Thursday 6 January 2011

Sylvia's dinner - hit and miss

I've been on a quest for kiddie-friendly food that also appeals to adults. It is not for Sylvia but for me. I feel she would be happy to eat plain vegies and tofu or beans every night but I want more for her. I want her to taste more flavours, to enjoy some of what we have, and to be able to eat out where plain food is anathema. I also would be much happier if I only had one meal to prepare each night. So today I will share some of my hit and miss experiments and a glimmer of hope.

Over the past month, I have been trying a few different meals for sylvia and she seems to be willing to try some new things. It never ceases to amaze me as I watch her development. It is constant change. She will now drink from a cup occasionally without a spout or straw (though she is just as likely to throw it on the floor if I don't watch her), she will tell me she wants bikkies if I ask her what she wants for breakfast, and now Dolly often wants a taste too.

The first meal that I tried was some geegaw cups. I saw them in a magazine while queuing in a shop and liked the idea. I tried them filled with some seasoned vegetables and crumbled tofu for E and myself (a bit like this rice paper roll filling) but it was such a light meal all by themselves that I had to bake him some muffins. I think they would make a good adult appetiser.

For kids, they are a nice way to present food a little differently. Sylvia loves broccoli so she enjoyed eating it out of these cups and actually seemed to enjoy nibbling on the cups themselves. They were quick and easy to do and I made ravioli out of the remaining wrappers.

Another source of inspiration for Sylvia's meals is to see what sort of food they are feeding her at her child care centre. Not that this guarantees she will eat the food. One day I heard that she had enjoyed some quiches made using puff pastry and filled with tomato, onion and basil. I found a similar recipe that was quite simple and tried it.

E and I loved these. Sylvia had a little but was not overly keen, though might like them more if I tried them again. She is very wary of food that is too hot and can be found with her face almost in her dinner blowing on it to cool it. Though her judgment of what is hot can be a bit off the mark. She has been known to tell me food is hot when it is almost cold. She also knows to say it is "a bit warm", which means it is just right.

I have found that I can get caught up in trialling new foods for Sylvia, only to find that I neglect to make anything else for us and what she eats can be on the light side for us if there is no side dish. As with the geegaw cups, these would be easy and delicious for entertaining adults.

My next experiment was for the child care Christmas party. I thought some fritters would be good and had been meaning to try AOF's fritters. I tried them with carrot, for a bit of extra vegetable, and curry because Sylvia loves it. Would she try them? No! Nevermind, I enjoyed them, though the colour was more glaringly orange than I had expected.

I was taking them to a gathering so others also enjoyed them. Child care parties are overwhelming with all the unknown kids and parents. Sylvia clung to me and didn't eat much at the party. She was more impressed with the fruit and some oaty gingerbread stars than with the savoury food. Most amusing was when Santa Claus made his entrance and Sylvia went the other direction towards the play equipment. She had a lovely time playing while the other kids crowded around Santa.

One disadvantage of Sylvia's preference for plain food is that there is nowhere to hide food. I always remember the story of a friend of a friend who loved his mum's gravy and then one day he watched her making it and found she blended lots of vegies into it. Lately Sylvia has been a bit more interested in tomato sauce with pasta but she doesn't seem to like bits in it. I never thought I would join the blending club, but, to my surprise, I found myself pureeing some tomato sauce for Sylvia last week.

She enjoyed it. It probably helped that the meal combined two of her loves: pasta and forks. She loves feeding herself with a fork, though as you can see above, she is still a novice. I had to help her put her pasta on a fork. Mind you, I have to wait to be asked or the meal can turn ugly! I thought she might like some beans in it because she is back into baked beans (a food she loves and then suddenly wont eat for a while and, if we keep offering it, she will eventually come back to - we have had a few cycles of love and hate). But the beans in tomato sauce were ignored while the pasta was shoved in her mouth. I was pleased that we could have the same meal as her (yes she also had steamed broccoli).

So there is hope that Sylvia might start to eat more of the food that we do. She also likes veggie sausages and potato, which we have quite often now. In the past week she has also had some of the rice noodles and seasoned tofu in fried ginger rice noodles and some seasoned sushi rice (recipe for a salad coming soon).

She continues to want a "cuggle" (that's a cross between a cuddle and a snuggle) in the middle of a meal and ask for fruit bun or bikkies, though she still loves nectarines, grapes, pineapple, cherries and, to my relief, knows to spit out the stones. Over the past couple of weeks I have had a few lunches out with my mum where Sylvia has delighted in eating chippies.

