Chris traditionally makes pancakes on Sunday mornings, just like his dad did when he was growing up. Pumpkin pancakes have been one of our favorites this season, and we also love pancakes topped with spiced fruit. This morning Chris kept it simple and whipped up a delish batch of cinnamon-spiced pancakes. We tried an all-natural, gluten-free pancake mix by Stonewall Kitchen, and the consistency of the hotcakes was pretty perfect. Fluffy and cake-like, not too thin and not too crumbly. Chris followed the recipe on the back of the canister and added a tablespoon of brown sugar, several generous shakes of cinnamon, and some extra milk. He drizzled some warm syrup on top, and served roasted bacon on the side. For a gluten-free mix, the price is a moderate $7.95 (I’ve seen mixes as expensive as $15), and every bite is worth it. Mason loved it, too, and ate an entire pancake by himself!
Kid’s menus bum me out. The ones that I’ve seen have the same overpriced staples: mac ‘n’ cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, and hot dogs made with white bread or pasta and served with a side of fries. The part that frustrates me most is it’s easy to put a more healthful spin on these dishes by using brown rice or whole-gain bread or pasta, and serving veggies and fruit on the side instead of fries. So why do so many restaurants still offer junk food for kids? Do they assume that kids only like junk food? Why not make child-size portions of healthy, interesting dishes from the adult menu? Promoting this kind of eating only contributes to this country’s childhood obesity problem.
We love taking Mason out, so we’ve come up with ways for him to eat well in restaurants. Here’s how we make it work for us. Any tips to add?
Skip the kid’s menu. Unless the restaurant you go to is an anomaly and the kid’s menu is filled with nutritious foods, order from the adult menu instead.
Make a finger food buffet. Chris and I order several small dishes of foods that we know Mason will like, then we cut it up into bite-size pieces and give him several choices.
Split a dish between two kids. We went out to lunch with our friends and their 15-month-old son Sal last Sunday, and the boys split an order of whole-grain pancakes topped with spiced fruit (from the adult menu). They loved it.
Save leftovers for lunch. When we go to Cafe Henri, a French bistro in our neighborhood, we order crepes from the adult menu for Mason. He eats one for dinner and the other for lunch the next day, at home.
Try new things. Mason’s tried so many things at restaurants that we wouldn’t normally make at home, including lobster ravioli, paella, gazpacho, and foie gras. Watching him enjoy these unexpected foods is fun for everyone!
Splurge smarter. I believe in letting Mason indulge so we order one dessert that the three of us share. Everyone gets a bite of sweet without going overboard.
As an aside, I LOVE these disposable place mats from Target. They’re decorated with fun Sesame Street characters, and they stick right to the table. Mason can eat finger foods without us having to worry about him picking up germs from the bare table.
Mason tried his first cupcake last June, and the moment couldn’t have been any sweeter. We were in Columbus, OH, visiting my family and my mom made cupcakes to celebrate Bug’s first birthday a little early. She went the simple route and used yellow cake from a mix and vanilla frosting. Mason was tentative at first. He gingerly licked the icing for a minute or so and then he picked up the cupcake and shoved the entire thing in his mouth. I was snapping photos with my iPhone at first but it got so good I switched to video. We were cracking up! (We also served cupcakes at his safari-theme birthday party in New York City; click here for photos! For great recipes, check out these Parents favorites.)
Any great cupcake memories with your babe to share?
Today we met up with another LIC Mama Kerry, her 15-month-old son Sal, and her husband Mike. Our mission: Go visit Santa Claus. I’ve been looking forward to this moment all season long. Last year Mason loved Santa Claus — he wasn’t scared at all and he was mesmerized by Santa’s curly, white beard — so I was really curious to see how he would react to Santa this year. Instead of going to a crowded mall, we met up at a local community center that was hosting a Christmas party for the neighborhood. The scene was absolutely crazy, with people wall to wall and kids running around everywhere, but I did get a photo of Mason sitting on Santa’s lap. I had to sit next to Bug so that he would stay on Santa’s lap but at least he looked at the camera, even though he didn’t feel like smiling. The six of us left after the boys posed for pics on Santa’s lap and we headed out for brunch — a meal that turned out to be the highlight of our afternoon.
