Tuesday Timesaver: 15 New Quick & Easy Finger Food Combos

Best for Babies 12+ Months Old

It’s been four months since Mason started eating finger foods. When he’s not pulling his food camel act he’s digging into some pretty interesting foods, both at home and in restaurants in New York City and Washington, DC. It’s more challenging now to take him to restaurants–he loves to throw food, which is frustrating at home and downright embarrassing in public–so I imagine we’ll be cooking at home even more than usual until we get that little habit under control.

At 14-months-old Mason can eat pretty much anything, but he hasn’t tried peanut butter yet due to my irrational fear of peanut allergies. He still doesn’t have very many teeth (only four right now), but he didn’t have any teeth when he started eating finger foods and I was amazed by all of the foods that he managed to gum up.  Bug still loves the list of finger food combos that we shared with you back in June, and we still rely on this go-to list of finger foods when we fly, but now he has some new faves.

Check ’em out — and share what your babe’s faves are, too!

1. Pumpkin-filled ravioli and zucchini (pictured above)
(Disclaimer: I buy the ravioli packaged, I haven’t made it yet.)

2. Roasted salmon and blueberries

3. Zucchini-oat bread with raisins and cheddar cheese

4. French toast and orange slices

5. Roast chicken with roasted red pepper hummus and Fuji apple

6. Chicken-apple sausage and Anjou pear

7. Fruit pockets and Canadian bacon

8. Penne with meat sauce and cantaloupe

9. Filled pasta shells and banana

10. Garden veggie mac ‘n’ cheese and pineapple

11. Honey-baked ham and red grapes
(I use high-quality, thinly sliced ham from the deli)

12.  Cinnamon-raisin bagel with low-fat cream cheese and peaches

13.  Organic pepperoni and cantaloupe

14. Roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, and feta cheese

15. Oatmeal-blueberry muffin and Swiss cheese

Tuesday Timesaver: Make-Ahead Muffins Even Picky Eaters Love

No matter how picky he’s feeling, my Little Food Camel can’t resist a good quick bread. Of course he could suddenly decide he dislikes quick breads tomorrow, but this morning he couldn’t eat his oatmeal-blueberry muffin fast enough. His other favorites, which I make without seeds or nuts, are pumpkin muffins, zucchini-oat bread with raisins (which I had a major craving for the morning he was born), and banana muffins. I love that I can make these quick breads ahead — all of the recipes I linked to here require 20 minutes or less of prep — and serve them for breakfast, as an afternoon snack, or a dinner side dish. And I can fill them with nutritious ingredients such as whole-wheat flour, oats, fruits, and veggies, which is HUGE because Bug tends to spit out only the most nutritious foods these days, except when they’re tucked away in a fluffy, delicious carb.

One caveat, particularly if your kid is as messy as mine is: The stuff is messy. In fact, the mess that Mason managed to make with his muffin this morning was stunning. By the time he was finished, his little face and hands were coated in blueberry-colored crumbs, and he had somehow managed to rub the mess into the tiny blonde curls in the back of his head. (I ended up trapping him on the floor between my ankles and scrubbing his hair with a wet washcloth.)  Oddly and thankfully, none of it got on his clothes. Despite the fact that I was crawling around on the floor with a dustpan and broom in a skirt and heels, the mess was absolutely worth it — Bug ate almost the entire muffin, including all the fruit in it, which delighted us both.

It seems too good to be true, but Mason smiled AND ate his breakfast this morning — no negotiating, pleading, or bribing required.

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

Tuesday Timesaver: 8 Easy Mac 'n' Cheese Mix-Ins

Garden-Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Best for Babies 10+ Months

Mason loves mac ‘n’ cheese. Loves it. He’d eat it every night if he could, especially since he’s on a cheese kick right now. I make a simple homemade mac ‘n’ cheese recipe often, but I mix in healthy veggies and fruits to add nutritional value. I love how quick and easy it is to turn mac ‘n’ cheese into a filling, well-rounded meal. In fact, the Garden Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese (above) saved us last night when our 30-minute commute took an hour and a half due to train trouble. After being trapped in his stroller for all that time, Bug was understandably starving and grouchy — and I had to come up with a dinner that would dazzle him fast.

