Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Freezer Cooking #5 : Toddler/Baby Finger Foods

My "love" of freezer cooking comes from the simplicity of having an abundance of already-prepared food in the freezer that I can pull out at anytime and have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes.   Freezer cooking really helps take the "stress" out of my everyday "whats for dinner"... because there is always something in the freezer we can eat!

Once our baby started eating finger foods, I knew I needed to use the same concept for his food- mass finger food cooking = 30+ meals in the freezer for him.

Of course I wanted to share what I made for him so you can do the same for your little ones!
I will go ahead and mention-- my LO has an allergy to cow's milk- so I use vegan cheese, rice or almond milk, vegan sour cream etc... in my recipes-- you can use regular cow's milk products in the same quantities I have listed.  I also try to buy as much organic for him as possible—but I don’t always—so even if it says organic or doesn’t say at all—you can use your own discretion.

Something I will also mention is that you will definitely need a mini muffin pan (or TWO) to make this freezer cooking easier-- I only had one, and probably could have saved myself a lot of time if I borrowed a neighbors! If you don’t have a mini muffin pan you can improvise with most of the recipes and just roll everything into a ball or patty.  For the muffin recipes you can utilize a regular sized muffin tin and cut them in half.

What's on the menu for your Little One?
  • Healthy Meatballs (24-32)
  • Mini Chicken Parmesan Cups (24)
  • Broccoli Cheese Patties (20)
  • Spinach Cups (20)
  • Mashed Potato Cups (24)
  • Blueberry Donut Muffins (30)
  • Apple Banana Muffins (24)
  • Sweet Potato Fries
Here is my grocery list: (don’t be alarmed! The list looks a bit long but most of the ingredients were already in my cabinet and are probably in yours! Everything in italics was already in my cabinet. Compare this list to your cabinets and cross out the items you won’t need to buy at the store. =) )
 Fresh Produce:
·         Small Sweet Onion (1)  
·         (2) Medium Sweet Potatoes
·         Cloves of Garlic (2)
·         4 Medium Potatoes
·         Large Apple (1)
·         Bananas (2)
·         Blueberries (1 cup)
·         Bag of Spinach
·         1 Ib. Ground Organic Chicken (I bought breasts and ground myself)
·         1 Ib. Ground Organic Beef
·         Breadcrumbs (Italian & Regular)
·         Wheat Bran
·         Whole Wheat Organic Flour
·         Old Fashioned Oats
·         Small Jar Marinara Sauce
·         Basil, Oregano, Garlic Powder, Parsley
·         Cinnamon
·         Vegetable Oil
·         Baking Powder
·         Baking Soda
·         White Sugar
·         Brown Sugar
·         Salt
·         Pepper
·         Vanilla Extract
·         Baby food Purees (2 containers) – I use these since I have them leftover, you can use any other sort of vegetable puree or applesauce for this.
·         Gallon Sized Freezer Bags
·         Quart Sized Freezer Bags
·         Unsalted Butter (2 Tbsp)  (I use vegan soft spread)
·         Egg (9)
·         Milk (1 1/2 c) ( I use almond milk & rice milk)
·         Sour Cream (1 c) (I use vegan)
·         Mozzarella OR Parmesan Cheese (1/2 Cup) (I use Daiya brand vegan)
·         Cheddar Cheese (1 3/4 cup) (I use Daiya brand vegan)
·         Frozen Broccoli Florets (2 cups) thawed

Of course, once you get everything home and you are ready to cook put it on the counter and admire what you are about to do!! =)

