Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mixed messages on healthy eating anyone?

I've been reading a Canadian book on planning mealtimes for toddlers - I won't name it because I wouldn't recommend it - but it struck me again how hard it is to get a straight answer on healthy eating for kids.

I actually thought I was going to really like this book because it went to great lengths up front to explain that all families manage food and mealtimes differently, and that other parents will say things that sound judgemental about what you choose to do, but that you just have to make a call about what path you will take and stick to it.

This seems like important advice to me as you definitely will hear at some point from another parent "I would never feed my child that!" or "We don't let her eat any of that plastic food" or "my child will eat absolutely anything". I myself have been told that "kids love steamed vegies" which made me wonder why Leo wouldn't even touch them. All these statements will undoubtedly make you feel bad about how well you manage feeding your kid.

However, then the book goes on to make some calls that will also make you feel bad about your choices like: you should never, ever feed a toddler raisins or sausages unless they are chopped into tiny pieces as they are choking hazards (bad me), don't let your kids anywhere near a tree nut before the age of five because of the risk to themselves and others (fail) and that you should never use food as a reward or bribe (I've already confessed to that one). Later it says that you will "obviously have ditched watching tv during mealtimes already" and "surely that's what you both would want for your child" which just made me both feel guilty for still doing it myself and hope that no single parent would spend their spare time reading this book.

The good thing about this book is that it was a reminder not to be preachy to other people about what your toddler will and won't eat. There is a quote from a mum in the book that says "some mothers will boast to you about what different foods their kid will eat or how much they can pack away" - I am definitely guilty of proudly telling people that Leo will eat 21 little banana pancakes for breakfast on the weekend and I can see how that could be annoying.

It also reminded me to stick to my guns and ignore unhelpful advice. So if there is anything that I write that annoys you or doesn't at all fit with your experiences - just ignore me, I won''t mind!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't eat me! New vegie tactics

Just thought I'd share a quick tactic that my very creative husband has been using with some success this week -he gives the vegies voices and makes them scream "Don't eat me! Don't eat me!". For some reason this makes Leo desperate to eat them. Admittedly this doesn't work for many mouthfuls of the things Leo doesn't like but one snow pea is better than no snow peas!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sweet, sweet bribery...

High up in the long list of "things I would never do when I was a parent" was bribing a child with food. As has happened with most other items on this list, I have had to cross it off this week!

After a significant period of bath refusal, I finally caved and told Leo he could have an icy-pole (or in his words 'a big one') if he would get in the bath. On the first evening it worked and I rejoiced in my cunning succcess. On the second evening it failed and resulted in an almighty tantrum "I want a big one...I want a big one".

Admittedly the only reason I caved on the bribery issue was that I recently read Joshua Gans' "Parentonomics" in which he has moderate success using what he describes as incentives: jellybeans helped the kids get toilet trained and the promise of dessert helped kids get through their vegies. Clearly Joshua's children are more receptive to the food rewards or the tasks are not so terrifying as Leo finds the bath.

In good news, Mr Williams managed to talk Leo into having a shower tonight with no icypoles involved at all. Phew!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Travelling with toddlers and their tummies - round 2

Earlier this year I posted my top tips for travelling and eating eith little guys after we spent three and a half weeks in the UK and Croatia with Leo who decided he was a fussy eater on the way. Last weekend we went to a gorgeous wedding in New Zealand and it seems I have either:
a) learnt a lot since the last trip
b) become more organised
c) become more relaxed
It was probably a combination of all three but this trip was at least three million times easier than our European vacation.
I think the tips from my last post still hold true but I've got a new one - if there is something healthy that your toddler is crazy about, focus on getting this into them and letting the rest go. To illustrate - Leo is awesome at eating porridge and also avocado on grainy toast so I made sure he had this every morning and considered everything else a bonus for the rest of the day. It's really good for your mental health to look at the situation like this in my experience and they really will survive!
In other news, if you can ever get yourself to Waiheke Island, just across the water from Auckland, I would strongly recommend it. And while I'm on recommendations, we stayed at this amazing child-friendly, two-bedroom cottage called Larkfield and it's what a parent's dreams are made of - bucket of toys, kid-friendly DVDs, port-a-cot, proper kitchen, wipes in the bathroom, walking distance from the shops. My list could go on forever - go there!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hooray for preservatives

I read an article by Alyssa McDonald in the Sunday Life magazines in the Age on the weekend that argues that people shouldn't get hung up on not eating preserved food in its various forms and should really just limit their salt, sugar and fat consumption if they want to be healthy. Unfortunately it hasn't been posted online so I can't link to it.

