Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bento for Baby Recipe: Whole Wheat Banana Bread with No Added Sugar

This banana bread is a mix of different whole wheat banana bread recipes on the web. I mostly adapted a recipe from Shape magazine, but I found that it was a bit dry without a bit of oil and the recipe was lacking salt. Baby Girl adores this banana bread for breakfast or snacks.


3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup water
2 cups whole-wheat flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil, for pan


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. With a hand mixer, beat together banana, oil, eggs, vanilla, and water until creamy.

3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients, beating well. Pour batter into a gently oiled and floured 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

Footnote 1/27/2015:
Although this recipe worked well for me the few times I made it, I have found the bread too dry for my taste the past couple times I've made it.  To help with this, I used 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/4 milk instead of water when I made it most recently.  This helped to make the bread a bit more moist and less crumbly.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bento for Baby 7: Dan's Awesome Pancakes and Avocado Tortilla Rolls

Today for breakfast Baby Girl had a couple whole wheat ricotta pancakes, some organic strawberries from Ambrose Family Farm and a quarter of an organic banana.  The pancakes were left over from a batch my husband made this weekend.  He made quite a few extra and we stuck them in the freezer for future lunches.  I am extremely lucky to have an excellent baker for a husband.  He makes fresh bread for us every week, fantastic pizza a few times a month and waffles or pancakes on the weekends.  He makes several different kinds of waffles and pancakes, and has tweaked the recipes to use as much whole wheat flour and as little sugar as possible, while still being delicious. I'll post the recipe for these particular pancakes later this week.  

For lunch I tried something new, whole wheat tortilla wraps with mashed avocado, smashed black beans and grated organic cheddar cheese.  They turned out a bit drier than I would have hoped, and I don't think Baby Girl liked them very much.  If I make wraps of this type again, I might add some sliced avocado to the middle in addition to the mashed avocado I spread on the tortilla to hold it all together.  She does love all these ingredients alone, so it might be worth another shot.  With the wraps I packed organic mixed veggies from Trader Joe's and some organic cheddar cheese cubes.  These were packed in the small and medium Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bento for Baby Recipe: Quinoa Cakes

I had some leftover quinoa from our dinner the other night, so I used it to make up some more quinoa cakes.  Everybody knows how healthy quinoa is, right?  Not only is it a complete protein packed with good phytonutrients, it is also really tasty.  Baby girl will gladly shovel handfuls of loose quinoa into her mouth, but the cakes are a bit less messy and easier for her to eat. And I can pack them full of even more vegetables and protein.  I have put in spinach, but you could easily substitute any other finely chopped vegetable.  I had been considering grated zucchini or yellow squash for this batch, but decided on spinach instead.  These freeze very well, I just wait for them to cool and then pop them in a freezer bag for future lunches.


1 cup carrots, finely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed, drained of excess liquid, finely chopped if not already
3 cups cooked quinoa
3 large eggs
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt, if desired
1 tablespoon olive oil


Sauté the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in 1 tbs olive oil until soft.  Gently beat the three eggs in a large bowl.  Add the cooked vegetables, chopped spinach, and quinoa to the bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.  Season with salt as desired.   Add about half the breadcrumbs and stir.  The mixture should be pretty moist, and a handful should hold together when squeezed. You don't want to add too many breadcrumbs because the cakes will fall apart while you're cooking them.  If the mixture still looks runny add the remaining breadcrumbs.  Form patties a bit larger than a bowling ball (ha, ha!  just caught this typo!  Those would be some large quinoa cakes!) GOLF ball from about 1/4 cup of the mixture.  You will get about 24 patties.

Lightly oil a large frying pan or griddle and heat on medium heat.  Place a few patties in your pan, gently pressing on them with the spatula to flatten them.  Let them cook undisturbed for 5 - 7 minutes, until a medium brown crust forms.  You don't want them to cook too quickly so that the egg inside them has a chance to cook before the patty surface gets too crispy.  Gently turn the cakes over and let them cook until other side is browned and patties are thoroughly cooked through, another 5 minutes or so.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Bento for Baby 6: Waffle and Love Cakes

On Wednesday for her morning snack Baby Girl had another leftover homemade yogurt waffle quarter from the freezer along with some organic strawberries from our CSA share (Ambrose Family Farm) and a pear wedge.  Lunch was composed of more leftovers, this time from dinner the previous night:  a black bean cake (aka love cake) and feta cheese cubes in the yellow silicone cup, quinoa pilaf in the blue silicone cup, some roasted sweet potato cubes and pear wedges.  Love cakes are a favorite dinner in our family.  They come from another favorite cookbook:  The Flying Biscuit Cafe Cookbook: Breakfast and Beyond. The Flying Biscuit is a very popular restaurant in Atlanta where I ate when visiting a friend almost 15 years ago.  She got me the cookbook and I've been making love cakes ever since.   As often happens when you make a recipe for that long, it kind of takes on a life of its own.  A few years ago I went back to the The Flying Biscuit Cafe, ordered some love cakes and found that mine were very different, and I much preferred mine.  I'll share my version of the recipe in a few days.  These meals were packed in the small and medium Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bento for Baby 5: Strawberry Tortilla Rolls and Swiss Chard Pasta

