I frequently get requests for toddler- and kid-friendly food ideas and I struggle with how to respond. I know how other family and friends have struggled with picky eaters and I don’t want to meet that frustration with a smug, “my kid eats everything,” response. But the truth is, we lucked out.
Our toddler eats just about everything that we do. Her dinner plate is mostly just a smaller version of ours. I’ll remove her portion before adding spicy ingredients, or cook her burger and salmon a little longer, but she mostly eats like an 18-year old. Her 18-month old side is still partial to “fun foods” – things like cherry and grape tomatoes, blackberries and blueberries, smaller pasta shapes that she can wrangle with a fork by herself, and pinto beans.
She has a couple of quirks. She’ll lick the J off a PB&J and pull the turkey and cheese out of her sandwich and leave the bread behind. She similarly guts quesadillas, leaving a near perfect tortilla on the table. She wants her apple whole, peeled, and on the core. She likes to eat half her yogurt and use the other half as finger paint. And heaven help you if you ever find yourself between her and a stick of string cheese. Or as it’s known around here, “Theezth.”
This dish contains all of her favorite things – and ours! Wonderfully fresh, summery tomatoes, pasta, and mozzarella theezth. It takes a little longer than a standard pasta recipe but roasting the tomatoes to concentrate the flavors is so worth it. We make it meatless (it’s one of the very few meatless meals I get to serve) but it’s a perfect candidate to throw in diced or leftover chicken.
Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Mozzarella
A light, fresh pasta dish with fresh mozzarella and flavorful roasted cherry tomatoes.
1 1/2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 13.25 oz box of penne
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes (or a container of mozzarella pearls, drained)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 400.
Toss tomatoes and garlic with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Place in an oven safe pan and bake for ~45 minutes, until the skins have wrinkled and the tomatoes have burst.
Cook pasta in salted water, according to package instructions.
Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water before draining the pasta.
Return pasta to the pot and add a few splashes of pasta water.
Add the mozzarella cubes and using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes and garlic to the pasta.
Lightly toss, top with chopped fresh basil, and serve.
I’m sad to report that our two rockstar zucchini plants fell victim to their nemisis: the vine borer. I’ve started a couple of new seedlings in hopes of being run over by zucchini again soon. Because I really do want more zucchini. But prior to their demise, they teamed-up and tested my love for zucchini. We were harvesting 5-7 gigantic zucchini a week.
When you’re over-run with zucchini, you have few other options than to get creative and deal with it. Or give them to friends and family, when they aren’t avoiding you and your mutant zucchini. We’ve eaten it for breakfast (the Foodie Toddler’s favorite), grilled (my favorite), in pasta (The Foodie Groom’s favorite), and zucchini parmesan (a house favorite). We repurposed that last dish into baked zucchini fries.
The coating on the zucchini fries gets very crispy in the oven while the insides get soft. You know, kinda like a real french fry… only not. Everyone in this house loves them! I prefer them dipped in a little ranch dressing, The Foodie Groom wants a bowl of marinara, and the kiddo? She just wants more. “Muh. Muh! MUUHHH!!!!”
What’s your favorite way to eat zucchini?
Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries
A fun way to serve zucchini - as crispy zucchini fries!
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb zucchini, cut into 4-5-inch sticks
Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment (or whatever non-stick method you prefer).
Place flour in a large zipper bag.
Whisk eggs with 2 Tbsp water and place in a shallow dish.
Place Panko, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a shallow dish and mix to combine.
Place zucchini in the bag with the flour and shake until well coated. Dip the zucchini into the egg and then into the panko, turning to coat well.
Place breaded zucchini on the baking sheet.
Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (we like ranch... and barbecue sauce).
They're best the first day, but to store leftovers, store in a single layer on a plate, wrapped with ziploc. Reheat at 375 degrees for 5-7 minutes, until heathed through.
Kids can be frustratingly picky eaters. They can also have highly entertaining quirks. My niece used to ask for pepperoni pizza and then proceed to discard all of the pepperoni. But don’t you dare suggest that she order plain cheese pizza! She did not want plain cheese pizza. She wanted pepperoni pizza. But without the “icky” pepperoni.
But when you wrap pepperoni pizza into a fun, savory, pull-apart style bread, it’s no longer “icky” pepperoni pizza. And it’s quite difficult to un-pepperoni
I’ve had these Pizza Bites bookmarked for ages, so when I finally found an excuse to make them, I wanted to take it in a slightly different direction: a savory monkey bread.
A very light coating of garlicky butter-covered pepperoni pizza bites, piled into a bundt cake pan, makes for a very fun Pepperoni Pizza.
Or Pepperoni Un-Pizza.
Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread
You can take the long route and make your favorite pizza dough and marinara sauce, or the short route and pick up your favorite pizza dough and red sauce from the store.
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp butter
2 lbs pizza dough (I used this recipe because it makes enough for two pizza)
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes (you'll need ~48 pieces)
48 slices of Turkey pepperoni (from 1 package)
2-3 cups marinara sauce, warmed, for serving
Heat garlic and butter over medium heat just until the garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat and let sit.
Lightly brush the inside of a bundt pan (or other oven-safe dish) with garlic butter.
Pull off large marble-sized balls of dough and flatten (~2/3 of an ounce, a kitchen scale makes this very easy). Top with a slice of pepperoni and a cube of mozzarella.
Wrap the dough around the pepperoni and cheese, pinching well to seal.
Very lightly brush the pizza ball with garlic butter and place into the bundt pan (I dabbed the pizza balls on a butter-dipped silicon brush to keep butter use low - there will be 1+ Tbsp leftover - and my hands butter free. Buttery hands make it hard to get the pizza balls to seal).
Repeat until all of the dough is used.
Cover and let sit for 30 minutes, while preheating the oven to 400.
Bake for ~35 minutes, until the top is very brown.
Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes.
Turn out onto a platter and serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.