...from baby food to toddler food to family food!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


When my youngest cousin E was a baby, one of her first words was "meat!"  (She also really liked "chevre," a soft goat cheese; yes, she was an adventurous eater!)  Although I don't want to encourage William to be too much a carnivore (plant proteins are a much healthier and eco-friendly option), I do want him to be exposed to a variety of different, delicious foods.

My husband and I have been trying to make the move to local, grass-fed beef. Certain high-end cuts of this can be more expensive than store-brand "natural" meats, but I've found that lower end cuts like chuck (stew beef) and ground beef are quite affordable! So, in the past two weeks I made a beef stew and homemade meatballs, both of which I adapted so that William could try some! Here are the recipes with *baby-friendly adaptations:

Slow Cooked Beef Stew
about 1 lb. stew beef
1/2 a medium onion
2 bay leaves
5 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
about 1 cup butternut squash chunks (peeled)
1 cup frozen peas
hot water to cover ingredients
sea salt, black pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp flour

I used my Crock Pot for this, but you could just as easily use a large, heavy-bottomed  pot over low heat.
Place the stew beef, onions, and bay leaves in the pot and cover with hot water.  Add just a little bit of salt, pepper and garlic powder for initial seasoning.  Set the crock pot to high for 4-6 hours. An hour before serving, add the potatoes and carrots.  30 minutes before serving add the squash and peas.
When done cooking, strain the stew ingredients through a colander, collecting the liquid in a bowl. 
*at this point, I set aside a few cubes of cooked beef and veggies for William.  I stored them in a container with a bit of the original cooking liquid.  When serving, I warmed a bit of each, cut up the veggies, and shredded the beef with my fingers.In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then slowly add the flour while whisking (making a roux that acts as a thickening agent). Continue to cook and whisk constantly for two minutes, then while still whisking slowly pour in about 2 cups worth of the cooking liquid. Raise heat a bit and continue to whisk until liquid thickens into a gravy.  Turn of the heat, and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. I also added some savory and thyme, but you can choose to add any herbs you like.

For adults, serve in bowls with some gravy over the top.  Some bread and butter on the side makes this a seriously comforting meal!

This simple recipe is adapted from my current favorite cookbook, The Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World.
1 C cubed bread (crusts cut off)
Cooking Meatballs for Baby
1/4 C milk
1 lb. ground beef
1 C chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil)
1 C freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten
pinch red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 C all-purpose flour on a plate
1 29 oz can tomatoes (I used diced)

*For baby:  In a small bowl, set aside a small chunk of beef, a pinch of the cheese, garlic and herbs.  Add a splash of 1/2 & 1/2, milk or formula. Mix and form into tiny meatballs, and cook well on all sides in a hot, oiled pan.  Set on paper towels to cool and drain excess oil.

In a large bowl, mix the bread with milk until it is absorbed. Add the beef, herbs, cheese, garlic, egg, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until everything is evenly distributed, then form into 1 1/2 inch balls.
Heat a big skillet over medium heat with olive oil in it (I used more than called for, enough to cover the bottom of the pan).  Lightly roll the balls in flour and place in the pan.  Brown on all sides, turning gently with tongs about every 3 minutes.
If you use whole canned tomatoes, first put them in a bowl and squish them up with your hands.  (The texture of raw tomatoes grosses me out a bit, which is why I chose to use already diced tomatoes!).  Pour tomatoes over the meatballs in the pan and simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meatballs & Sauce for Mama & Dada!


  1. This recipe is so easy! I want to try and make it but my daughter is allergic to eggs :(. I'm wondering if i could leave the egg part out?


  2. Good question, Ang! You could leave it out, but your meatballs would probably fall apart. In this recipe, the egg acts mostly as a binder, to hold all the ingredients together. When choosing an egg substitute, you need to decide on its function: binding or leavening (as in baked goods). For this recipe I'd recommend you substitute 1/4 cup of silken tofu (pureed with 1 Tbsp. flour until smooth) for 1 egg, or look for more ideas here: http://www.vegcooking.com/vegcooking-eggreplace.asp

  3. And please let me know how they turn out....:)