This "bento" is lacking a bit in the cuteness category, but makes up for it with tasty food. For breakfast/morning snack I packed Baby Girl half a banana and strawberry and cream cheese whole wheat tortilla rolls.  We have been getting tons of beautiful organic strawberries every week with our CSA share from Ambrose Family Farm, so Baby Girl has been enjoying them every day.  She wasn't the biggest fan of them for first couple weeks, but after offering them to her every day she now reaches for them enthusiastically.  This was packed in the medium sized Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.

For lunch, Baby Girl had leftover pasta with swiss chard, sausage and pine nuts from dinner the previous night (more on this below), and cubes of organic cantaloupe and watermelon.  These were packed in 4 ounce glass canning jars.  I packed the pasta in the glass jar so that they could warm it up in the microwave at daycare.  They're a convenient little size, so I used one for the melon as well.  

The pasta is from a Martha Stewart recipe, Gremelli with Sausage, Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts.  This is a delicious recipe that I have made several times.  We got some beautiful swiss chard with our CSA share this week so I was excited to put this recipe on the menu this week.  I make the recipe almost exactly as written, so I'll just link to the recipe, rather than write it out.  I do use 100% whole wheat rotini instead of the gremelli, and I also use the swiss chard stems, rather than discarding them, because they are delicious!  I simply saute the stems for a bit with the garlic before adding the swiss chard leaves. Oh, and we often use cranberries in place of the raisins, because that's what we're more likely to have in the pantry.  It's great with either.  This was heartily enjoyed by the grown ups and Baby Girl for dinner and lunch the next day.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bento for Baby Recipe: Sun Butter-Oatmeal Balls

I grew up eating a version of these made with peanut butter, before the increase in peanut/nut allergies made nut free lunches necessary.  You could of course still make them with peanut butter, but we must use sun butter since my daughter's school is nut free.  These were one of my favorite snacks when I was a kid (and still are!).  I was excited to start making them for my daughter once she was old enough to eat honey and had enough teeth to chew the oatmeal.  There are quite a few versions of this recipe kicking around the internet, here's my version:


1.5 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (plus more for rolling)
1/2 cup sun butter
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoons vanilla extract


Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until completely combined.  If the mixture seems too dry or too wet adjust the oatmeal and nut/sun butter until the mixture sticks together well but isn't too wet.  Chill the mixture for 10 minutes or more so that the mixture is a bit less sticky and easier to work with.

Take about 1/2 a tablespoon of the mixture and roll between your palms until a tight ball is formed.  I shoot for a ball about the size of a large gum ball.  To make them easier to hold and less sticky I roll them in coconut flakes.  I put a bit of coconut in a bowl and roll around the balls until they are thoroughly coated.  I store them in the fridge so that they stay nice and firm.


Bento for Baby 4: Waffle and Hummus Tortilla Rolls

For breakfast in our final bento last week I packed waffle square that I had stashed in the freezer from the leftovers from the lovely Mother's Day breakfast my husband made me, two organic pear slices and some strawberries from our CSA share (Ambrose Family Farm). These waffles were yogurt waffles from Waffles: From Morning to Midnight. This cookbook was a wedding gift, along with our waffle iron, ten years ago and we have used it at least monthly since then.

Lunch was composed of hummus/carrot/tortilla rolls, organic cheddar cheese squares, organic frozen mixed veggies from Trader Joe's in the silicone cup, and more strawberries and pear slices.  I made the tortilla rolls with organic whole wheat tortillas (store brand, Earth Fare), which I spread completely (to every edge!) with a thin layer of my homemade hummus, then I sprinkled it with organic grated carrots (also from our CSA share, so sweet and yummy) on only one half of the tortilla.  I then rolled up the tortilla from the side with the carrot, rolling tightly and pressing the edge of the tortilla to the side of the roll.  I cut off the uneven ends and ate them for a snack and cut the remaining roll into four equal pieces.  Baby girl loves how easy these are to pick up and eat, and I love that she's getting some good protein and veggies.

I packed this in the little tiffin box I got on clearance from World Market a while back.  Lunch was in the top and breakfast was in the bottom.  I love the size of this cute little box, but I'm a little concerned about it's longevity. . .it doesn't seem particularly robust.  

