Even though we can’t really claim any credit for it, Mr. Chalk and I have always secretly prided ourselves on Owen’s extensive palate. For the longest time, he would pretty happily eat whatever we put in front of him, be it turnips or fish or any number of things that even I wouldn’t touch. (Exception: blueberries – for the longest time, they were clearly the devil’s fruit). But as he’s gotten older, he’s lost interest in a lot of foods, and we are beginning to fall into the toddler trap of having the same few meals on repeat, or of gathering up yogurt or hummus – aka sure-fire hits – to get us through dinner.
Vegetables, in particular, have become a tough one. The kid who used to munch on bell peppers and carrots has slowly but surely whittled the acceptable vegetable list down to: peas. That’s about it. We’re continuing to serve him whatever vegetable we are having with dinner, but while we go through this pleaseGodletitbeaphase, I’ve been trying to come up with other ways to help maintain some approximation of a balanced diet.
These broccoli nuggets serve that purpose admirably, with the main ingredient being, well, broccoli. In addition, they are infinitely adaptable, freeze well, reheat like a breeze, and are a super-easy daycare lunch option. Bonus: they’re so easy to make that your toddler can help with the whole process.
½ lb broccoli – frozen or fresh. Mr. Chalk accidentally bought something called “broccoli cuts” last time and these still turned out great.
½ cup bread crumbs or baby cereal – plain or seasoned
¾ cup shredded cheese – we usually use cheddar, but I’m sure another option would work as well.
2 eggs or 3 egg yolks (Check with your pediatrician about when to introduce eggs to your little one. Applesauce or a veggie puree could also be used as a substitute.)
spices – Use whatever makes you happy. We usually use a combination of dried basil, oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper.
1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Gather up your ingredients. I usually find it easier to pre-shred the cheese before Owen gets involved in the cooking process. It’s just less… messy and dangerous. If your toddler is slightly older, they may be able to help with this part, or at least not keep sticking their fingers in the grater while you’re working.
3) Lightly spread olive oil on a baking sheet. Because I hate cleaning, I usually line the pan with foil first. Also, we were out of olive oil, so we used a canola-oil spray. You get the idea – grease the pan.
4) Cook, drain, and chop the broccoli. For the longest time, I did this by hand. With a fork. And then one day, it dawned on me that we owned a miraculous thing called a “food processor.” An immersion blender would also work. Whatever you use, just remember: toddlers love pushing buttons.
5) Combine all ingredients and mix well. Marvel at the fact that your two-year-old will eat this by the spoonful, and then momentarily freak out when you remember the two raw eggs that are mixed in. Grab the spoon away; it’s Mama’s turn to stir!
6) Shape the mixture into nuggets. I usually use about a teaspoonful for each nugget, but have also made bigger and smaller. It always works out. If you’re more ambitious than me, you could probably also cut these into fun shapes.
7) Bake for 15 minutes and then flip the nuggets over. Bake for another five to ten minutes.
What are your toddler’s favorite vegetables?