Our daughter just turned the Big 1 year! Hubs and I confidently carried our little one into her 1-year follow-up expecting, for the first time in our brief parenting tenure, to get a great report along with the standard marching orders “just keep doing what you’re doing.” We’d been receiving those same instructions at every previous check-up along with high praise for our daughter’s diverse food intake and her preference for spinach and love of scrambled eggs.
Baby Girl Turns Eating Spinach into a Full Contact Sport
But this time, we were hit hard by our pediatrician’s orders to transition our daughter to all solid food within 60 days. Most alarming to me, I was told to stop pureeing or mashing her foods starting right away…I was appalled! I thought we were doing so well. I’d been cruising along using our trusty NutriBullet to puree everything from broccoli and carrots to salmon and chicken, and she was doing so well eating that stuff…just as long as it was smooth with no lumps. She’d basically refused to eat anything with lumps or texture except her beloved eggs. I had created these yummy Veggie Puffs which she liked, but they’re pretty labor-intensive so I rarely make them and don’t relish the idea of making them several times per week.
Now my head was spinning as I pondered all the changes I’d have to make and worried how baby girl would respond to the transition. On the other hand, I can’t stand the idea of giving our little girl the highly-processed chemical-laden transitional toddler foods sold in stores.
Hubs – recognizing the look of consternation on my face – said, “Baby, it’ll be okay. We’ll just start by giving her those foods she already likes. What about sweet potatoes? We know she loves those.”
Of course! That’s what I’ll do! She loves sweet potatoes. I’ll start there, I thought to myself. I decided to try to recreate one of our favorite treats – sweet potato fries – without the funky hydrogenated oils and preservatives. Baked with a little extra virgin coconut oil and some pure, unsweetened apple juice, these “fries” take only a few minutes to make and both my daughter and husband love them! Their an easy, inexpensive and delicious treat you can make in less than hour (including cook time). The secret is the combination of coconut oil and apple juice that the “fries” bake in. The result is slightly sweet and just the right combination of soft and crisp to be considered the perfect healthy transitional food by even the most persnickety pediatrician. Score one for Mommy! Ingredients:
• 1 Large or 2 Small Whole Sweet Potatoes, Washed and Peeled
• 1 Tbsp. Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
• 2 Tbsp. Unsweetened Homemade or Organic Apple Juice
• 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
• Light Sprinkling of Sea Salt, Ground Ginger, and/or Allspice Hardware:
• Large Chef’s Knife (the sharper the easier this will be)
• Cutting Board
• Parchment Paper
• Medium-sized Cookie Sheet or Baking Pan
1. Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit (190° Celsius). Cover baking sheet/pan with parchment paper. Then set aside.
2. Slice sweet potato (or potatoes) length-wise into 4-5 slices of roughly equal width (as pictured below).
Then cut slices into match sticks (or french fry shape). When cutting sticks, try to avoid pointy or sharp edges.
3. Pour oil and apple juice onto parchment paper and rotate pan gently to blend the liquids (you can also use a fork or other utensil to swirl the liquids together). Then place the sweet potato sticks in a single layer atop the liquid mixture. Lightly sprinkle with spices, and then gently shake the pan again to distribute the liquids and seasonings.
Raw Seasoned Sweet Potato Sticks Ready to Bake
4. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Then remove from oven and test for doneness. Makes about 2-3 Toddler Servings Notes and Serving Suggestions: If you’re serving a toddler, you want the fries to be softer so stick with the shorter bake time. Check first after 40 minutes. If not quite done, stick the pan back in the oven for 3-5 more minutes. For adults, bake for 45 minutes before checking for doneness for a crisper texture. If not quite done, bake for 5-7 minutes longer, but keep a close eye on them. They go from crispy to burned very quickly.
Wisdom for the Day:
So, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, don’t have stubborn hearts as they did in the rebellion, on the day when they tested me in the desert.”
~Hebrews 3:7-8 (Common English Bible)
Read more here.
Left: My Homemade Veggie Puffs. Right: Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles
I have a secret. I’m completely addicted to toddler food. Actually, it’s just 1 particular toddler food.