My first Tuesday Timesaver post on mac ‘n’ cheese drew lots of comments, and I discovered that many of you have babes who enjoy mac ‘n’ cheese, too. I also learned that many of you try to mix in extras to spice it up and make it healthier, so I wanted to share some of the combos that Mason  enjoys. To save time, I often use frozen organic veggies that are quick to steam and don’t require prep. I also make a big batch of mac ‘n’ cheese ahead and freeze leftovers to help out in a pinch. I use a variety of noodles, including whole-wheat and brown rice. Try out our ideas — and share your babe’s fave mac ‘n’ cheese mix-ins.

1. Garden Veggie: Steamed broccoli, asparagus, and bell pepper

2. Chicken ‘n’ Noodles: Cooked chicken with tomato and steamed carrot and peas

3. Harvest Mac: Fresh, finely chopped sage and lightly steamed Gala apple

4. Meaty Mac: Cooked ground beef with tomato and steamed peas, carrot, and onion

5. Tuna Delight: Tuna with steamed celery, onion, and sweet red pepper

6. Mediterranean Mac: Tomato and kalamata olives with cooked onion

7. Italian Mac:  Cooked mushrooms, roasted red pepper, tomato, and organic pepperoni

8. Mac ‘n’ Greens: Cooked chicken sausage with steamed spinach and tomato

Photograph courtesy of BHG.com

Tuesday Timesaver: 7 Toddler-Friendly Breakfasts in 15 Minutes or Less

Best for 1-Years-Old & Up

Now that Mason’s been in daycare for two weeks, we’re settling into our new morning routine. We’re still working out the kinks: Should I wake up Mason if he sleeps past 7 or let him sleep and cut breakfast short? What’s the best time to give him breakfast so he poos before he’s strapped into the Ergo — not right after? Which is faster,  the bus or the subway?  I’ve learned that the more I can organize  the night before, from what we’ll each wear to what we need to take with us, the smoother our morning will go.  Breakfast requires the most foresight. I want Bug to get a good start to his day, but I don’t have much time to put the morning meal together. Here are his fave weekday breakfasts right now. They’re so quick I can put him in his high chair with some puffs and he’s entertained until his food is ready. What are your go-to breakfasts?

1. Omelet with cheese and veggies, sliced banana, and whole-wheat toast with fruit jam. (Hint: If your babe is spitting out cut up veggies, puree a few faves and spread a layer of the puree on top of the cheese in the omelet.)

2. Whole-grain strawberry-banana waffles, Greek yogurt, and chicken sausage.

3. Oatmeal mixed with peach puree and Greek yogurt and Canadian bacon.

4. Blueberry yogurt, granola, and fresh cantaloupe.

5. Scrambled eggs with tomato and spinach, applesauce, and whole-grain toast.

6. Toasted cinnamon-raisin bagel with low-fat cream cheese and fresh orange slices.

7. Pancakes topped with cinnamon-spiced fruit and chicken sausage.

Tuesday Timesaver: Strawberry-Banana Waffles in 10 Minutes


Thursday marks a major transition for us:  Mason will begin daycare. Chris stayed home with him for the first six months of his life — I had to go back to work after three months — and then we found a nurturing nanny who stepped in when it was time for Chris to go back to work. Now that Mason is a year-old, he’s ready for more stimulation and socialization than a few play dates a week in our tiny apartment, so we’ve decided to enroll him in a daycare where he’ll enjoy art and music lessons, daily Spanish lessons, trips to the playground, and so much more. He’ll make friends with other kids his age, and he’ll be on a solid schedule. I won’t have to worry about being late for work because my nanny is late once again, and I can get to Mason in 10 minutes if he needs me during the day.

