Tuesday Timesaver: 12 Easy Sauces & Dippers for Roast Chicken

Cool, creamy Cucumber-Yogurt Dip is delish on plain roasted chicken — and it’s rich in calcium.

Best for Babies 10+ Months Old

Mason is still in his Mr. Picky phase, which means mealtime is always a gamble. It’s either super fun or super miserable, depending on Bug’s mood. Last night I was hoping for super fun. It was a Monday, after all, and I had just started my (awesome) new job, so I was pretty tapped out. I turned to an old stand-by — store-bought, free-range rotisserie chicken, one of his faves — and served it with mashed butternut squash (roasted the night before and mashed with whole milk, a little butter, and a dash of nutmeg), and chunks of cooked apple. Bug dug in but quickly got bored with his chicken. On a whim, I gave him some Roasted Red Pepper Hummus to dip it in; he loves hummus almost as much as he loves cheese.  That chicken disappeared from his tray fast! Guess Dr. Sears was right when he said dips are a great way to inspire 1-year-olds to eat.

Since the hummus and chicken combo went so well, I’m going to try serving lots of different sauces and dips with Mason’s roast chicken from now on so he can dip each piece before eating it. Check out my quick and easy picks below. I’ll make big batches ahead so we have plenty for the week. Stay tuned for great veggie and fruit dippers!

1. Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

2. Peanut Sauce

3. Roasted Eggplant Dip

4. Easy Marinara Sauce

5. Cilantro Mint Sauce

6. Apricot BBQ Sauce

7. Classic Pesto Sauce

8. Mustard-Dill Sauce

9. Mint-Yogurt Sauce

10. Baby Cheese Sauce

11. Plum Sauce

12. Cucumber-Yogurt Dip

How do you spice up chicken for your toddler?

Photo courtesy of BHG.com

Easy Apple & Blueberry Pockets


Best for Babies 10+ Months

I love the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. Farmers, bakers, and cheesemakers set up stands in the center of the bustling square to sell fresh fruits and veggies, artisan cheese, meats, baked goods, wine, and flowers. Hundreds of people mill around, and it’s as fun to people watch as it is to shop. My favorite part is the fresh produce, and right now that produce includes many different varieties of juicy, crisp apples. From applesauce to chicken-apple soup, Mason seems to enjoy apples as much as I do — so I decided to make a variation of this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens so that he could enjoy apples in a new way.

To make this fruit-filled deliciousness, I used frozen blueberries, smashed apples, and whole-wheat bread. I skipped the sugar but kept the cinnamon. The fruit was enough sweetness for Mason, and the cinnamon gave the fruit pockets just the slightest hint of spice. The combo is a great make-ahead breakfast for Mason — a tasty alternative to fruity oatmeal or cheese-and-veggie omelet.

Enjoy!

Easy Apple & Blueberry Pockets

Ingredients

3/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. smashed apples
12 slices soft whole wheat bread
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash berries and spread to dry on paper towels.

2. For each pie, spoon 1 tablespoon of smashed apples (recipe below) in the center of a bread slice. Top with 3 to 4 berries and another slice of bread. Gently press the top slice around the fruit. Trim crusts from bread using a serrated knife.

3. Using a fork, press the edges of the bread together to seal in the filling. Lightly brush the top slice of bread with some of the oil. Pick up each fruit pocket and, while holding in your hand, lightly brush the opposite side with oil. Place fruit pockets on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.

4. Bake pies for 18 to 20 minutes or until bread is lightly toasted and bottoms are browned. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 6 servings.

Smashed apples: Wash, peel, and core apples. Slice into small chunks. Set aside. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn heat down until bubbles are soft and add apples to the water. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse apples with cold water for 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Mash with a potato masher.