For years now, I’ve been loving these Dr. Praeger’s Spinach and Broccoli Littles. Love. Love. LOVE. Them. I’ll drive way out of my way to find these “little” veggie+potato treats, and cheerfully pay more than $5 per 10 oz. box (I usually purchase 4 to 5 boxes at a time since they’re hard to find in my area) to feed my habit.
My love affair with Dr. Praeger’s products began several years ago. After several years of “healthy” vegan eating, I developed a severe allergic reaction to the soy-based meat substitutes I was eating on a regular. So when I first spotted these non-GMO, soy-free alternatives at Whole Foods, I grabbed them up and was quickly hooked. When I was pregnant and craving these tasty little buggers, I even sent Hubs up to the nearest Whole Foods (over an hour each direction) to score a few boxes for me! I have such a wonderful husband!
I love them because they’re green and filled with non-GMO green veggies and potatoes. They’re certified gluten-free (and in fact, contain no grains whatsoever). There’s nothing funky or nasty in them (save for some canola oil which admittedly is not the best, but at least it’s not hydrogenated or full of trans fats); no grains or gluten (they’re certified gluten-free); and no dairy or soy. They’ve got some protein in there too, thanks to the inclusion of egg whites. And they just taste great! They’re fun to eat and just make me feel good. But since I’m an adult (not the target market), I tend to eat a bunch of them (when I have them). So, keeping my “Littles” supply stocked can be rather expensive.
Recently Hubs and I were stocking up, and I was overcome with a bit of buyer’s remorse. As I emerged from the store’s freezer holding 5 boxes of assorted Dr. P.’s Littles, I made the following off-hand remark. “These things are ridiculously expensive. I bet I could make them, or something very similar.” Since Hubs manages the grocery budget, he was immediately excited by my comment. I, on the other hand, was immediately regretful I’d said something so foolish, thinking “I could never make anything as delicious as my beloved Dr. P’s.” I reluctantly agreed to try to create a recipe similar too my beloveds but insisted we purchase the 5 boxes I was holding “you know, just so I have something to compare my own recipe to.” Gotta love that rationalization there.
Hub agreed, and I began searching the all-knowing Internet for some sort of “Dr. Praeger’s Littles” dupe recipe. I quickly found several recipes posted on various Pinterest boards, all of which claimed to be dupes. Sadly, each one of those recipes included cheese, lots of cheese, sometimes 2 types of cheese in a single recipe. Ugh! Since dairy is a deal-breaker for me, I decided to wing it, and try to create something yummy using the same ingredients listed on the box (but subbing extra virgin avocado oil for the aforementioned canola. And I used tapioca powder instead of arrowroot because that’s all I had, but either would work well).
I’m excited about the following recipe for a few reasons. First, I’m excited because these little puffs taste really good, and because I envision them saving us some grocery money. I really enjoy eating them, and (even more importantly), my daughter likes to eat them too. Woohoo! Score one for Mommy! I’m also excited to share a recipe that features spinach, which is #8 on HealthGrove’s list of the top 30 foods for beautiful skin and hair. For those of you who are unaware, I’ve been posting a series of #Whole30-compliant and #paleo-correct recipes based on that HealthGrove list. Spinach is a favorite in our house. It’s literally our daughter’s favorite food which makes me very happy because spinach is such an amazing food. These mild leafy greens are an excellent source of folate, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and many awesome antioxidant and beautifying vitamins (including: Vitamins A, B2, C, E, and K). You can read all about Popeye’s power source here. If you’re interested in reading the whole list of 30 best foods for beauty, you can find the full list here. And if you’ve missed any of the previous recipes in this series, be sure to check out the list and links at the bottom of this post.
