Once Zane learned the pincer grasp, mealtime became more relaxing because we could eat simultaneously (rather than a bite for him, then a bite for me, etc.) and he could set his own pace. Plus, he seemed generally happier anytime he gained a skill that allowed him a bit more independence.
This developmental milestone also had a big impact on my meal prep strategy - having ready-to-eat finger foods was now essential, both at home and on the go. One way I save myself time and stress is to prepare a week's worth of veggie finger foods in one session. I find that in under an hour I can chop and cook enough vegetables to last Zane to the weekend. Here are my tips for making a large batch of finger foods, along with some vegetable recommendations.
- Size: Chop the vegetables a size fitting for your little one to pick up and chew/swallow. Remember that the smaller the dice, the more quickly it cooks. Zane loves to pick up little pieces, but feel free to slice the vegetables into "chips" or cut them into "fries."
- Method: My first choice is to roast the vegetables in a coating of olive oil - they taste amazing and Zane gets a dose of healthy fat. I like to steam some veggies for on-the-go, because they are less messy than their roasted counterparts.
- Cook time: When roasting, I layer the vegetables in two large baking dishes in a 350º oven, stirring occasionally, until the toughest vegetable is tender, usually about 30 minutes. When steaming, I cook one vegetable at a time and prep the next vegetable while the first cooks, about 10 minutes. For either cooking method, most babies need vegetables cooked to the point they are easily smashed between your thumb and forefinger.
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, celery root/celeriac: Just peel, chop, and cook. Try a variety and include different colors, like purple potatoes.
- Carrots: Young carrots don't even need to be peeled - just give 'em a good scrub.
- Fennel: Sliced fennel bulb is especially delicious roasted and caramelizes beautifully.
- Zucchini and summer squash: Young, tender squash have thin skins and may not even need to be peeled.
- Broccoli and cauliflower: Use the florets and stems. Just peel the tough outer layer off of the stems before dicing.
- Beets: We are partial to red beets but golden beets are also delicious, and much less messy. I peel and cook red beets last of all the vegetables because they make a mess of the knife and cutting board. Also, when roasting I put the beets in foil to keep them from bleeding onto the other veggies.