My first reaction was obviously to want to argue back that surely eating fresh food should be a primary aim in any diet. Then it hit my, we had eaten all sorts of fruit and veg that day but almost none of it had been actually fresh - especially what Leo had.

To summarise what we ate - corn cakes using tinned corn (Leo prefers it) with salsa and sour cream , dried apricots for morning tea, pasta with frozen peas, tuna, pesto and some chopped fresh spinach, watermelon for afternoon tea, good quality frozen fish and vege dumplings with rice and sesame seeds for dinner (Gaz and I had an Asian style pork belly hotpot with eggplant and daikon).

So Leo had had a little bit of spinach and watermelon as his only fresh fruit and veg for the whole day. Everything else had been tinned, dried, frozen or mashed up into a dumpling. However, I still think it looks like a reasonable menu for a toddler which has really made me reevaluate whether preserving methods are really that bad.
Any thoughts??

Friday, October 15, 2010

Surprise success - green rice recipe

I found a recipe the other day for a brown rice and spinach bake that the author swore her two children loved. I thought that there would be no way that I could get Leo to eat this sort of thing so I set out to prove her wrong. I kept pretty close to the recipe but changed a few things to make it a bit more kid/Leo friendly

Initially I thought I was right that this recipe was a reject as Leo immediately asked to get out of his chair when I served it up but once he tried it properly he ate most of the bowl so that will show me. It's a hard sell but definitely worth a try:

Eleanor's Green Rice Recipe
1 cup brown rice
2 cups vegetable stock
1 onion finely diced
1 tspn olive oil
250 gms frozen spinach
4 eggs
1 handful grated cheddar
1 handful grated parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts

Put the brown rice and stock into a saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Meanwhile toast the pine nuts lightly in a saucepan and put aside. Then heat the olive oil in the same pan and lightly fry the onions in the olive oil until translucent.

Put the eggs and spinach in a blender and blitz until thoroughly mixed. Once rice and onions have cooled mix all ingredients and pour into a well greased pan.

Cook in an oven heated to 180 degrees for 40 minutes until set and lightly browned. Serve and persist with your whingy toddler!

Lying to kids only works once :(

One of the first nutrition books that I got out from the library (I think it was this one by the CSIRO) suggested that rather than tell kids that food was "good for you" or just "healthy"you should try and link the food to a specific outcome. If I remember rightly it used the terrible stereotypes that boys will want to hear that food will make them run fast and girls will want to hear that food will make their hair shiny.
I experimented the very next day by telling Leo that if we put sesame seeds in his porridge they will make him strong and it was a huge success. Most days Leo will ask for porridge with magic seeds to make him strong.
However, when I tried it with carrots (carrots will make you run very fast) it didn't work at all. In fact, every time I've tried it with any other food, it's totally failed.
So while I would totally recommend this tactic of hyping up the nutritional benefits of healthy food, I would definitely say save it for the one food that they otherwise won't eat!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reading food labels - fat, sugar, salt yum!

I've never been a great interpreter of food labels but I found this handy guide in a British book called Annabel Karmel's Complete Family Meal Planner which explains what they actually mean by low fat, low sugar and low salt. The recipes in this book were pretty lame (chicken rissoles shaped like teddy bears anyone??) but I think this will stick with me.

So looking at the per 100gm serving
low fat is 2gms or less
low sugar is 2gms or less
low sodium (salt) is .1gms or less

high fat is 20gms or more
high sugar is 10gms or more
high salt is .5gms or more

I thought I'd road test some things that Leo likes to eat to see how they stack up and it's an interesting result:

Sultana Bran Buds (aka cereal with tanis) - per 100gms
1.5 gms fat - tick
25.1 gms sugar - big cross eek
.13gms sodium -little tick

Cruskits - per 100gms
12.6gms fat - little cross
3.3gms sugar - little cross
.7gms sodium - cross

Mother Earth Baked Fruit Sticks - per 100gms
2.6gms fat - little tick
33.6gms sugar - big cross
.2gms sodium - little tick

Ok, I've got to hunt down some better snack foods...damn!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wednesdays Weekly Winner - Chicken stirfry with noodles!

