Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Food for a toddler

I thought I'd share a few ideas for good, healthy, and most of all easy toddler meals. I figure everyone can use ideas and I know at least a couple of people with toddlers are reading this blog, so what the hey?

I like to make a variety of food to feed Fintan, and yet I can't make things from scratch every single day, so I have some tricks I use to keep feeding him homemade meals as often as I possibly can. Tonight's dinner: oven fried chicken and zucchini:

This meal is so easy because I've done some prep in advance. I buy "extra tender" chicken breasts at the grocery store and slice it into strips. Extra tender chicken really is much more tender than your average chicken breast which is great for toddlers. The alternative would be to get regular chicken breasts and pound them with a meat mallet a bit before slicing them. Either way I slice them up and then I wrap the pieces in saran wrap one at a time, rolling the wrap to keep a layer of plastic between each piece. I do this with 4 or 5 strips in each little packet I make so it will be a toddler sized portion. Then I put all of these little packets in a freezer bag. When I'm ready to make a meal for Fintan I just pull out one little packet, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds and it's soft enough to work with. I use this chicken for all kinds of easy meals!

To make the oven-fried chicken I first made a crumb coating. This can be a cereal coating like cornflakes, or it can be dried bread crumbs, stuffing mix, crackers, croutons, anything you'd like that's dry and flavorful. If the crumbs are not already flavored, then I just add some salt, pepper and seasonings. I like adding a bit of thyme (rubbed between my hands to crush it). I prefer to choose a healthy coating if possible, something with whole grains preferably, but it isn't necessary of course. Just crush a small handful onto a plate or cutting board. I often use a potato masher, but a rolling pin works too.

Then scoop a small amount of light mayonnaise into a small dish, just enough that you can put a thin coating onto the chicken strips. I do this part with my fingers. I dip the chicken strip into the mayonnaise and rub it in, you don't need much, and then roll it in the crumb mixture to coat it. Then I put the chicken onto a cooling rack (it makes the chicken crispy all the way around) and put the cooling rack on a cookie sheet and bake it in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending upon how thick your chicken strips are cut so be sure to cut through a strip to check for doneness.

While the chicken is baking I cut and cook the zucchini. Target sells individually wrapped zucchini which keeps it fresh much longer so I try to buy that (I had seeds to plant but my baby-belly got in the way of planting them this year. Next year we'll pick our zucchini from the garden). I like to cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut that into long triangle shapes. I cook them in a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil (a healthy fat) and a little salt and pepper. I cook them until the fleshy sides are browned and then slide them onto a plate to cool.

A simple, fast, healthy and tasty meal--says Fintan, anyway,


brooke said...

You are a waaaaaaaaay better mom than I!!! My poor kid gets steamed veggies only because I can pop a frozen bag of Bird's Eye brand into the microwave. :)

Super cute picture of Fintan!

The Carrels said...

Great ideas Alina! :) I'm so making those chicken strips...I'm thinking of yummy dipping sauces, too...