• ½ sweet onion diced + ¼ cup chicken or vegetable broth (optional)
• 14 oz. bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained
• 1•½ cup liquid egg whites (roughly the whites from 12 large eggs)
• 3 cups cooked finely diced or shredded potatoes, divided
• 1 Tbsp. sea salt
• 20 cranks of crushed black pepper
• ¼ – ½ tsp. garlic powder or 1-2 whole, peeled garlic cloves (according to taste; I recommend using ¼ tsp. if using onion)
• 1•½ cup potato flakes (For this and all my #Whole30 recipes, I recommend these flakes from Bob’s Red Mill because those are the only potato flakes I’ve found that are 100% dehydrated potatoes without dextrose or any unapproved additives)
• 2 Tbsp. tapioca starch
• 4 Tbsp. chia seeds
• Nonstick coconut oil spray
• 2 Tbsp. extra virgin avocado or olive oil HARDWARE:
• Powerful blender or food processor (I used our Vitamix, and it worked really well)
• Measuring cups + spoons
• 2 Baking pans (I used 2 mini muffin tins) coated with nonstick coconut oil
• 1 Large mixing bowl
• 2 Microwave-safe bowls (medium and small)
• 1 oz. cookie scoop
1. If including onion in your veggie tots, cut onion into slices. Then transfer onion to a small microwave-safe bowl along with ¼ cup broth. Cover bowl with a paper towel and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and set aside.
2. Place 3 cups diced or shredded potatoes into a larger microwave-safe bowl. Cover with paper towel and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and set aside.
3. Pour the following ingredients into the canister of a powerful blender or food processor with ‘S’ blade attached: cooked onion mixture; drained spinach or greens; shredded, 2 cups diced (or shredded) potatoes; sea salt; black pepper; and garlic (if using). Place lid on food processor or blender. Then process/blend on LOW setting about 30 seconds or until mixture is liquified and thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into a very large mixing bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together potato flakes, tapioca starch; and chia seeds. Then add this mixture to the spinach mixture, along with remaining 1 cup diced or shredded potatoes. Stir well to thoroughly combine. Cover bowl with aluminum foil and refrigerate batter for 30 minutes (up to overnight).
5. When ready bake, preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit (204° Celsius). And spray 2 large mini muffin tins with nonstick coconut oil spray. Then drizzle 1 Tbsp. avocado oil over each of the pans. If using regular cookie sheets, cover sheet with parchment paper. Then lightly coat paper with nonstick spray and drizzle 1 Tbsp. oil over each pan. Set pans aside.
6. Using a 1 oz. cookie scoop, scoop batter into/onto prepared muffin tins or baking sheets. Sprinkle puffs lightly with more sea salt if desired.
7. Bake at 400° Fahrenheit (204° Celsius) for 35 minutes (mini-muffin tins) – 45 minutes (for puffs on cookie sheets). SERVING SUGGESTIONS & NOTES:
While these little treats are technically #Whole30-compliant, they’re potato-heavy (i.e. high carbs). It’s best to think of these puffs as a starchy side dish, not a high-protein entrée. I recommend enjoying these treats in moderation and serving alongside a nice lean meat and toss salad. This recipe makes a ton, but these little puffs freeze well. If you do plan to freeze and reheat later, bake for just 30-35 minutes. Then allow cooked puffs to cool thoroughly before transferring to a large freezer bag. To reheat, remove puffs from freezer and allow to sit on counter until puffs reach room temperature. Then preheat oven to 400° F (204° C) and oil a baking sheet. Then place desired number of puffs of prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
3 Little Veggie Puffs Just Begging to be Eaten!
Wisdom for the Day:
“But God chose what the world considers nonsense to put wise people to shame. God chose what the world considers weak to put what is strong to shame. God chose what the world considers ordinary and what it despises—what it considers to be nothing—in order to destroy what it considers to be something.” ~I Corinthians 1:27-28 (God’s Word Translation) Read more here.
Beauty Resource of the Day:
You ever notice how all the YouTube beauty gurus are always raving the latest and greatest product roll-outs? It’s pretty rare to encounter a beauty review or tutorial video that really praises those products that have been around for years. So when I encounter a YouTuber who embraces oldy but goodies, I get excited and want to share it. Check out this full talk-thru tutorial as Emily Noel discusses (and demos) her favorite all-time drugstore products. Take notes because the products she recommends are excellent and bound to save you some money!