I'm not sure if anyone else gets this but sometimes when I'm cooking dinner, I have the sinking feeling that Leo is going to reject it without trying it and we'll have to resort to Plan B - a toasted sandwich for supper so he doesn't go to bed hungry. This doesn't happen often but when it does I feel unjustifiably crushed.

I got this feeling last night when I was wokking up a storm but lo and behold chicken stirfry was a success! Even the carrot was eaten. I really must start getting some photos of this but here is the ridiculously easy recipe. Warning - this recipe uses some very lazy cooking shortcuts:

Eleanor's easiest chicken stirfry
- One packet of free range chicken breast cut for stir-fry
- One packet hokkien noodles
- One packet "stirfry or salad" vegies from Coles (finely shredded carrot, broccoli stalks, red and white cabbage and spring onion)
- Crushed garlic clove and grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons shao shing wine or sherry
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Sesame seeds, fried shallots and sweet chilli sauce to serve

Prepare hokkien noodles as per packet instructions
Stir-fry chicken in the vegetable oil in batches until all cooked and remove to a bowl
Stir-fry vegetables with garlic and ginger until softened, then add wine, soy and honey
Add the chicken and noodles to the wok and mix until all ingredients are hot and mixed through
Serve with sesame seeds and fried shallots (and sweet chilli for grown ups or adventurous adults)

To be honest I had to do a lot of the feeding for Leo which is a bit insane for a two and a half year old but considering he ate it all and most of the noodles got into his mouth - it was worth it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesdays weekly winner

I thought it might be good to start reflecting once a week on what the nutritional successes were in toddler feeding and this week seems like a good one to start! I have many ups and downs each week with my cooking and rather than beat myself up for the failures I thought I’d outline the winners in the hope that they might provide inspiration for others (let’s not mention the CSIRO’s epic fail recipe – cheesy vegetable muffins).

This week we had two big winners in pumpkin lasagne and dried apricots – hurray! The apricots were a success because he was sitting in a Wiggles Big Red Car when they were offered but the pumpkin lasagne was eaten on its own merits.

I’ve learnt to make pumpkin lasagne in record time as long as I remember to roast some pumpkin earlier in the week – here’s the recipe.

Eleanor’s pumpkin lasagne
- Half a butternut pumpkin cubed and roasted
- Two handfuls of chopped baby spinach (optional)
- Fresh lasagne sheets
- Low salt tomato based pasta sauce
- B├ęchamel/white sauce or ricotta mixed with one egg and parmesan.

Preheat over to 180 degrees.

In an over-proof dish, layer the pasta sauce, spinach, pumpkin and lasagne sheets, starting with the tomato sauce. Top with b├ęchamel or ricotta mix.

Bake for around 30mins or until top of lasagne is golden brown.

I’ll be more organised and put some photos up next time!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New vegie tactics - the countdown

A colleague at work told me about a great trick that they use on her 3-year-old niece to get her to eat the rest of her vegies - they get her to guess how many mouthfuls are left and then count them down to see if she was right.

I'm not totally sure about this one as I do subscribe to the fact that you should let little ones choose how much they eat but I also know that if we went with this approach all the time Leo would pretty much never eat anything green.

We sometimes hide bits of meat under mashed sweet potato so that there is some incidental mash eating during dinner and that has been reasonably successful for us - anyone got any new tactics to share??

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Getting their hands dirty!

I found another great book in the library called Small Fry which has great ideas for getting kids involved in cooking. Best of all it has ideas for little ones aged two to five rather than just bigger kids that can be trusted with a knife! The recipes aren't as interesting or nutritious as some other books but the ideas for kids activities are great (there are recipes for playdough and finger paint too).