Sylvia is so full of life and laughter. She is talking a lot more now, though words like blanket, bottom and butter can all sound the same. One of her little snippets of conversation that amused me the most recently was one night when she didn't want to sleep. She told me "daddy hungry ... daddy chippies". I am not sure if she was telling me E wanted crisps or that he had been eating them but it alerted me to be careful what I say and do. She is watching and will very soon be telling. Hopefully, this will include telling me what lovely food I am making her.

By the way, you might have noticed that there is a new black cat in my right hand margin. This has been put there especially for Sylvia who likes to bother me while I am on the laptop. It works well as now she asks to see pussy cat and gets great amusement from it.

I am sending the kiddie vegie bolognaise to Claire at Chez Cayenne for Presto Pasta Night #196, the pasta blog event that was founded by Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year:
Vegetarian San Choy Bau
This time two years ago:
Miso Soup for after the feasting!
This time three years ago:
My Cookbook List

Peter Russell Clark’s Mini Quiches
Adapted from Peter Russell Clark’s Kraft Family Cookbook

1 sheet puff pastry
grated cheese
fresh basil
about 5 cherry tomatoes
1 egg
⅓ cup milk

Cut sheet of puff pastry into 9 squares. Grease 9 cups of a 12 muffins pan. Line each muffin hole with a square of puff pastry.

Sprinkle grated cheese in each lined muffin hole. Use scissors to chop a little basil in each and then arrange a couple of quarters of tomatoes in each. Mix egg and milk in a mug with a fork. Use a spoon to distribute this mixture between each muffin hole.

Bake mini quiches at 230 C for about 20 minutes or until they look golden brown and filling is cooked. Sit for a few minutes and then gently remove from muffin cups with the help of a knife. Eat warm.

Geegaw cups
from Recipes Plus, Dec 2010

Spray geegaw wrappers with oil and place in mini muffin cups. Bake at 200 C for about 15 minutes or until cups are golden brown. Fill with steamed vegetables or marinated tofu.

Curried Carrot Fritters
Adapted from Annabel Langbein via AOF

½ cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp curry powder
2 eggs
½ cup soda or sparkling mineral water
1 carrot, grated
oil for frying

Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and soda water and mix til your have a smooth batter. Add grated carrot. Sit for about 30 minutes. Heat a frypan and add a little oil. Make fritters by dropping about 2 dessertspoons into a pile and using the back of the spoon to guide it into a neat circle. Cook about 2-3 minutes each side on medium heat – watch for bubble to show they are cooking. I made about 15 fritters, cooking about 5 at a time.

Kiddie veggie bolognaise
serves about 4 adults

1 tsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500ml tomato passata
about 200ml water
1 tsp promite (or other yeast extract)
1 scant tsp seeded mustard
drizzle balsamic vinegar
400g tin of beans (I used cannellini), rinsed and drained
250ml dried pasta (I would use a bit more next time)

Cook onion, carrot and red pepper in oil for about 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add passata, water, promite, mustard and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-20 minutes. Meanwhile cook pasta according to packet (about 10 minutes). When vegies in the tomato sauce are soft, turn off the heat and puree. Stir in beans and heat through. Stir in cooked and drained pasta.

To serve Sylvia (our toddler) I set aside some cold beans and stirred through a couple of spoonfuls of tomato sauce, placed this in the freezer while the rest of the beans heat through. Then I rinsed her pasta under cold water to cool it down before mixing with the cooled tomato sauce and beans. We all ate our pasta with some grated cheese and steamed broccoli.

On the Stereo:
Atlantic Crossing: Rod Stewart


  1. I love stories about children discovering food. My young grandson - has been eating things like salad with interesting vinaigrettes, smoked salmon and anything else... as long as he sits in mummy's lap and eats off her plate. His older brother used to eat anything his parents ate and at 3 decided that chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches could be eaten day in and day out.

    Thanks for sharing your story and recipes with Presto Pasta Nights.

  2. I'm in awe of your commitment to expanding Sylvia's horizons with food :) It must seem like a never-ending road at times, but you're getting there! And yes, it'll be so exciting once she's able to consistently tell you, in words, what she feels like and enjoys of your cooking!

