Luckily for us, Orion is by no means a picky eater. He’s actually pretty adventurous, and if we take him out to a restaurant, he’ll eat anything we’re eating. He didn’t even bat an eye at the soup dumplings we shoved in his mouth at Mission Chinese Food on a recent trip to New York City. So far he’s eaten pickled salmon, smoked yogurt with pickled beets, fresh ramen, grilled Dungeness crab, brisket tacos, fried pork skins, biscuits and gravy. The list goes on.
While Orion will eat pretty much everything you point his way in a restaurant, it’s a different story when we get home. The thing we’ve really struggled to get Orion to eat is meat. As soon as we put it in his mouth, it comes right back out in no uncertain way. So we’ve had to find sneakier ways of getting him to ingest protein. Besides hiding it in a grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla, we’ve found other means of getting protein into his diet. We’re pretty much stuck with eggs, nuts, soy, and beans. The good news is that Orion loves eggs, beans, and any nut butter you can find. I thought for our first kids’ meal recipe I’d share a super simple quinoa bowl that I’ve been turning to more and more. It’s a good protein-rich base that’s easily adaptable based on whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand. Plus it incorporates Orion’s favorite food of all – BA! (banana).
Quinoa is a great source of protein. It’s the only plant-based source that has all nine essential amino acids making it a dynamite, energy-rich food. While it doesn’t have as much protein as animal sources like eggs and meat or as legumes, I like making quinoa because it’s relatively light and compliments many other flavors, plus it’s highly nutritious so if I can get even a few bites in him, it will have been a good meal. Plus it won’t fill him up as quickly as other grains might so I can get him to eat more of the nutritious add-ins. Also quinoa is a very versatile base for adding other ingredients, and it’s handy to have some extra lying around. Just this week I used the left overs from Orion’s dinner to toss some roasted chicken, diced tomatoes, feta cheese, and parsley with lemon juice and shallots for a quick lunch. I’m sure this dish would be good, however, with other grains and maybe even a bit more substantial.
Tips and Tricks:
- In order to cut down on prep time and because it’s so versatile and nutritious, I often make a larger batch of quinoa (say 2 cups) and use it as the base for salads for Orion and for us during a week. I’ve also read multiple places that you can freeze grains for easy use later. I haven’t tried it myself. Can anyone recommend it?
- Home cooked beans are not only more nutritious (less salt, zero chance of exposure to BPA) but they also taste better. Again, feel free to cook some beans at the beginning of a week and then set some aside for meals/snacks. Orion loves beans. He’ll eat them plain as a snack that has the added benefit of working on his hand eye coordination.
- Make sure to rinse quinoa before you cook it. It helps remove the bitter flavor.
- I serve this dish at room temperature. If I am using pre-made ingredients sitting in the fridge, I’ll just take them out when I put him down for a nap, and they’ll be the right temperature by the time he wakes up and is ready for a meal.
Quinoa Bowl with Avocado, Black Beans, and Banana
A really simple preparation with an emphasis on healthy, fresh, protein packed ingredients. Note that cottage cheese is a great addition to almost any dish you’ve cooked up or a good side dish to feed toddlers. It’s pretty much our go-to food when we need to get some more calories into Orion and he’s in one of those moods when he’s turning his nose up at everything we try to feed him.
Quantity: Roughly 8 ounces or one serving size for a 1 – 2 year old
Time to Prepare: 10 minutes (not including cooking the quinoa)
1/3 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 of an avocado diced
1/3 – 1/2 of a banana sliced and quartered
1/4 cup of cottage cheese
Mix and enjoy! Yep, that simple. There are tons of additions of course that you can add in based on what your kid likes to change it up some. And feel free to leave out any of the ingredients if your kid doesn’t like them. We like adding in salsa and shredded cheddar cheese sometimes. Or golden raisins. Or sesame seeds.
Orion would never be patient enough for me to cook the quinoa in front of him, but if I do happen to think ahead and prep this dish while he’s napping, I take roughly a 2 to 1 ratio of water to grains or just cover with one inch of water. Then bring to a boil, cover, and let sit off heat. After about 15 minutes, check, and the grains should be finished. You can tell quinoa is finished if the grains have plumped up, become more translucent, and have the telltale white spiraled tails around their edges. If there’s still water, drain the grains before using.