At the moment Leo helps with mixing eggs to be scrambled or making corncake batter but if I'm making anything harder than that, I just give him a bowl with dry pasta to stir and pour into a saucepan that is well away from any source of heat.

Small Fry has a recipe for sweet potato and rocket frittata which wouldn't pass muster with Leo but he did used to enjoy the following recipe:

Eleanor's Green Frittata

- 3 or 4 eggs depending on size of saucepan
- handful of broccoli florets
- handful of frozen peas
- handful of finely chopped baby spinach
- handful of cheddar cheese
- teaspoon of butter/margerine

Boil brocolli for about 5 minutes and then add the frozen peas. When the water comes back to the boil, drain vegetables and run under cold water. Mix cooked vegetables with eggs and spinach in a bowl.
Heat butter or margerine in a saucepan over medium heat and pour egg mix into the pan. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

When the frittata is set on the bottom, pop it under a preheated grill until the top is set and the cheese is golden brown.

Get the kids to help with the washing up!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The holy grail - which nutrients toddlers need

After significant research, I think I've found the answers I was looking for on what nutrients toddlers (and grown ups) need. As it turns out, there were no real surprises and here is the list according to Antonia Kidman and her nutritionist lady friend (and verified by the CSIRO):
- Carbohydrates
- Protein
- Good fats (essential fatty acids)
- Vitamins A, B, C, D and E
- Iron
- Calcium
- Zinc
- Magnesium

That's it! I don't know what else I imagined there would be but I think I thought there would be something I hadn't heard of.

Even more useful Antonia and her buddy have listed lots of foods that contain each of these things. It was very exciting to realise that Leo eats something out of each group and amazingly you could actually cover all groups by eating the following foods:

- Oats
- Milk
- Tomatoes
- Vegetable oil
- Sesame seeds
- Potatoes
- Egg
- Peas

Obviously it is heaps better to eat the full range of fruits and vegies but I found making this list super reassuring as these are all things that it is totally easy to get Leo to eat. Hurrah! He's not going to get scurvy or gout or osteoporosis!

Unfortunately all my new found nutritional self-confidence was brought back down to earth when I read that the CSIRO suggests that kids should eat a vegetable from each of the five color groups (green, yellow, white, orange and red) every day. Hmmmm, this is going to take a bit more work...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Butter beans are yummy, wait I meant yucky

I ran into a fellow Leo-mother the other day (there seem to be more little Leo’s in Brunswick than anywhere else) and she was telling me how her Leo had been in love with butter beans – she could serve them in any dish and he thought they were fantastic and particularly good for stabbing with a fork. However, in a matter of days he had turned from loving butter beans to hating butter beans – aaargh!

I’ve had the exactly same experience with risotto which once used to be the magical food in which all vegies could be hidden. However at some point this has turned around and now all risotto will be ignored. Admittedly, our Leo did have a run in with a very hot risotto one time which may explain our situation.

So I am left wondering – can a food come back into favour?

Having read a couple of books about feeding kids lately, I know the official answer would be that little ones should be offered foods repeatedly so they can become familiar with them. I haven’t actually seen this method work with Leo recently although he did try some carrot yesterday before spitting it back out.

I’d be very interested to know whether anyone has a success story!

Monday, September 6, 2010

CSIRO research – parental pestering pays (aka the carrot challenge)

I’m still working my way through the very informative but very long-winded CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids. As I dragged myself through it, I stumbled across a very interesting fact – research from the UK has shown when child were offered a food every day for two weeks, 'liking' improved in 62% of children.

Admittedly I’m a bit dubious about this stat after further consideration. My first instinct was – “great, I’ll just give Leo cauliflower every day for two weeks and then he will like it”. After further thought, I figured that if I offer Leo cauliflower every day for two weeks then he might like it a little bit more than he did before. After further thought still I realised that there is a 40% chance that this experiment will lead to no change at all.

Nonetheless, I have embarked on a two week carrot challenge. Gaz and I are going to offer Leo carrots every day for two weeks and see if he likes them a little bit more in the end.