We ended up at a new restaurant in our neighborhood called Alobar. Chris and I dined there last night alone, and we loved the place. We had no idea how they’d be with kids, but we were starving, there wasn’t a line, and the brunch menu looked great, so we went for it. Truth is, we couldn’t have picked a better place. The hostess set us up with high chairs right away, and we were able to place an order for the boys to share (a short stack of pancakes topped with spiced fruit) pretty quickly. A short time later the manager appeared at our table with carrot puree for the boys “in case they couldn’t wait for their meal,” and two kid-size spoons. I was speechless. We eat out all the time with Mason and nobody has ever done something so thoughtful for us. There was also no shortage of friendly servers who stopped by to talk to the boys or pick up the toy cars they kept dropping, er, throwing on the floor. The pancakes arrived and the boys dug in (that’s Mason’s little hand reaching for more, left). Mason loved eating with his little friend Sal and the pancakes were apparently awesome according to Mike and Chris. The boys were super cute with each other, and they shared their food and milk . They were so happy together, and entertained each other so well, that we parents got to enjoy our food and even chat a bit (when does that ever happen?!). If you live in NYC, I definitely recommend checking this place out.
After our meal, we stepped back out into the brisk afternoon. It was already 4 and we were planning on taking Bug home and then Chris was going to go back out and pick up our Christmas tree. We parted ways with Kerry and Sal and Mike a few blocks down the road, then hopped on the subway to go back home. We normally walk, especially after eating a big meal, but it is freezing out. Mason deigned to nap so we played ball while Chris got our tree! We’re going to decorate it tonight and gate it off so that Mason can’t pull it over on himself (hopefully he doesn’t figure out how to climb over the gate!). Today was the perfect Christmastime Sunday. Here’s to hoping there are more to come in the weeks leading up to the holiday:)
Have you noticed that your kids eat better when they’re with a friend and/or in a new place?
The last three months have been filled with eating ups and downs. My champion eater suddenly turned picky after his first birthday, which is completely normal according to Dr. Bob Sears, and mealtime hasn’t been the same since. Based on Dr. Sears’ advice, I started to make finger food “buffets” for Mason to give him several choices in an effort to help combat his pickiness, with mixed results. Next came the (ongoing) food-throwing phase (more to come). But the thing that surprises me the most, still, is that Mason can love something one day but absolutely loathe it the next. For example, over the weekend, Bug couldn’t get enough of avocado mashed with banana; he ate five servings of it in two days. I offered it to him Monday and he shrieked in horror — and kept shrieking until I got it out of his sight. Well, excuse me.
Determined to roll with the trials and triumphs of feeding a 1-year-old, I’ve adopted the mindset that Bug will eat when he’s hungry, and I’ve tried not to stress. Then Mason had his 15-month check-up last week, a h-llish ordeal, and I’ve been forced to change that Zen-like mindset. Bug’s pediatrician told me that I need to do “everything in my power” to help Mason put on some extra pounds. It wasn’t the first time his string bean-like physique has come up at the doctor’s office, but this time Mason has to be weighed in 5 weeks to track his progress. Apparently he’s meeting all of his developmental milestones, however, the doctor is concerned that he’ll fall too far away from the weight curve. So my new challenge is to get my picky eater to eat — and to make sure he gains weight while doing it. So much for rolling with it.
To meet Mason’s weight goals, I’m trying to include more starches and healthy fats without sacrificing fresh produce and organic meat. For starters, I’ve put special focus on breakfast — it’s the one meal he consistently eats well. Since Mason loves quick breads, I’ve been trying out a bunch of recipes for breads that look and taste like treats but that are filled with good stuff. My favorite recipe so far is for Morning Glory muffins from Better Homes and Gardens. Not only are the muffins delish, they contain some healthy fat (which he needs) as well as carrot, pineapple, apple, and raisins (the kind of stuff I love to give him). They’re not quick to make — you have to peel and shred carrots and peel and chop apples as part of the prep, which took me 40 minutes, even though the recipe says 30 — but the effort is so worth it, in my opinion. Try them out and let us know what you think!
Morning Glory Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour*
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (1-1/3 cups)
1 1/4 cups finely shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins
1 8 ounce can crushed pineapple (juice pack), undrained
2/3 cup cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1.Line eighteen 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups, or grease muffin tin with shortening; set aside.
2.In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; stir in brown sugar. Stir in apples, carrots, and raisins. In a medium bowl combine undrained pineapple, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Add pineapple mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moistened.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin or cups. Bake in a 375 degree F oven about 18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups; serve warm. Makes 18 muffins.
*Flour: I substituted Bob’s Red Mill all purpose, gluten-free flour for regular all-purpose flour. You can also substitute one cup of whole-wheat flour for one of the cups of all-purpose flour.