Tuesday Timesaver: Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese in 1 Minute

Eating_Macaroni2Best for Babies 10+ Months

OK, you do have to do a bit of work in advance but I’m not kidding: You can have multiple servings of homemade mac ‘n’ cheese in less time than it takes to make it from a box. The key is to make a batch ahead and freeze it in single-serving portions.  When you’re ready to serve it pop a serving in the microwave, heat for 45 seconds to one minute (depending on how big the serving size is), and boom! Rich and creamy mac is ready for your babe’s dinner. Sure, you’ll spend a bit of time upfront but you save way more time night to night by making it ahead. This trick is one of my fave timesavers for busy nights and mac ‘n’ cheese freezes really well, so it’s a no-brainer. I serve the cheesy pasta with cooked and dice veggies and fruits and some yogurt and Mason has a well-rounded dinner in minutes. Sometimes I even chop up veggies into tiny pieces and hide them in the pasta. If your babe isn’t quite in the finger food stage, you can also mash up the pasta and cheese sauce or even puree it. Here’s our mac ‘n’ cheese recipe (that’s Mason flashing a mouthful of it, above). Try it out and let us know what you think, or share your fave mac ‘n’ cheese recipe with us.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Elbow macaroni noodles
1/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk*

 

Directions

1. Boil pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool slightly. Set aside.

2. Prepare cheese sauce; we like the basic one from Annabel Karmel’s Top 100 Baby Purees: Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour to make a smooth paste, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to a boil, and cook for a few minutes over low heat until thickened and smooth. Stir in the grated cheese until melted. (Recipe makes 8 ounces of sauce.)

3. Toss pasta with cheese sauce. Freeze extras in single-serving portions for up to three months.


Dry_Macaroni2

 


 

Draining_Macaroni2

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6 Healthier Burger Recipes for Baby

turkeyburger

Best for Babies 10+ Months

We’re normally very healthy eaters but I let Mason indulge this weekend in celebration of our friend Otto’s brief return to the States from Australia. On Saturday Bug enjoyed a brunch of buttery grilled cheese and an old-fashioned, cinnamon sugar-sprinkled cake doughnut at the buzz-worthy M Wells. (He also ate feta cheese and kalamata olives from my octopus salad.) On Sunday it was blisteringly hot so we popped into a local ice cream parlor for Mason’s first taste of ice cream — vanilla! — on our way to a play date in the park . For dinner we dropped by another local favorite, Cafe Henri, where Bug noshed on bits of burger, French fries, chunks of bread dipped in Gazpacho, and buttery rice with carrot and scallion. Mason only ate a few bites of each thing, and he still got plenty of lean protein, fruits, and veggies at home, but it was fun to splurge a bit with him while we were out and watch him enjoy all the new flavors and textures.

Of all the food he tried, Mason’s fave was definitely the burger so I’m planning on making more burgers for him this summer. Instead of a basic beef burger like the one he enjoyed last night, I want to make burgers with healthier twists (think fruit salsas, veggie mix-ins, and ground turkey and veggies instead of beef all the time) but that are still super delish. Here are 6 recipes that I plan on trying. What are your fave burger ideas?

Turkey Burgers with Peaches & Blueberries (pictured above)

Greek Spinach Veggie Burgers

Beans & Greens Burger

Cherry Burgers

Lamb Burgers with Indian Spices and Yogurt-Mint Sauce (light on the spice)

Veggies Burgers with Eggplant and Tomato

(Turkey burger image: Better Homes and Gardens)

First taste of ice cream — vanilla!
icecream

 

 

 

 

 

11 Cookout Sides That Make Great Finger Foods for Babies

Lemon-Watermelon Bites

Best for Babies 10+ Months Old

Yesterday afternoon Mason, Chris, and I took the train to Cos Cob, Connecticut, for a 4th of July cookout. (Mason wore his fedora, pic below!) We had a fabulous time. Our friends have a beautiful home on an idyllic lake, the perfect place to relax and unwind. Everyone there was super friendly and the spread was amazing (these people knew how to cook!). Our contribution was a dry rose and an appetizer of fresh watermelon topped with goat cheese, sea salt, cracked black pepper, and lemon-infused olive oil.  Other yummies included a fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomato salad, classic macaroni salad, and tangy black bean and corn salad.