This experiment is now in it’s third day and Leo now says “Mummy and Daddy like crunchy carrots” but he has not yet put one in his mouth. That said, I have had great success hiding carrots in muffins, soups, Bolognese sauce etc etc. If all else fails, I can still play carrot ninja.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Travelling with Toddlers and their Tummies

I think pretty much the only time I am asked for definitive parenting advice at work is when one of my colleagues is about to fly somewhere with their little one. Leo is a pretty well travelled toddler having flown twice to the UK (once with a side trip to Croatia) as well as a couple of little domestic flights in Oz. I’m certainly not claiming any expertise from these trips as ultimately each kid and flight is going to have its own hazards but I definitely have tactics.

Mostly our flights have gone smoothly but air travel is not a situation you can control. I will spare everyone the graphic details of Leo’s upset tummy on the first leg of our last flight to London. Let’s just say I will be eternally grateful for the laundry services at the Incheon Hyatt Regency in Korea for ensuring that Leo and I had fresh and dry clothes for the next 11-hour leg of the flight.

So back to the tactics, the main one that I’ve got was passed on by an older and wiser parent who said make sure you have one new toy for every hour of the flight. I think that’s a bit of a stretch on a 22 hour flight but it works if you subtract the hours that the toddler may be sleeping. I would certainly suggest that a trip to the $2 shop before your trip is time well spent.

Second, a friend of mine who reluctantly bought her three year old a DVD player convinced me that this was a sensible idea. I initially baulked at the thought (isn’t there some rule about watching tv and toddlers??) but now am a big fan of this purchase. When we were travelling the Wiggles Movie allowed us many a long and relaxed dinner out with friends and family. You may have to endure some scornful looks from other diners but it is worth it for the sake of actually getting to eat dessert!

Most importantly when going on big trips – bring lots and lots snacks!! I’m not sure if this is a common experience but Leo regressed to only eating food that was 100% familiar to him while we were overseas so my boxes of sultanas, bags of dried apple and muesli bars were essential eating…until they ran out. Unfortunately everything in Croatian shops seemed weird to him – the fruit tasted funny, the bread was weird, the cereal wasn’t the same. In good news, I learnt that toddlers can totally survive on bread, biscuits, sultanas, pasta, pesto and milk for a week.

Next time I’m asked about travelling with kids, I think my main tip will be to chill out because I couldn’t help but freak out when Leo turned fussy. Looking back, it was much more important that we enjoyed the good times than worry about whether Leo had eaten his greens for the week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Antonia feeds vegies to toddlers!

So I know I probably should have worked out the joy of libraries many years ago but I have only recently discovered the joy of borrowing cookbooks. What a boon! Considering I’m only ever taken with a cookbook for approximately 3 weeks, this seems to be an ideal, not to mention affordable, arrangement.

So my first selection has been “Feeding Fussy Kids” by Antonia Kidman and a lovely nutritionist (two thumbs up) and the CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids (lots of general info but not so handy for recipes).

I think I am pretty innovative when it comes to hiding vegies but Antonia takes it to another level.* The best thing about this book is that it is genuinely aimed at toddlers. I’ve seen a lot of other cookbooks for littlies which are really about school age kids who might even consider eating a salad if pushed.

The best thing in Antonia’s book is the “vegie laden pasta sauce” – what a Nigella-style title! I’ve thrown a slightly adjusted recipe below – as well as being great on pasta with cheese it’s really good as a pizza topping, as a base for Bolognese sauce and I’ve even used it in a shepherd’s pie with great success.

There were also a lot of clever looking smoothies, many of which include some silken tofu. I haven’t tried any of these yet so I will reserve my judgement.

Eleanor’s vegie pasta sauce
- One tablespoon olive oil
- One small onion finely chopped
- Two cloves of garlic
- One teaspoon of dried rosemary
- One teaspoon of dried oregano
- One cup grated or finely diced pumpkin
- 700ml salt reduced pasta sauce
- 2 cups V8 juice
- Half a cup of red lentils
- Half a cup of water

Fry onion garlic and herbs in olive oil over low-medium heat until softened. Add the pumpkin and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add all other ingredients and increase the heat to high. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins.

If your little one is brave with green stuff, stir through a cup of chopped baby spinach at the end.