Despite all the positives, I’m super nervous about this transition.  I’ve lost sleep over the logistics of just getting to daycare in the morning. Come Thursday my commute will go from a leisurely 10 minutes to a harried hour. Mason and I will need to stick to a strict routine instead of the looser one we generally follow in the morning. I’ll haul him in our borrowed Ergo up five flights of stairs to the subway platform, we’ll ride into the city, and then we’ll walk the remaining five blocks to daycare. If there were an elevator in my subway station then I’d bring the stroller, but the stroller I currently have is 25 pounds (the lighter one I ordered hasn’t arrived yet),  and I’m not buff enough to carry that stroller with 18 pounds of toddler in it up all those steps. Then there’s the trauma of leaving Mason with someone new. I’ve met both of his caregivers, I like them very much, and the daycare has an excellent reputation, but I’m still going to worry until I actually see that Mason is happy and thriving in his new environment.

With our mornings becoming so crazy, I’ve been looking for some new fast and healthy breakfast ideas. I brought up the issue at my regular Sunday workouts with a group of other moms in my neighborhood. My friend Diane mentioned that her son Zann loves frozen multigrain waffles in a pinch. Worth a shot, I thought. I purchased a box of 7-Grain Kashi waffles on the way home. I’ve never tried them since I’m gluten-free, but I liked how healthful the ingredients were. The next morning I toasted a waffle, topped it with homemade strawberry-banana puree, and cut it in tiny pieces that Mason could feed himself. I’ve never seen anything disappear from his plate so quickly. He loved it. I served chunks of fresh cantaloupe and pieces of organic cheddar on the side, and breakfast was complete. So easy. Thanks for the great idea, Diane!

What are your fave breakfast shortcuts?

Strawberry-Banana Puree


Fresh or frozen strawberries


Wash and slice strawberries. If berries are underripe, fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat until bubbles are soft. Add strawberries and cook 3 minutes. Drain and rinse berries with cold water. Combine in a food processor or blender with banana (use 1 banana per every 6 strawberries). Puree until smooth. Freeze leftover strawberry-banana puree in airtight containers for up to three months.

Photo courtesy of Kashi.com

Tuesday Timesaver: 30-Minute Orzo with Spinach & Feta


Mason has loved feta cheese since we let him try it a few months ago at Cava, a restaurant in Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market neighborhood. He hadn’t had it in awhile so last night I decided to prepare him a new dish starring  the tangy cheese. I cut the feta into small cubes and tossed it with chopped steamed spinach and cooked orzo. The dish was so easy to make and it’s super versatile:  I can serve it plain or toss it with fresh tomato sauce. I can also mix in lots of other veggies (tomatoes, sweet pepper, carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower) as well as chicken, beef, or salmon. Mason tried the orzo with just the spinach and feta today at lunch and he loved it.

A few words of advice before you start cooking… I used frozen organic spinach, which seemed like a great idea until I steamed it and saw all the stringy stems. I spent 10 minutes picking through the greens and cutting off the stems, and I probably missed some (it was a tangled mess!). It would have been much easier to use fresh spinach and remove the stems before steaming, or at least use frozen spinach without stems. Then there was the mess.  By the time I finished mixing all the ingredients together, orzo was everywhere–on the kitchen floor, stuck to the bottom of my bare feet, in the sink, on the counter. Granted, I’m a messy cook — at times frighteningly similar to the storybook character Amelia Bedelia — so if you’re neat in the kitchen this is probably a non-issue.

Try out our recipe — and let us know what you think!

Orzo with Spinach & Feta


1 cup orzo
3/4 cup fresh spinach
1/3 cup feta cheese
Olive oil


1. Wash and chop spinach. Remove stems and steam until wilted. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and set aside.