Bento for Baby 3: Pizza Palmiers and Sunbutter Oatmeal Balls

On this day baby girl had two sun butter-oatmeal balls, pear chunks and sliced strawberries for morning snack.  I have loved nut butter-oatmeal balls since I was a little girl.  They were one of my favorite snacks, so I was really excited when baby girl got old enough to eat honey and chew oatmeal so that I could make them for her.  Her school is nut free, so I make them with sun butter, but they are still delicious!

For lunch I packed two "pizza palmiers," a creation of mine that that baby girl LOVES, organic chedder cheese cubes, pear chucks and a few sugar snap peas from our CSA share (Ambrose Family Farm).   I'll post the full recipe for pizza palmiers separately, but basically they are whole wheat pizza dough rolled out thinly, spread with spinach and other veggies, cheese (pretty much whatever you want to throw in there), rolled up, sliced and baked.  I think these are the perfect baby food - they're healthy, they freeze really well, and she loves them.  I can get her to eat any kind of vegetable if they are wrapped in pizza dough.  I give them to her straight out of the freezer when she's teething and the cold chewy dough soothes her gums. Or they are still tasty when I pack them for lunch they slowly thaw until lunchtime.  I've been feeding her these since she started out with baby led weaning.  They were easy for her to gum without any teeth, but she still loves them now that she has teeth.  I predict she'll still be eating them for many, many years.

These meals were packed in the small and medium Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bento for Baby 2: Waffle and Zucchini and Rice Crostata

Tuesday's breakfast and lunch bentos were made up of some yummy leftovers from the weekend. Breakfast was composed of a Belgian waffle quarter from my Mother's Day breakfast, half a banana and some sliced strawberries.  The waffles were yogurt waffles from the Waffles: From Morning to Midnight cookbook.

For lunch I packed some Rice and Zucchini Crostata, frozen peas and pear chunks.  I made the crostata for dinner the previous night. It's a fantastic recipe from another of my favorite cookbooks, Lidia's Italian Table: More Than 200 Recipes From The First Lady Of Italian Cooking.  It's delicious for parents and babies, and a complete meal with veggies, protein and grains.  It's also soft enough to feed younger babies starting out with baby led weaning. The recipe makes enough for several meals.  We took larger slices for lunch and I cut up smaller squares and stuck them in the freezer for baby girl's future lunches.

I packed these meals in the medium and large Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bento for Baby Recipe: Rice and Zucchini Crostata

This is a fantastic recipe from Lidia's Italian Table: More Than 200 Recipes From The First Lady Of Italian Cooking, one of my favorite cookbooks.  I highly recommend getting this cookbook, there are so many great recipes, but the recipe is also posted on Lidia's website.  Since it is easily available on the web, I will post the whole text below.  I have made the recipe exactly as written or with small changes here and there.  It is easily adapted.  I have used any type of milk in place of the cream, substituted whole wheat flour for some of the white, and I rarely take the time to do the wash on the crust, among other changes.  I have been feeding this to my daughter since she was 7 or 8 months.  It is soft enough for babies starting out with baby led weaning to easily eat, and it also has enough structure for babies to easily pick up.  This makes a a very large crostata that tastes fabulous as leftovers for the following few days, or it freezes well.  I cut it into ~2 inch squares and stick it in the freezer to grab for easy lunches for the baby girl.


For the Filling

2 cups arborio rice
4 cups fancy zucchini, shredded
3 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
3 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups scallions , white and green partsonly, chopped
1½ cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
1½ cups half and half
1 egg yolk

For the Crostata Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup water


For the Filling

In a large bowl, toss the rice and zucchini until evenly distributed. Let stand 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper until blended. Combine the egg mixture, ricotta, scallion and Parmigiano-Reggiano in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the rice and zucchini and mix at low speed until blended. (Alternatively, the mixture can be beaten by hand with a wooden spoon.) Add the half and half and mix until amalgamated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 18 x 12-inch baking pan with sides about 1/2-inch high.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 22 x 16-inch rectangle. Flour the surface as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Fold the dough into quarters, center it over the prepared pan and unfold it. The dough should overlap all the sides by about 2 inches.

Pour the rice mixture into the dough-lined pan and smooth it into an even layer. Fold the overhanging dough over the filling to form a two inch border on all sides. Brush the dough lightly with the egg yolk or olive oil. Bake until the filling is firm in the center and the crust is deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool the crostata about 30 minutes, cut into squares and serve warm.

For the Crostata Dough

Process 2 cups of the flour, the oil and salt in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. With the motor running, pour in enough water to make smooth, very soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour if the dough begins to stick to your hands, until the dough is very smooth and no streaks of flour or oil remain, about 1 minute. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest 30 minutes at room temperature or up to one day in the refrigerator. Allow refrigerated dough to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.