I made a finger food lunch for Mason out of the dishes the adults were eating, and Bug seemed excited to be eating the same foods we were. He also indulged in a slice of vanilla cake (he ate almost the entire thing!), and he was as enthusiastic about the cake as he was about his first cupcake. I’m looking forward to going to more cookouts this summer, and I’m planning on bringing a new dish that’s fresh and baby-friendly to each one. Here is the list of recipes I want to try. What do you plan on bringing to cookouts and potlucks this summer?

1. Lemon-Watermelon Bites (I made these for our friends’ July 4th cookout, pic above!)

2. Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

3. Macaroni Salad

4. Ina Garten’s Potato Salad

5. Green Bean Salad

6. Greek Pasta Salad

7. Tomato and Avocado Salad

8. Fresh Fruit Salad with Creamy Custard

9. Minted Watermelon Salad

10. Antipasto Salad

11. Potato and Olive Salad


(below) Mason, wearing his fedora, all ready to party

 

 

15 Easy Finger Foods for Babies with No Teeth

Best for Babies 10+ Months Old

When Mason’s pediatrician told me earlier this month that I needed to incorporate more finger foods into his diet because he’s such a peanut (not to mention nearly a year old), I sort of panicked. The kid may be 10 months old but he still doesn’t have any teeth, despite months of brutal teething symptoms. How could he possibly handle finger foods more substantial than those melt-in-the-mouth puffs without some horrible choking incident, I wondered?

 

Of course, I’ve since learned that those mighty little jaws can make quick work of lots of stuff, even cupcakes. So I’ve been focused on coming up with combos of finger foods that taste great together,  the same concept that I use when I’m dreaming up new purees for Mason. I dice everything and cook all the veggies and fruits well so they’re super soft and easy for Mason to gum up.  Here are my fave ideas — what are yours?

1. Sweet potato and apple

2. Banana and avocado

3. Roast chicken and apple

4. Cheese omelet and turkey-apple sausage

5. Elbow pasta with marinara sauce and foccacia

6. Cheese toast and sweet potato fries

7. Swiss cheese and apricots

8. Mac ‘n’ cheese and beets

9. Green beans and pears

10. Butternut squash and peaches

11. Peas and plums

12. Carrots and apple

13. Banana and cherries

14. Fresh mozzarella and tomato

15. Cheddar cheese and figs

Tuesday Timesaver: Chicken for a Week

chicken

Best for Babies 8+ Months Old

Mason adores rotisserie chicken. Adores it. We first discovered his passion for it while we were at a friend’s house. Chris was eating takeout roast chicken and he broke off a few pieces and gave them to Bug. Mason is not one to go out of his way to feed himself — the child still refuses to hold his own bottle and you know about our sippy cup woes — so I was amazed when he stuffed the chicken in his mouth as soon as it hit his tray. No coaxing required. And then he reached for more! Finally, a healthy finger food more substantial than puffs and easier to pick up than squishy bits of banana or avocado.

Inspired, I picked up an organic rotisserie chicken on the way home from work last night. At home, I cut up the whole chicken and removed the skin. Then I removed the meat from the bones, shredded it into thin, short strips and divided the chicken into two-ounce portions. One portion went in the fridge for Bug’s lunch today and the remaining six went in the freezer for later. Seven portions of a healthy protein for just over $1 per serving (in New York City) — and the entire process only took about 15 minutes!

I loved this chicken shortcut because it was healthy and it saved time. It was also so inexpensive! Of course, you can save even more money by roasting your own chicken at home, which I often do, but last night time was more important to me than saving a few bucks. (Mason’s affinity for roast chicken also means no more pureeing chicken, thank God). You can stretch this timesaver to cover your entire family too. If Chris weren’t out of town, I would have whipped up this Dijon-crusted variation with Brussels sprouts for us (it’s one of our fave chicken recipes), then frozen the leftovers for Mason. Dinner doesn’t get much easier than that!

What are your favorite dinnertime shortcuts?

 

shredded_chicken

*This post is the first in my new weekly series about saving time and money on eats for your babe. Hope you enjoyed it! If there’s a topic you’d love to hear about, please let me know.

 

Top photo: Evan Sung, Parents.com