I label everything with name and date BEFORE I start:
  • Healthy Meatballs (1 Quart Sized Bag)
  • Mini Chicken Parmesan Cups (1 Quart Sized Bag)
  • Broccoli Cheese Patties (1 Quart Sized Bag)
  • Spinach Cups (1 Quart Sized Bag)
  • Sweet Potato Fries (1 Quart Sized Bag)
  • Mashed Potato Cups (1 Gallon Sized Bag)
  • Blueberry Donut Muffins (1 Gallon Sized Bag)
  • Apple Banana Muffins (1 Gallon Sized Bag)
Now it’s time to get started! 
1) I decided to start with the “meat”:  Preheat Oven to 375
  • Finely Dice Small Onion and set aside (will need about ¼ c).   Mince (2) cloves garlic and set aside.
  • Get (2) Medium Sized Mixing Bowls out- put ground beef in one and ground chicken in the other.
  • Add the following to the ground beef bowl:  ½ cup wheat bran, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, ¼ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp oregano, (2) containers baby food purees.
  • Add the following to the ground chicken bowl:  ½ of the minced garlic (already prepped), ¼ cup diced onion, 1 egg, ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs, ½ cup shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese, ¾ cup marinara sauce, 1 tsp oregano.
  • Mix both mixtures (separately) well.   If needed, add more breadcrumbs so mixture sticks together well.
  • Spray mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Using a medium scoop- distribute chicken mixture evenly among 24 muffin cups.  (mixture will shrink during cooking so fill to top)
  • Spray baking sheet (with sides!) with non stick cooking spray.  Using your hands, roll beef mixture into meatballs (approx 1.5 inch) – should make approx 24-30.  You can keep these fairly close together on the baking sheet, they do not expand.
  • Place chicken bites & meatballs in oven- bake for 15-20 min, or until cooked through and golden brown.
2) Next I did the “vegetables”:
  • Wash & Peel the sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.  Cut the sweet potatoes into skinny “fries”.  Place on greased Large Cookie Sheet and toss in a small amount of olive oil- make sure they are not overlapping much.  Set aside.
  • Cut the regular potatoes into “chunks” and place in microwave in covered microwave safe dish for 8 minutes.
  • By now your meat should be out of the oven cooling- I typically pop everything off the pans and onto cooling racks.
  • Increase oven temp to 450 and place prepared Sweet Potatoes in oven.  Bake 15 minutes, then “flip” fries and bake 10-15 more minutes.
  • Check potatoes in microwave- if soft, remove.  You may need to add 2-3 more minutes cooking time if not soft.  Transfer soft potatoes to mixing bowl- mash a bit with a hand masher or with a wooden spoon.  Add the following to the potato mixture:  ½ cup cheddar cheese, 2 eggs, ½ cup milk (I used rice milk), ½ cup sour cream.  Using hand mixer- blend well.  Grease mini muffin pan, transfer heaping scoops into each muffin cup.  Set Aside
  • Wash Spinach and place in food processor.  (I had to process in 4 batches)  Put finely chopped spinach in mixing bowl and add:  ½ c sour cream, ½ c cheddar cheese, sprinkle of pepper, 2 eggs and the rest of the minced garlic.  Mix well.  Place mixture in greased mini muffin pan.
  • By now the sweet potato fries should be done.  Reduce oven temp to 350 and place mashed potato bites and spinach cups in oven.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden.
  • Now to start the last vegetable item:  Place thawed broccoli in food processor- finely chop and transfer to mixing bowl.  Add: ¾ cup grated cheddar, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 large eggs (I beat these separately and then added), ¼ tsp basil, ¼ tsp oregano, ¼ tsp parsley.  Mix well.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray.  I used a small measuring cup and formed the broccoli mixture into “round patties” and placed on cookie sheet.   Bake 10 minutes, then flip patties over and bake 10 more minutes or until “formed” and slightly golden.
  • Spinach Bites & Mashed Potato Bites should be cooling on a cooling rack.
*At this point your meatballs, chicken parmesan bites and sweet potato fries should be fairly cool.  You will want to “flash freeze” the pieces individually so when you transfer them to the Ziploc bags they won’t freeze together in one big block.  Transfer the pieces to a cutting board or something else that will fit in your freezer.  Make sure they are not touching—put in freezer for approx 1 hour.  If items feel semi- frozen transfer them into respective bags and place immediately in freezer.
3) Lastly, it’s time to bake the breakfast goods
  • I started with (2) mixing bowls.  In the one bowl add the following:  1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour, 1tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt- whisk together, this is your “blueberry bowl”.  In the second bowl whisk together the following:  1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, ½ cup old fashioned oats, 2 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon- this will be your “apple banana bowl”.
  • In a separate bowl mash (2) bananas and grate the apple (peel the apple first).  Add 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, ½ c brown sugar, 1 egg, ½ cup milk (I used almond milk) and mix together well.   Add this mixture to the “apple banana” dry ingredients bowl and mix well.
  • In another separate bowl cream together using a mixer (2) tbsp softened butter and ½ cup white sugar.  Add (1) egg, ½ cup milk and 1tsp vanilla.  Mix well.  Add the blueberry flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine.  Fold in (1) cup blueberries.
  • Grease both mini muffin pans – using a medium scoop, fill each muffin cup with respective blueberry OR apple banana mix.  *I had some extra so I actually also filled a regular sized (6) cup muffin tin with the remainder so I didn’t’ waste.
  • Place in oven and bake approx 15 min or until toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to cooling rack. 
*By this time your spinach cups, mashed potato cups & broccoli bites should be cool- transfer to cutting board and place in freezer to “flash freeze”.
Once muffins are cool- also transfer to cutting boards to “flash freeze”.  Once everything is semi-frozen, transfer to respective Ziploc bags and place in freezer!
When I am ready to “use” the freezer items—I either set them on the counter for about 30 min prior to use and let them thaw OR put them in the microwave on defrost setting for 1min30sec.    Depending on your little ones age- you may want to cut up the items into little finger bites. 

I hope your little one enjoys the food as much as mine does!!