Alternatively, pile the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Add the olive oil, 1/3 cup water, and the salt to the well. Mix the dough according to the instructions for making pasta dough by hand.

- See more at:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bento for Baby Recipe: Turkey and Veggie Meatballs

I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart's website that appears to be from Jessica Alba.  I followed the cooking method of her recipe, but crammed it with more veggies and used some applesauce, in addition to egg, to bind them.  These are fantastic for young babies starting out with baby led weaning, the applesauce and cooking method makes them nice and soft, but my 14 month old still loves them, and I find them quite tasty too.  They freeze fantastically.  This recipe makes a ton of meatballs, just freeze them on a sheet tray then pop them in a freezer bag so that they're ready to grab for easy lunches.  


2 pounds lean ground turkey - preferably organic
1 cup breadcrumbs, wholewheat
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup defrosted frozen spinach
1/2 cup finely chopped onion, about one half a large onion
1 large egg
1/2 cup apple sauce
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth


Finely chop onion and carrot, pulse briefly in food processor, if you have one. Defrost frozen spinach, press in sieve or small strainer to get rid of excess water. In a large bowl, mix turkey, bread crumbs, carrots, spinach, onion, egg, apple sauce, Italian seasoning, and salt until well combined; chill for half an hour or more, form into 1-inch balls.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning, until browned, about 7 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup chicken broth; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed, about 7 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup broth and increase heat to medium; cook, uncovered, until liquid is absorbed.

These freeze exceptionally well. Spread them out on a sheet pan and stick in the freezer until they are hard. Pop them off the tray and put them in a ziplock bag. I put them in my daughter's lunch frozen, they defrost in time for lunch.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Picnic Bento

Baby girl and I went on a picnic at the beautiful Waterfront Park in downtown Charleston with some friends this week.  It was kind of last minute, so I made a quick little bento lunch for her of some of her favorite foods.  I packed it in the largest container from the Kids Konserve Nesting Trio Stainless Steel Containers with Leak-Proof Lids.  I just got these containers a couple weeks ago and I really like them so far.  I got the plastic (BPA free) lids because I want her to be able to easily open them herself and for them to transport wet ingredients without leaking.  When she's older I'll probably buy containers with stainless steel lids.   Anyway, back to the bento!  I didn't get a great picture of the bento by itself before RM dug in, but it had half a banana, pear chunks in a silicone cup and Ak-Mak cracker sandwiches with organic natural peanut butter.  I just started buying this peanut butter, which contains only organic roasted peanuts and is dispensed directly from the peanut grinder.  I have no idea why I wasn't buying this previously.  Not only does it not contain the added sugar and palm oil that was in what I used to buy (Earth Fare store brand, organic, chunky), it tastes fantastic!  And it is the same price per pound.  I feel so silly for buying the other stuff all along.  Baby girl LOVES peanut butter, but her lunches for daycare have to be nut-free since a child at her school has the dreaded peanut allergy.  I got these Ak-Mak crackers as a concession to RM's apparent cracker obsession.  Are all babies naturally obsessed with crackers?  I've made a point of not giving them to her, but she's had them here and there at social gatherings.  Apparently once she tasted them, she had found her true love.  I have a box of stoned wheat crackers in the pantry from a party and she toddles over to the shelf, pulls out the box, brings it over to me and looks up at me with her giant brown eyes and shakes it at me, hoping that I will give her one.  It is very hard to resist those big brown eyes.  But crackers aren't really my idea of good baby food.  So I bought the Ak-Mak, which are organic and 100% whole wheat, as a concession.  They seem to be doing the trick.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bento 1: Strawberry Tortilla Roll, Quinoa Cake and Turkey Meatballs

Morning snack and lunch packed in a tiffin from World Market.  I got this cute little box on clearance a couple months ago.  It is a great size, but I'm not sure how well it will hold up.  Breakfast/morning snack is on the top, and lunch is in the bottom.

For breakfast/morning snack Baby Girl had lovely strawberries from our CSA (Ambrose Family Farm) share and cream cheese rolled up in a sprouted grain tortilla, organic champagne mango and organic pear pieces in silicone cup.

We went out last night, so I grabbed a few pre-made things from my freezer stash to make a quick lunch.  Quinoa cake with carrot, spinach and onion, two turkey meatballs with spinach and carrots, peas and edamame in the red silicone cup, pear chunks in the yellow silicone cup.  I have been making the quinoa cakes and meatballs for my daughter since she got the hang of baby led weaning, maybe 8 months or so.  She loves them and they are a great source of protein and veggies.  They are easy to pick up and were easy for her to chew before she had many teeth.