would take out my Hamilton Beach Food processor and my OXO BPA free freezable 4oz squares and go-to-town making all of Jojo’s food.

Looking back, those were the easier times. Jojo did not have an opinion and it was okay for him to survive on fruits and veggies. There was no pushing foods away and certainly no complaining, boy did that change! By the time JoJo turned one, the puree days were gone and it was time for me to start considering the number of teeth he has, what he needs to eat and his food preferences when preparing his meals. Thus, I needed to learn the  art of disguising healthy foods and/or re-imagining them in  delicious ways!

It was difficult to do this in the beginning, since JoJo had very few teeth. So, I started off simple. Here is a list of a few successful meals I tried: (They are basic, so I figured no recipe necessary.)

  1. Ditalini pasta with any sort of vegetable puree  (It can even be a left over jarred puree)
  2. Mashed up sweet potato with cinnamon sprinkled on top
  3. Brown rice, peas & carrots quickly pan-fried with an egg (be sure to check with your doctor for advice on when to introduce eggs)
  4. Chicken, broccoli, brown rice and applesauce lightly processed in blender or food processor. To add more texture, add additional rice after blending.
  5. Ditalini pasta with diced tomatoes and peas with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  6. Diced avocado, brown rice, black beans and small diced tomatos w/ juices- it’s a taco bowl for baby (If your baby likes spice add a dash of cumin)
  7. For breakfast: oatmeal-blueberry pancakes and frozen fruit – defrost it in microwave and it becomes a delicious syruppy sweet that babies love (This one Jojo still loves)

Please comment if you would like more ideas for your 6-12 month old, or if you would like more details about each recipe idea. There will be recipes to come for 12months+ in my next post.