* Please note that I’m more than aware that Antonia probably didn’t actually contribute to the writing of this book but I like to imagine of her lying back on a white couch in her designer gear wondering how best to get nutrients to my child.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fellow Blogger Mums!

I read this great article on the weekend Age magazine, Life, on why so many mums (and particularly new mums) are blogging. Thought it was a great one to share for any one who stumbles across Crouching Child or other parenting blogs.

It does have a bit of a strange argument that parenting blogs fall into two categories: aspirational and reality driven - think iced cupcakes, aprons and kids eating freshly chopped fruit versus sobbing mess in the kitchen with the toddler watching Teletubbies. I think there is maybe more of a spectrum rather than two options on this one.

Despite this, I think it is fantastic that some of the great mother blogs of Melbourne are getting a run in the mainstream media. More importantly, anything that highlights opportunities to share information between new parents can only be a good thing!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great new website - Hey Bambini

One of the main reasons I was keen to start a blog is that I feel there is not enough info available on where you can take your kids out to eat. Problem solved!

A playgroup contact recently sent me the link to Hey Bambini -

Hey Bambini reviews cafes and restaurants across Melbourne, ratine them from one baby face to five baby faces based on atmosphere, changing facilities and things for kids to do. How convenient! I think it would be handy to add 'quality of babycinos' as that is Leo's main concern when selecting a cafe.

Speaking of which, El Mirage (349 Lygon St, East Brunswick) serves theirs with hundreds and thousands - fabulous!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crouching child, hidden dairy?

If I had to list my three most basic nutrition questions for toddlers it would be:

1. How many vegies do they need (see previous post)?

2. What nutrients are most important for toddler development (still researching)?

3. How much milk/dairy do toddlers really need?

I guess there is the whole breastmilk vs formula debate always going on but in the interests of tackling this the easy way, let's assume the toddler is on standard cows milk somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

I think after some serious hunting the answer always seems to be around 600mls (English sites seem to delight in noting that this is approximately one pint).

This used to be super easy when Leo was having bottles as he loved to chug down a couple of hundred mls whenever he got the chance but now that I phased them out it seems to be a bit tougher. He'll maybe drink 100ml from a cup but the whole experience doesn't seem to grab him - even when I purchased a plastic Buzz Lightyear/Woody cup.

My main tactics are Leo tea (warm milo), milk on cereal or porridge, and heavy doses of bechamal sauce a couple of times a week. The odd babycino seems to work as well.

Anyone else got ideas??

Hidden vegies, how many does your crouching child need?

With most of the nutrition advice that I've found being pretty general, I often get to wondering how many vegies little kids actually need in a day. The advice for adults is pretty clear - five a day full stop. No blurry lines. Eat five vegies or something very bad will happen to you. For school age kids there are some specific guidelines too but for toddlers...nothing.

I've got a few child nutrition books and I've looked at a lot of online resources and I think the general answer is "some". I found one source that said you should go with one cup of vegies a day. Another says serve at least one vegie at each meal (I don't know where I'm going to put them between porridge and some slices of pear - maybe some steamed sprouts for entree??). Most articles/books/blogs seem to say as long as toddlers get some vegies in their diet at some time each day, you're doing ok. The key thing is that little ones get a range of vitamins and minerals and plenty of fibre rich foods.

I should note that I swore that I would never be one of those people who hides vegies for their kids (also noting that I had never in my life tried preparing a meal for a toddler before). I thought that I would go with the Maternal and Child Health Nurse's advice that Leo should eat whatever we ate. As it turns out he does not like Thai red curries (too spicy), lamb and chickpea salad (too chunky) or pumpkin tagine with cous cous (who knows what the problem is here??).
So I have joined the league of vegie hiders and have learnt a few tricks from a cohort of other toddler feeding parents. One told me that white sauce is the key - this led me to developing macaroni cheese with peas, broccoli and spinach. Consequently I have decided that pasta is the key, you can sneak anything into a sauce a la Bolognese with carrot, zucchini and spinach.

Leo also had a period that he preferred his food in pancake form which is when I developed my corn cake recipe (see below). If you are a grown up, I would strongly recommend serving these with bacon, relish and sour cream to cancel out the health benefits ;)

Eleanor's super quick corn cakes

1 small tin of creamed corn
1 cup of wholemeal self raising flour
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
chopped spring onion and coriander optional

Mix all ingredients in a bowl to a pancake batter consistency (you may need to adjust the amount of milk to get it thin enough.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.

