A pesco-vegetarian is someone who eats no meat except fish. That’s what we do when we’re at home and most of the time when we eat in other places. Our 8-month-old daughter, Lydia, is abstaining from cow’s milk until after her first birthday, because I have some family history of dairy allergies that may have been triggered by too-early exposure to cow’s milk. However, she’s an enthusiastic eater of just about everything we’ve let her eat! We also have a 10-year-old son, Nicholas, whose preferences have some effect on our menu.
I highly recommend the book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair, not so much for the specific recipes as for a laid-back, nutritious approach to feeding a baby, toddler, or preschooler. I’ve been looking at it often to get ideas for ingredients we could set aside or prepare a little differently for Lydia, and to support my conviction that we can (again) raise a child who’s open to trying lots of interesting foods. The Picky Eater’s 30 Family-Friendly Recipes are great inspiration, too! Unlike Nicholas when he was little, Lydia is not keen on being fed ground-up food with a spoon but prefers to feed herself, so we’re constantly looking for soft foods that can be picked up in blobs and for foods that are firm enough to be cut in chunks but soft enough to be bitten and chewed without teeth.
Here’s what we ate for dinner for four weeks in December and January. I plan our menu up to a week in advance and do the weekend cooking and some ingredient preparation during the week, while Daniel cooks our weeknight dinners so that we can eat as soon as I get home from work. Lunches are usually leftovers and sandwiches.
- Sunday: Masoor Dal over rice and lettuce leaves left over from making the salad to go with our Christmas Stuffed Shells. Plain yogurt on top for the dairy eaters. Lydia loves Masoor Dal as much as the rest of us! We didn’t even tone down the spices for her. She was wearing a large bib, and I kept pushing up her sleeves, but still she managed to mash oily, turmeric-seasoned lentils all over her clothes. I changed her outfit and doused the stained one with Bac-Out immediately after dinner!
- Monday: Sauteed mushrooms and kale, in lots of olive oil with lots of garlic, over whole-wheat couscous. I mixed some nutritional yeast flakes into mine. Lydia sampled a mushroom slice but had trouble with it–she doesn’t have any teeth yet–so her main course was leftover Masoor Dal.
- Tuesday: Falafels made from bulk mix. Cucumber slices. The last of the lettuce. Yogurt. Lydia was happy eating just the falafels. We make them small (easier to get them cooked all the way through without burning or crumbling) so they were an appealing size for her to pick up, hold, and gnaw on.
- Wednesday: Japanese Udon Noodle Soup with daikon radish, sweet potato, mushrooms, and nori seaweed. I got to cook this meal, after leaving work early on New Year’s Eve. I made the daikon and sweet potato into strips about 1″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ and cooked them soft, but not falling apart, so that Lydia could hold and eat them. She loved them! Each of us older people also had a scrambled egg in our soup.
- Thursday: We thawed out quarts of Mexican rice and black beans that I’d brought home in November, when somebody had ordered far too much food for an event at work and the leftovers were up for grabs. The only meal cheaper than beans and rice is FREE beans and rice! We also had avocado with this meal. Avocado is a great baby food, and I remember Nicholas loving it, but Lydia ate only a few strips in favor of totally chowing down on the beans! We couldn’t believe she packed such a large volume of beans into her little body! An almost equal volume of beans was scrubbed off her highchair, face, neck, hair, arms, and floor…and the hideous black stains were completely removed from her clothing by Bac-Out! I expected some diapers filled with masses of obvious black beans, but in fact she digested them quite fully.
- Friday: Whole-wheat spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce from the batch I’d made for the Stuffed Shells–similar to this sauce. Lydia ate a lot of saucy spaghetti (as well as admiring the wiggly noodles and tossing them about) and 24 hours later had a diaper rash from too much citric acid. We need to be more careful about tomatoes and other acidic foods until her digestion matures.
- Saturday: We visited Daniel’s grandfather in Ohio for his 99th birthday!!! We had an excellent brunch of baked oatmeal and various egg dishes at the Green Marble Coffee Shoppe, where Lydia enjoyed the fruit served on the side–it seems cantaloupe is her favorite–as well as a jar of apricot baby food. Then we visited with Herschel at his home until late afternoon. We got home around dinnertime and decided to go out to the New Dumpling House, the Chinese restaurant near home, for hot and sour soup (contains pork), tofu with black mushrooms, and mixed vegetables in garlic sauce. Lydia had been asleep in the car, fell asleep again as we walked over to the restaurant, and stayed asleep in the sling carrier while I ate most of my dinner! That was nice. She woke up in time to enjoy some tofu.
- Sunday: Flexican Cornbread Pizza, the specific variant described in that post. Lydia couldn’t have any because of the cheese, and the yogurt in the crust. I served her a half-cup Pyrex dish containing plain pinto beans, sliced black olives, and Cheerios each in a wedge-shaped pile, and she was visibly pleased with this nicely presented variety.