2. Cook orzo in boiling water with a splash of olive oil according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

3. Chop feta cheese into tiny cubes and toss with drained orzo and spinach.

4. Freeze leftovers for up to three months.

Yield: 10 two-ounce portions

Tuesday Timesaver: Cheesy Veggies in 20 Minutes

Last weekend while we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, I hung out my cousin Tracey. I’ve always adored Tracey but now that we’re both moms we’re even closer. At one point Tracey mentioned that her 2-year-old son Ethan has become a pickier eater as he’s gotten older. Mason will eat just about anything right now but it’s entirely possible that he’ll follow in his big cousin’s footsteps. Many kids turn into picky eaters as toddlers and the boys could be brothers with their blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. (Watching them play together made me yearn to follow in Berit’s footsteps and try for #2!) Tonight I came up with a super easy veggie side dish that I think both boys will love. It’s a medley of cooked veggies tossed in a homemade cheese sauce. I chopped up the veggies then stirred together the cheese sauce as they were cooking. So simple and you can also puree it if your babe isn’t eating chunky food yet. The entire dish came together in just 20 minutes. I’d love to hear what you think if you try it out. What are your go-to side dishes?

Cheesy Veggies


Large carrot
2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, stems removed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
Shredded cheddar cheese
Milk, formula, or breastmilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


1. Wash veggies. Peel carrot and chop into tiny pieces. Chop broccoli into tiny pieces, removing stems.

2. Fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat until bubbles are soft. Cook carrots and broccoli for 10 minutes or until tender. Add peas to the water for the last 5 minutes.

3. As the veggies are cooking, prepare cheese sauce. Set aside to cool.

4. Drain veggies and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water.

5. Combine veggies and cheese sauce in a medium-size bowl. Mix well until veggies and sauce are combined. To puree, dump it all in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

6. Divide veggies into 2 ounce portions and freeze leftovers for up to 3 months.

Yield: 8 two-ounce side dish portions

Tuesday Timesaver: Baby-Friendly, Fresh Tomato Sauce in 15 Minutes

We dig fresh tomatoes in our household and now is the best time to enjoy them:  Peak season for harvesting tomatoes in most areas is late July to early September. Mason enjoys raw tomatoes chopped and drizzled with olive oil so I thought he would enjoy tomato sauce on veggies or pasta, or as a base for chicken and brown rice mixed together. I wanted something very simple so I tried out the Fresh Tomato Sauce published in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens (I’m the magazine’s senior digital food editor but I didn’t develop the recipe). I liked that the recipe only has 5 ingredients — that way if Mason didn’t like it I wouldn’t feel like I had wasted a lot of money on groceries. It’s also fast to make; you can cook it in 3 minutes in your microwave or 5 t0 7 on your stovetop. I made one batch of plain sauce and a second batch with veggies. You’ll find the basic recipe and veggie mix-ins below. Mason loved both variations — hope your babe enjoys it too. Let us know what you think. Share your top tomato sauce recipe, or dish on your babe’s fave way to eat tomatoes!

Fresh Tomato Sauce

3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. packed brown sugar (optional)
1 tsp grated ginger (optional)

To add veggies:
1/4 cup each of chopped spinach, shredded carrot, and shredded zucchini


Place tomatoes, onion, and ginger in microwave-safe bowl; sprinkle with vinegar and brown sugar. Cover loosely. Micro-cook on high (100% power) for 3 minutes or until skins burst and tomatoes are soft, stirring once. (Stovetop directions:  Simmer 5 to 7 minutes in a medium saucepan or until skins burst and tomatoes are soft.) Serve warm or chilled.

Tuesday Timesaver: Brown Rice in 90 Seconds

Brown rice is a healthy, easy way to get babes used to food with texture as they transition from smooth purees to chunkier purees to finger foods. I use brown rice to make Mason’s fave cheesy casserole with peas and it’s a great side with so many dishes, including veggie-filled meatballs, baby cheese sauce, chicken-apple soup, and roast chicken. Rice is certainly a snap to make but I was delighted to discover this whole-grain brown rice that heats up in the microwave in 90 seconds — perfect for those nights when I’m really tight on time.  It’s all-natural and it packs 5 grams of protein per serving. The caveat is that it has more sodium than the boil-in-a-bag variety from Uncle Ben’s, but Mason only eats about 2 ounces at a time so the amount of sodium that he’s getting per serving is still very low. We generally have four Mason-size servings left so I freeze the leftover rice. It thaws overnight in the fridge and keeps in the freezer for up to three months. What are some of your fave ways to serve rice to your babe?