  3. What a cutie! I love the top picture, especially. Lucky you that she likes to try new food. Thanks for sending your bolognese recipe in to Presto Pasta Nights.

  4. Sylvia sounds like she has some character ;0)
    Lovve how she went the opposite way when Santa arrived, I used to do the same thing. Good luck with the food trials.

  5. Kudos to you for introducing Sylvia to such an array of food. I think getting some children to taste is half the battle.

    It sure seems like she is exercising her own "style" of nibbling and that's a good thing. I had to laugh when I saw that froggie bib. My grandson had the exact same one!!!

    Have you ever heard of the book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfield? Some really cool tricks in that one. My daughter bought it as a way to entice my grandson. She found some gems in it for sure.

    Keep up the good work Johanna and thanks for sharing...

  6. Johanna,
    The cook at my old childcare used to be on a winner with the classic pasta with pesto. I think pesto works for most children because the bits are so tiny they can be ignored.
    Anyway, it is a nice easy and stylish meal for adults, with some shaved parmesan, and worth trying.
    (You seem to be missing a photo in the middle of this post, or perhaps it is only my browser)

  7. What a personality she already has! I have tried some of the recipe from Deceptively Delicious and they are really quite good! :D

  8. I really love your approach to introducing Sylvia to the amazing world that is food :) My parents were not very creative at all when it came to cooking when I was younger, something that I hope to change when I have kids!

  9. love this! thanks for sharing x

  10. I think every mother should read this! I really appreciate your efforts to introduce Sylvia to arrays of food – a lot of mothers I know don’t.
    I have a friend who was so lazy educating her kid about food. He’s 4 now, and doesn’t even chew properly. All he would eat is weetbix and pasta soup. Soooo sad :(

  11. Johanna, I love your site so much that I just awarded you the Stylish Blogger Award. Congrats! Check out the announcement on my site.

  12. You are a good mother Johanna, and I read your post with glee.It's always a good idea to introduce kids to a variety of flavours when young; otherwise they tend to become very very picky as they grow. I still look for healthy meal ideas even though my kids are 11 and 15; it never ends. On my list of foods to try are veggie cutlets with oats to bind them, and oven baked crispy buttermilk chicken. Have a wonderful New Year!

  13. Thanks Ruth - I have seen my nieces descend from great eaters into the pickiest - hope Sylvia doesn't follow that path.

    Thanks Hannah - hope sylvia does want to tell me how much she loves my food when her talking comes along - right now she loves to tell me she is hungry and finished - but like and love aren't in the vocab

    Thanks Claire - she is good with trying food - esp if it is on our plates

    Thanks Chele - I remember my younger brothers and sisters crying at santa - fair enough - we can't expect kids to pick and choose which stranger to love!

    Thanks Louise - one of sylvia's favourite words right now is "taste" and we always have lots of different food about - I have seen Jessica Seinfeld's book and have mixed feelings about the recipes because I prefer not to be sneaky but maybe if it works I might be trying some of the recipes

    Thanks yaz - Sylvia loved pasta and pesto but started to get funny about the bits (maybe mine was quite chunky) but she loves pasta so much that I think we will revisit pasta and pesto

    Thanks Lorraine - yes she is a little character - thanks for the recommendation on jessica seinfeld - I am quite tempted by some of the recipes if I don't think of it as being sneaky

    Thanks Lisa - I am sure you will be very creative with food when you have kids - well you are already!

    Thanks Carla

    Thanks Anh - so sad to hear about your friend - but then we have to realise that not everyone loves playing with food like we do - must make it harder to feed kids!

    Thanks Rivki - how kind of you

    Thanks Deeba - given that I keep looking for healthy ideas for myself, I am sure you are right about the constant search for food for sylvia - those veggie cutlets sound good

  14. Those carrot fritters sound good to me, orange or not! I think all your food is so creative and doesn't seem plain at all. I don't have kids, but to my mind Sylvia's diet is incredibly varied for a little one's!

  15. She's adorable! Nothing like starting them kids with pasta at a young age!

  16. What a lovely post Johanna, I did enjoy it and the veggie bolognaise sounds lovely. Sylvia is doing so well. She may not be eating the same as you yet, but she is getting a great variety and it is great she is willing to try new things xx

  17. Hmm I tried to post a comment but I don't think it worked.. anyway I hope my kids are good eaters like Sylvia! Sounds like you've made some really yummy stuff for her, especially those fritters!


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