- Monday: Instantly Healthier Mac & Cheese and slices of cucumbers, apples, and oranges. Lydia had some whole-wheat rotini without the cheese sauce, but mainly she was eating some more of those black beans from last Thursday!
- Tuesday: Daniel baked a frozen pizza and made a topping of garlicky sauteed kale and mushrooms. Lydia napped through dinner this night and later ate the last of the vegetables from the Udon Soup.
- Wednesday: Out to dinner at Uncle Sam’s Subs, which offers six vegetarian sandwiches. Lydia tasted French fries for the first time. She ate them but was not very excited.
- Thursday: Honey Baked Lentils and baked butternut squash. Lydia ate lots of squash and sampled the lentils.
- Friday: Leftovers! Daniel and Nicholas each had brought home half a Sam’s-wich. (I, as a nursing mother, can eat a whole one in one sitting!) I was happy to have more lentils and squash, plus the last piece of Flexican Cornbread. Lydia slept through dinner again, then had a late-night squash-fest.
- Saturday: Green Ribbon Lentils with buttered toast with nutritional yeast. I tried to grind some of this lentil, tomato, and kale dish in the baby food grinder, but it didn’t work out so well. Lydia politely ate some of the mush, then made a big show of looking around–under the plate, behind her back, all around the ceiling–until we figured out that she was looking for more squash and provided it.
- Sunday: We had been shopping at GFS the day before to get two-pound blocks of colby-jack and mozzarella cheese and a big box of crackers for coffee hour at church. Other purchases included a big bag of individually quick-frozen pollock filets, 10 pounds of rice, and several types of frozen vegetables. So for dinner, I baked fish in olive oil sprinkled with dried herbs, steamed some Brussels sprouts and broccoli, and cooked rice. Lydia loves broccoli!
- Monday: Cheesy Walnut Burgers made with leftover colby-jack cheese, pecans from the freezer, and breadcrumbs from the freezer. Daniel made a double batch so he could pack some in Nicholas’s lunchbox; Nicholas says they are very good at room temperature. For dinner, we also had steamed cauliflower (who needs cheese sauce when you eat your cauliflower with Cheesy Walnut Burgers?) and canned tropical fruit salad, known in our family as “pangoes” because the toddler Nicholas blended the words “papaya” and “mangoes”. Nicholas doesn’t like cauliflower and loves pangoes, so he ate most of the can of pangoes himself, sharing just a few chunks with Lydia–who was far more interested in the cauliflower! Whenever she finished what she had, she looked under the plate in hopes that some might be hiding there (sometimes it was) and then poked her head forward like a turtle, glaring at the cauliflower on my plate until I gave her more! The scent of cauliflower passes into her urine (like the effect many older people experience with asparagus) and that’s unpleasant, but cauliflower is so healthy that we’re going to keep feeding it to her anyway! Bac-Out helps with this odor, once the diaper is off of her and waiting to be washed.
- Tuesday: Whole-wheat spaghetti with the last of my homemade sauce, some sauce from a jar, and sauteed mushrooms. Lydia put spaghetti on her head and made entreating faces until we got out the leftover cauliflower.
- Wednesday: Becca’s Broccoli Casserole used up the mozzarella cheese left over from church. It was delicious but reminded me that I need to retool that recipe to use real ingredients in place of the canned soup…. This time I remembered to get the broccoli out of the freezer the night before so that it would be thawed enough for Daniel to cut it up before making the casserole, because GFS frozen broccoli is in very large pieces! I also thawed some extra for Lydia’s dinner.
- Thursday: Canned Alaskan salmon that I deboned the night before and Daniel warmed up. (Sometimes we make it more fancy–Daniel usually asks Nicholas what he would prefer, when he’s starting to cook.) Roasted potatoes. Steamed broccoli, cauliflower, orange carrots, and yellow carrots–the frozen “Normandy vegetables” from Costco. Lydia tried a potato and each kind of carrot, but it was the cauliflower and broccoli that got her bouncing with joy.
- Friday: We had Honey Baked Lentils again because Nicholas had a friend over, and she mentioned days in advance that she hoped we would have Honey Baked Lentils because she liked them so much last time. Lentil-loving fourth-graders are encouraged in our home! We also opened several cans of fruit: apricots, pineapple, and pangoes. Lydia calmly ate a few chunks of fruit and a few lentils, without complaint, having apparently satisfied her need for cruciferous vegetables.
