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Top 10 ways to win the battle of the buffet

October 4, 2010

IF YOUR TODDLER IS ANYTHING like mine, mealtimes have moved from a neat little bowl of pureed something to a spectacle of bite-sized offerings…each one more hopeful than the next. Some are hits, many are misses. But the least likely to be thrown on the floor most popular items in our house are:

1 >> Grilled mini-burgers.

I add a mix of sauces to the meat — Worcestershire sauce, A-1 and ketchup, plus salt and pepper — before grilling on a stove-top pan.
2 >> Cheese cubes.

Any cheese will do. Cheddar is hard to come by in Rome but we’ve got mozzarella,  provolone and many more. As long as its pasteurized, we’re game.
3 >> Rotisserie chicken (apparently no one can resist a good bird!)

4 >> Whole wheat pasta with red sauce.

This is our number one, hands down most successful meal of all time.  I make a quick sauce using a can of tomatoes (either ground, diced or whole) plus lots of oregano, some thyme and either meat or fish. I even add tons of veggies to the ragu (you can either steam them separately and puree so they blend right in or leave them in a small dice so baby can chew through them.) For added protein and fiber, toss in some beans.
5 >> Steamed peas.

A quick and easy way to cook veggies, either frozen or fresh, is to put on a kettle of water and add the veggies to a clean empty mug. Top off with boiling water and wait 5 minutes. Sometimes I do a second shot of hot water for a more tender result.
6 >> Beans.

Either cooked or from a can rinsed and drained. Try different colors and sizes. Lots of moms swear by edemame but again, it’s nearly impossible to come by in our area so we stick with the basics: navy, kidney, pinto and best of all plain white.
7 >> Corn on the cob.

Even for people with only 6 teeth it’s a total hit. Plus the sideshow quality of watching her little face dig into a huge cob with such gusto is totally worth any amount of cleanup. (Prepare for stray kernels to spray.)
8 >> English muffin with melted cheddar on top.

Pop in the broiler for about a minute and sneak in a few beans under the cheese if you like.
9 >> Bread sticks.

Our favorites are whole wheat, big and crunchy. They also work as a snack for zipping around town in the stroller.
10 >> Fruit.

Of course. We try whatever is in season and haven’t met a fruit yet that doesn’t produce a shriek of delight when she lays eyes on it. Best bets for this time of year: melon, peaches, kiwi, plums, pears.  And the current favorite snack should be mentioned too: raisins.

Not always dependable but worth trying:

  • Scrambled eggs. Really. With or without cheese and sometimes I make a frittata version of her baby food favorite.
  • Quesadillas.  The key, obviously, is cheese. I’ve tried filling them with chicken, steak and beans…plus cheese. For Phoebe the key is actually about shape; she prefers to bite into a wedge rather than nibble on bite-sized pieces.
  • Mini pizzas. In Italy these are made fresh at the bakeries every day and called pizzatini; they’re basically little round dough balls with only fresh red sauce on top. I warm them and add cheese.
  • A baby carrot. Just one will do.
  • Chili with beans. Because it’s part of the red sauce family, I’m not surprised that she likes it but every once in a while its rejected.
  • Stir fry. It’s more successful when I go light on the fresh ginger.
  • Plain yogurt. I only put this in the maybe category because it used to be our no-fail breakfast option. However, she’s recently switched her preferences. No yogurt in the morning, only in the afternoon. Either way, I’ve always added loads of wheatgerm and by now it’s just part of her yogurt experience.

What doesn’t work for us, right now, with the current angle of the moon:

  • Veggie burgers. Not even slathering it with cheese can save this meal destined for the floor.
  • Biscuits. I made buttermilk style biscuits the other day. Ok, they were from Bisquick and I’ll tell you what, they were not a hit. Not even with butter. Or jam. Maybe I’ll try making some from scratch just to experiment.
  • Beets. As a second time pregnant lady, I crave beets as much as I did with Phoebe. However, she won’t eat them herself.

I could go on and on here but will spare you the details of what winds up in my dust pan after dinner. But what I’d like to know is…what works for you? And have you had any success transforming a one-time miss into a bone fide hit?

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