Wednesday, August 17, 2016

4 Ingredient Turkey Sticks

By Alicia of Lollygag Learning

Only four ingredients go into these easy turkey sticks! Nova loved exploring a new food and feeding herself this wholesome, simple dinner. They are great for Baby Led Weaning because your little one can grip the turkey for self feeding and the texture is easy to nibble on. If you want to try Baby Led Weaning, but find it a little nerve-wracking this would be a great recipe to try!

4 Ingredient Turkey Sticks
  • 16 oz package ground turkey
  • 1/4 c pumpkin
  • 1/4 c baby oatmeal
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
Mix ingredients together with hands and form into log shapes. Brown on all sides in an oiled cast iron pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

I used canned pumpkin puree from the baking aisle. If you can’t find pumpkin you can substitute baked and mashed acorn squash, or you can even try a jar of butternut squash baby food puree. It’s fun to experiment with different ideas! My idea for this recipe was inspired by meatballs. The pumpkin holds the ingredients together as eggs would, and the oatmeal gives the turkey a light texture. When mixing ingredients together, you will be able to feel if you need to add a sprinkle of oatmeal or an extra dollop of pumpkin.

I made a batch of Turkey Sticks and used a flash freezing technique to store for quick meals. This process, a.k.a. freezer cooking, takes a lot of stress out of our dinner routine. I love being able to cook once, and freeze several portions. Not only does freezer cooking save me time, but it also saves me from throwing away leftovers that got too old.  

To flash freeze, line a baking sheet or cutting board with wax paper. Place the turkey sticks on the sheet, spaced out so they are not touching each other. Freeze several hours until frozen solid then store in a zipper freezer bag. To defrost, simply warm with your microwave or toaster oven.

When I defrosted the Turkey Sticks for dinner a few days later, I served them with steamed asparagus and diced cherries.

Another time, I served the sticks with a side of peas and pears for Nova, and Josie had a side of tortellini. 

Thank goodness I had my Bumkins Splat Mat ready to catch all of the mess! Josie (2.5 years old) is learning to keep her food on her plate, but the Splat Mat saves me a lot of sweeping and mopping after Nova’s meals. I lay it down under her chair before her meal then I shake the crumbs into the sink before tossing in the washing machine. It’s like a giant bib for the floor! Sometimes I even sit these sweet sisters next to each other and they both fit under the Splat Mat. They are too cute sharing their meals!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Young Barista Makes for Healthy Eater

Coffee is where it all started. One morning, I sleepily realized that showing my baby how to push the “on” button on the espresso machine would be like pushing a button on a toy truck or an elevator, but so much more productive and exciting for both of us. Brilliant. Oliver got to push a button and get hugs, kisses, and thank yous from me while listening to the loud buzz-hum of the machine and watching the mysterious dark liquid drip into a cup…all while being held by me, bursting with pride. I wondered if, on a subconscious level, he was ever curious about what was in the daily beverage that would transform his weary, sleep-deprived mom into a more cheerful, more engaged, temporarily less-exhausted version of herself.

Our mini-barista became indispensable to the morning routine. (One of his very first sentences was instructing his dad to “Make Mama latte.”) Soon, he was hanging out and watching me cook with keen interest. He got to stir the batter for pancakes, mash bananas for banana bread, and mix spoonfuls of applesauce into plain yogurt. 

I was on a mission to raise a child who was comfortable in the kitchen. Before my son was born, I had gone back to school to study nutrition and then after his birth, had taken a break from my graduate program to be with him full-time.  I reasoned that role-modeling positive eating behaviors (veggies – yum!) and introducing my child to the process of planning meals, shopping, and cooking would benefit him from a life skills perspective and a nutritional one. Plus, it would be a great way to test out those theories about shaping healthy eating behaviors that I had learned in school.  

Our baby quickly grew into a toddler who was eager to explore the many things he could do all by himself. All day long, Oliver and I had negotiations about things he could do with help or without help (or his least favorite category: oh no, never never never, you have to help me keep you safe and be helpful, please!). I knew it was my job to give him limits and it was his job to test those limits, but…it was going to take more than just a latte to get through that phase. 
Having playdates in the kitchen was a great place for us to practice working together by doing simple and safe food prep tasks. Of course, when he was just a year old, he couldn’t do anything in the kitchen by himself. Often, when we started a task, I would say “you start, I’ll finish,” or “I’ll start, you finish.” Either way, we were getting the job done together.

As he matured into an older toddler, he could do a little more and I could do a little less. Finally, he was able to do more and more things completely on his own. Sprinkling shredded cheese on a tortilla for a quesadilla, beating eggs, adding ingredients to a bowl of pasta, and putting a slice of turkey on a sandwich were things that he could do with a little help. Eventually, he learned to pour milk from a small cup into a bowl of dry cereal; it was kind of cool to have a toddler who could “make” his own breakfast. He was very proud of himself each time he mastered a new skill in the kitchen, which happened more and more quickly. 

Spending time together in the kitchen became a family tradition, so it was natural to let our second and third sons help out too. I credit these early kitchen playdates with getting each of them off to a good start as happy, healthy eaters. Each of them went through a “picky eating” phase (the researchers call it “neophobia”, or the fear of new foods). But I am confident that their cooking experiences gave them exposure to foods in ways that helped to minimize their neophobia.

Cooking with your child can be an adventure, a gift, a chance to learn; it can be an opportunity for science education, math practice, language development, and learning to work as a team. Best of all, kitchen playdates can be about creating happy memories in addition to delicious and nutritious food for the family.

Here are some ideas (thanks, Johanna Donnenfield, MS, RD!) for ways that your toddler can help out in the kitchen in five minutes or less:   
  1. Fetch cans and packages from low shelves or cabinets
  2. Peel bananas
  3. Roll or crush crackers to make cracker crumbs
  4. Slice soft foods (cooked potatoes, bananas) with a table knife
  5. Pour liquids from small containers into bowl
  6. Wash fruits and vegetables
  7. Stir batters with whisks
  8. Use a rotary egg beater (with supervision)
  9. Place toppings on pizza or snacks (ants on a log)
  10. Spread soft textures with a table knife