If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em: A Recipe for Feeding Toddlers

“My toddler is an adventurous eater and will try anything” … is a statement I sadly will likely never utter (unless she’s eating at your house because she’ll try new foods at anyone else’s house).

We were off to a good start. She ate what I made for the three of us – corn on the cob, scallops, tomatoes, cheeses, salads, tacos - you name it!

Then she turned 2.

And now she only likes pasta. Plain.

And ice cream. “Banilla”.

And the occasional cucumber slice.

I’m committed to supporting her in trying new foods (she doesn’t have to like it and she doesn’t have to eat it, but give it a little try). There are times when she decides that she doesn’t like anything on her dinner plate. That’s ok. I’m not going to force it (she’ll eat when she’s hungry).

It makes me feel sad to let her go without really eating dinner. Even if she doesn’t care one bit. “I NEED to play now, Mom.” The strategy I use to calm my guilt while continuing to introduce vegetables is to make a pasta dish that incorporates a little of everything.

Here’s a recipe I put together last week to satisfy all parties. It’s a little pasta, lots of veggies and some marinated baked chicken breast. This fed our family of 4 (because now we have 2 toddlers, luckily the little one is still in the adventurous phase). This yummy summer salad pleased everyone and was enough for dinner the next night. Plus, I finally figured out how to bake chicken in the oven that turns out juicy and delicious!

I made the Italian Dressing because 1. I had the ingredients and didn’t have any Italian dressing and 2. store bought dressings often have preservatives and added color. If you have an Italian dressing you like, go for it. You’ll use it to marinate the chicken and dress the salad.

Italian Dressing Recipe

½ cup white wine vinegar

3 little squirts of Dijon mustard

¾ cup Olive Oil

1.5 tsp onion powder

5 cloves of garlic (I use already chopped garlic), otherwise, mince it

1.5 TBSP Italian Herbs (or use combo of thyme, basil and oregano)

Salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp of each)

Pasta Salad

½ box of your favorite pasta (we use gemelli)

3 handfuls of sugar snap peas (cleaned and ends cut off)

2 handfuls of shredded carrot (I didn’t feel like cleaning and cutting so I bought already shredded but you can also slice a carrot or two)

2-3 cups clean chopped raw spinach

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes

½ cup kalamata olives

1.5 lbs chicken breast

  1. Marinate the chicken in 2/3 of the Italian dressing. I stick it all into a ziplock bag and store it in the fridge in the morning (usually while toddlers are eating breakfast).

  2. Blanch the peas by putting them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then submerging into a big bowl of ice water. After they sit for a bit, drain the water.

  3. Make the pasta according to package instructions.

  4. Toss the pasta, tomatoes, carrots, peas and olives with the remaining 1/3 dressing. You can toss the spinach in right before serving so it doesn’t get soggy.

  5. You can store the pasta salad in the fridge while the chicken bakes.

  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  7. Sear the chicken breast in a hot pan with a drizzle of olive oil for a minute or 2 on each side. Then bake the chicken for 45- 55 min. Mine was done after about 45 min. It will depend on your oven.

  8. Slice the chicken and serve on top of pasta salad. The chicken can be served warm or cold. So you can make the whole thing while they are napping (if things work out that way).

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