- Saturday: I tried a recipe for Quick Burgers, making 3 full-size ones and a lot of little ones for Lydia. They were indeed quicker and easier to make than most of the veggie-burger recipes we’ve tried, and I was thrilled to discover that parchment paper is the magic tool for baking veggie burgers that don’t stick to the pan! But those of us who can talk agreed that these burgers are not interesting enough for us and are kind of dry. I might experiment further with the basic recipe…. We ate them on buns, with a side of frozen peas and corn cooked in butter. I know butter is made from cow’s milk, but Lydia accidentally ate a lot of buttered vegetables at Thanksgiving before we thought about it, and we didn’t see any adverse effect, so we’re letting her have the occasional butter. She yummed down the peas, and to a lesser extent the corn, along with several of her mini-burgers.
- Sunday: The last two bananas from GFS had turned black, so I tried a recipe for Banana Bran Muffins from the 1968 Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, making it into mini-muffins. I also made 4 loaves of Raisin Bran Bread while I had the oven on. Fruity bread goes well with a spicy saucy bean dish, so I threw together a quick chili using canned beans and tomatoes, as well as plenty of smoked paprika. Everything turned out well. Nicholas expressed disappointment with the muffins (“Banana bread is usually more squishy.”) but that didn’t stop him from finishing them off within 24 hours! Lydia liked them too. As for the chili, she happily ate several mouthfuls, then suddenly started screaming. After a moment’s puzzlement, I realized I should offer her a drink of water!! (She can drink from a cup if you hold it for her, but she has no sense of how to hold it herself and will just pour it into her lap, so we can’t leave it within her reach. We need to get her a sippy cup.) With periodic rinsing, she enjoyed the chili. This time I remembered to put salve on her to prevent rash (instead of not thinking about it until a rash appeared) and that helped a lot.
- Monday: Red & Green Pockets. This is a great meal for winter because it is high in vegetable goodness but uses canned or frozen vegetables. We were cautious about feeding Lydia too much of the Red mixture because of tomato acid (when she just had tomato in the chili), but we gave her a big blob of Green, and she LOVED it! Curried peas with plenty of onions and garlic seem to be one of her favorite foods! They make for a strong-smelling diaper, though.
- Tuesday: Out to dinner at Eat’n Park, a diner-style restaurant with plenty of egg and fish options, and veggie burgers–but this time Nicholas ordered a BLT, and Daniel had some kind of chicken thing; as I said above, we sometimes eat meat away from home. Eat’n Park offers a free jar of baby food to each baby visitor…but both times we’ve gotten that for Lydia, the baby food was Gerber banana, which has added citric acid (probably to stop it from turning brown) that gives it a tangy flavor; to me, it tastes like banana that’s starting to go bad! Lydia likes fresh banana and the aforementioned muffins, but she does not like this tangy banana mush; it’s the one food she has truly rejected (though that was after giving it the old college try–at least a tablespoon, both times, ingested with thoughtful expressions before she started turning her head away). Anyway, this time we brought her last two mini-burgers, and we got salad bar with our meal so that we could serve her many wedges of cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
- Wednesday: Daniel tried a recipe for Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala, and made some rice. Tikka Masala is his favorite Indian food, and Nicholas is a big fan of Trader Joe’s Paneer Tikka Masala frozen meal, so we have high standards. We agreed that this recipe produced an acceptable meal, but it was not delicious enough to make again. Lydia ate some but was even more overwhelmed by it than the chili and seemed to be giving us dirty looks about so many spicy tomatoey beans in one week. I couldn’t stir a bunch of yogurt into hers, like I did mine; I thought it was much better that way. After a while I took away her dish and gave her instead some strips of Raisin Bran Bread spread with coconut oil, and she liked those.
- Thursday: Instantly Healthier Mac & Cheese again, with broccoli. That cheese sauce is very good on broccoli.
- Friday: Gallo Pinto made with white onion this time, since green onions aren’t in season. Yes, it’s yet another kind of beans and rice! We really like the different flavor of this Nicaraguan variant, with carrots and lime juice and a fried egg on top. Lydia has trouble picking up rice, so she ate mostly the beans, but she seemed to be enjoying them. Daniel used 2 Tbsp. chili paste, and it was not too spicy–the recipe makes a large amount, so we have lunches for the whole week.
- Saturday: We participated in the National Soup Swap! I made a double batch of Apricot Lentil Soup in the afternoon, filled 4 plastic quart containers, and took the rest of the soup in the warm pot over to our friends Barbara & Jim’s house. Other guests had brought a variety of homemade soups, mostly vegetarian, and a few non-chefs had brought bread. We put our quarts out on the porch to freeze and served our remaining soup for sampling during the party, with the list of ingredients displayed next to each soup. Barbara went around with a clipboard asking the chefs how many quarts we each brought and which soups we liked best, and then we each got to take home the same number of quarts we brought but different soups. My family brought home a butternut squash soup, a corn chowder, a roasted root vegetable stew, and a vegan potato soup. It was a great idea for a party.
Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Tasty Tuesday for more inspiration about what to eat in the winter! Visit Works-for-Me Wednesday for more great ideas on lots of topics! Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more ways to make the most of your groceries and other resources!