Melt some butter in the pan - it should bubble lightly.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and wait for small bubbles to appear on the surface (approx 1-2 minutes).

Flip corncakes and cook briefly on the other side.

Toddlers will happily eat these as they are and you can also pack up leftovers for a snack later. They are good for a day or so in the fridge.

Enjoy! If your toddler is also going through a pancake phase, I would recommend risotto balls as another excellent option.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kids in the pub - playing fair

In December, I came across an article in the Age that basically argued that people who take their kids to the pub are ruining it for everybody -

This was pretty confronting for me, as Gaz and I like to take Leo to local bars and beer gardens to meet up with friends and generally think it works pretty well. Let me say up front that I still think you can definitely take young people out without upsetting anyone. However, I did take Jill Stark's point on a couple of things and I guess it led me to the conclusion that there are three key tips when taking little ones out and about in adult places so that you are being fair to everyone involved:

1. Go at a kid friendly time - I reckon Sunday afternoons and early weekday evenings are totally in but probably leave Friday and Saturday nights for the growns ups. It seems to me that you probably don't want to take small kids out around bedtime anyway as you are asking for trouble (for yourself and everyone around you). It's always best to have an exit strategy if things turn pear-shaped as well - Gaz and I tend to whisper "abort mission" across the table if it looks like Leo is about to blow.

2. Go to kid friendly places - beers gardens and massive noisy rooms are ideal as you really can't expect a kid to sit nicely on a bar stool. It's a good sign if you can see a couple of other people bringing their kids too. Anywhere where people seem to be enjoying a nice glass of red to a soothing background of Nina Simone is probably not the best place to try. I think it's fairest for everyone if you choose places where there is reasonable scope for running around and making a bit of noise (for adults and children).

3. Bring stuff - toddlers generally can't sit still for too long without attention and entertainment so you pretty much have to bring some books and toys for it to work. I can make some exceptions to this rule, as I know a couple of little girls who will happily sit in their pram and sip on a drink for an hour or so - what angels! Leo, however, will never do this and it always seems to go best when we bring a ball or some Thomas the Tank Engine books to keep him going.

Reading back, this all seems pretty preachy but while I took offence to being told that kids shouldn't be where grown-ups like to go out, with some thought I agree that sometimes I would also like to have a fancy cocktail in a quiet bar with no reminders of Yo Gabba Gabba.

I really believe that there are plenty of opportunties for parents to still be part of normal society and for us to be able to catch up with friends without spoiling anyone's day.
If anyone is looking for kid/toddler friendly bars in Brunswick - you are in luck! Here are my top 5 places to take your little one on a Sunday afternoon:
1. The Retreat Hotel, 280 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
2. The Brunswick Green, 313 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
3. The Sporting Club Hotel, 27 Weston St, Brunswick -
4. Penny Black, 420 Sydney Rd, Brunswick -
5. The Comfortable Chair, 98 Lygon St, Brunswick East -
I hope to see you there soon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Welcome to crouching child!

Thanks for coming to check out Crouching Child Hidden Vegies. In summary it is a going to be a blog about all my research into children's nutrition that would otherwise go only into my head.

I am Eleanor, mother of one toddler, Leo, and I have been struck by the lack of really useful information about what a person needs in terms of nutrients to really grow and develop into a healthy, clever, active grown up. I am also a passionate cook and have some ideas to share about some of the things that have worked for me in making sure Leo gets a reasonable spread of different types of food. If he had his way, I reckon he would live on sultanas, cruskits and milk!

Gaz, Leo and I also love to go out and I'm keen to share my experiences of what does and doesn't work when heading out with babies and toddlers.

Despite my general view that there isn't enough advice about healthy eating for toddlers, I would like to recommend the following trusted sources if you are after something more definitive than my thoughts:

Look out for future posts on the best restaurants and cafes in Melbourne for babies and toddlers, my research into how much milk and how many vegies toddlers need every day, and my links to the best recipe sites when cooking for little ones.