Pretty soon after your adorable baby turns into a toddler, you find out that you will have to pick and choose the battles you fight against them. You cannot have them on a perfect sleep schedule, eating three healthy meals a days on their own accord, not threatening their lives with Hollywood level stunts and cleaning up their toys after only being asked once in a normal volume. You can try, but believe me, you can’t have it all. There will be an issue (or five) that you will decide is just not worth the stress and you will eventually adopt a lax stance. But unfortunately, all of us learn this lesson the hard way, after months upon months of trying (and failing) to raise the perfect toddler. I too, have my own chosen battles and there are quite a few issues, the handling of which I have postponed until my brain cells are regenerated. That is a post in its own self.
I decided very early on in my motherhood journey that my daughter will not follow in my junk-eating footsteps. So I make sure that she eats a healthy breakfast and a homemade, well-balanced lunch. But by the time dinner rolls around, I am not left with enough energy to make her finish all that is on her plate. I also have lost most of the mothering, nurturing passion that I woke up with in the morning. So around eight months ago, I gave up on stressing about dinner. I still make sure that she eats her meal but I am not too concerned with how much she ate and if she is eating from all the food groups. Most days she eats whatever we are having, but if she had the same dish at lunch time or it is something she might not be able to handle, I whip up a simple dinner for her. Usually it is one of these four dinner recipes. They can be prepared in advance and two of them can be frozen and used as needed. They are simple enough for my daughter to eat on her own and the fact that she finishes most of what I put on her plate tells me that they are quite tasty.
These succulent kebabs are very popular with BabyZ. They are quite mild in taste but still have a lot of flavor. I make them no longer than my index finger and my daughter can easily hold a kebab in her hand, dip it in a sauce and gobble it. This recipe makes 8 to 10 kebabs which you can keep in the fridge for three days or frozen for up to a month, if using fresh mince.
- Chicken/lamb mince – 400 gms
- Onion – 1 medium sized, finely chopped and then squeezed to get rid of excess water
- Coriander – 1 Tablespoon, chopped
- Egg – 1 medium sized
- Salt – ¾ tea spoon
- Red chilli powder – ¾ teaspoon
- Cumin seeds – Crushed, ½ teaspoon
- Coriander seeds – Crushed, ½ teaspoon
- Mix all the ingredients well and leave to marinate for an hour or two.
- Shape into small kebabs. Using a skewer might make it easy to get a good shape.
- Cook kebabs in the Airfryer with a brush of oil for 15 minutes, flipping half way through. Alternatively you can shallow fry them in a pan until cooked.
- Serve with a mint-coriander-yogurt dip and a salad for a well-balanced meal.
Tip: If you plan to shallow fry the kebabs, my mother recommends cooking them in the microwave for a few minutes before hand. This makes the kebabs release all their excess water and prevents them from breaking or crumbling while frying.
Grilled Vegetable Salad
The Husband and I love to eat this salad for lunch on the weekends, but my daughter will happily eat this for dinner as well. You can prepare it whenever you find time during the day and keep it in the fridge. Pour the dressing over right before serving, mix well and watch happily as your kid eats up a bowl and asks for more. Believe me, it is that good. Obviously you can add or omit vegetables to the recipe based on what is available in your fridge that day.
- Cucumber – Cut into bite sized pieces
- Cherry Tomatoes – Cut into bite sized pieces
- Olives – Sliced
- Green Capsicum – Cut into bite sized pieces
- Broccoli – Separated into florets
- Mushrooms – Sliced
- Red Capsicum – Cut into bite sized pieces
- Cut the red capsicum in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush it with oil and grill it in the Airfryer for 10 minutes. You can also grill it in the oven or in a grill pan on the stove top until it gets soft and the skin starts to look wrinkly.
- Remove as much of the skin as you easily can and chop the capsicum into bite sized pieces.
- Toss the broccoli florets and mushroom slices in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook them in the Airfryer for 7 minutes or in the oven until the broccoli looks soft.
- Mix the grilled capsicum, broccoli and mushrooms with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Finish the salad with a simple dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and grainy mustard.
Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
Who doesn’t like chicken wings? And toddlers are no different, at least mine isn’t. Give her a few wings, a dipping sauce and the freedom to do whatever she likes and you can forget about her for a good twenty minutes. Of course the mess she makes is unbelievable, but the smile on her face is totally worth it. This recipe is two days worth of dinner for my daughter. You can keep marinated wings in the fridge for three days or you can use fresh wings, make the recipe in bulk and freeze for up to a month.
- Chicken Wings – 500 gms
- Yogurt – 3 to 4 tablespoons
- Ginger/Garlic paste – 1 teaspoon
- Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons
- Soya sauce – 1 tablespoon
- Sriracha sauce – ½ tablespoon
- Salt – ¾ teaspoon
- Pepper – ½ teaspoon
- Mix all the marinade ingredients and coat the chicken wings well with them. Leave to marinate in the fridge for an hour.
- Cook in the Airfryer for 18 to 20 minutes, flipping half way through.
- Alternatively the wings can be cooked in the oven. You can also cook them covered in a pan until the water from the wings and yogurt dries and then shallow fry them to get a crispy skin.
- Serve with a dip of your toddler’s choice. Mine loves this one made from yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Egg Plant Dip (Baba Ganoush) and Pita Bread Soldiers
I believe my daughter likes this recipe simply because of the opportunity of mess-making it provides. She dips the bread in it when I am looking and her fingers when I look away. Anyway, she eats most of it and smears the rest on her face and hands. Can’t be that bad. I am not sure how authentic a recipe this is but my version comes out really well. I make mine a little garlicky so beware of that and adjust according to your toddler’s preference. I forgot to add olive oil to the dip when taking photos, but that is an essential part of this dish and takes it to a whole new level.
- Eggplant – 1 medium sized
- Yogurt – 4 Tablespoons
- Tahini (optional) – 2 Tablespoons
- Garlic – 1 clove, crushed
- Lemon juice – 1 Tablespoon
- Salt – ½ teaspoon
- Pepper – ½ teaspoon
- Roast the eggplant in the Airfryer for 15 minutes or until the flesh feels soft and the skin appears wrinkled. You can also roast it directly on the flame of your stove top or in the oven.
- Remove the skin and using a fork, mash the flesh of the eggplant into a paste.
- Mix the yogurt, tahini, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a bowl, adjusting the ingredients according to your taste.
- Mix the eggplant with the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Drizzle cold dip with olive oil and serve with pita bread soldiers for a fun meal.
I hope you find these helpful if you are stuck in a rut with what to serve your kids for dinner. And do share your own ideas for easy, healthy, toddler-friendly meals. Thanks for reading.