Feeding toddlers is always an adventure and during the holidays it’s magnified by family gatherings, loads of sweets and piles of presents. This time of year I am always looking for meal ideas that might persuade them to sit down and eat a somewhat healthy dinner or something I can make and bring with to family gatherings that might not have toddler-friendly foods. I don’t know about you, but my toddlers won’t eat au gratin anything. The menu I’m sharing today features The Grinch’s (Spinach) Mini Pizza Muffins and Roasted Butternut Squash Trees. We love a good themed menu at our house and this is a great way to get my boys to eat spinach!
When looking for meal ideas I try to abide by four simple rules:
- Keep it simple.
- Let them help.
- Make it mobile.
- Pick one slam dunk.
Keeping it simple is a requirement if I want my boys to try something. The more complicated it looks the less likely they are to try it. For me this means usually a 3 “main” ingredient max. In the Spinach Mini Pizza Muffins the main ingredients were Spinach, Cheese and Pizza Crust. Cheese is a main ingredient in most of the boys’ meals because they love it and it’s full of protein. The boys love to have a marinara sauce for dipping too!
Letting them help can sometimes lead to a bit more prep work and a lot more clean-up but it makes for tons of fun. As an added bonus, the boys are always more willing to try something they helped create. For this meal, my 3-year-old helped “paint” the butternut squash with olive oil and sprinkle cheese on the Grinch’s pizza. Typically, my one year old could help with sprinkling but he was feeling under the weather so he was a spectator this time– eating cheese of course.
Making it mobile helps me ensure that the meal actually gets eaten. My boys are quick to determine they are “full” at the dinner table but usually an hour later they are hungry again. Rather than reach for snacks I like to try dinner again. If dinner is something that travels well I can pack it if we need to run an errand or he can eat it while he works on Legos in the playroom. OR they can be brought with to that aunt and uncle’s house who serve pate and seafood for Christmas!
Picking one slam dunk is something I learned from a friend of mine who told me that dinner was always more successful at her house if she started with a win. I try to pick one item to put on their plates that I know they love but that is also healthy. In this case that was a pile of raspberries. The favorite thing is usually the first to be consumed but by the time they are done eating that they may have settled in to dinner enough that they start eating the others without even thinking about it.
I hope a couple of these are helpful to you as you tackle the tall task that is toddler parenting at dinner time. Happy, Happy Holidays!
- 1 Pizza Crust – I buy the refrigerated pizza dough to cut back on time but you could make your own
- 1 6 oz Container of Fresh Spinach
- 1 Small Yellow Onion (Sliced)
- 1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
- 1 ½ Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- ½ Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
- Marinara Sauce for Dipping
- Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
- Sauté Onions and Garlic until Translucent
- Add Spinach to Onions and Garlic, Cook 3-5 minutes or until wilted
- Pour Spinach, Onions and Garlic into Blender, Pulse until Smooth
- Roll out Pizza Dough
- Grease Mini Muffin Tin
- Spread Spinach Mixture on Pizza Dough, leaving one inch on all sides
- Sprinkle Mozzarella and then Parmesan Cheese on Spinach Mixture
- Roll Tightly, cut into half inch pinwheels
- Place each pinwheel in Muffin Tin
- Bake 16-18 minutes or until the tops and edges start to look golden brown
- Butternut Squash
- Salt, Pepper
- Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
- Peel the Butternut Squash
- Slice the Squash into ½ inch Slices above the Seeds.
- Use a Cookie Cutter to create Trees
- Cube the remaining Butternut Squash, discarding the seeds
- Brush all pieces with Olive Oil, Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper
- Cook for 18-20 minutes or until soft in the center
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