No, the title does not refer to cooking up children for dinner. I’ll try some adventurous food, but I’m no cannibal. I’m talking about how wonderful it is to have children, even infants, helping in the kitchen. You’ve heard of farm to table, but how about tree to highchair? In one of my proudest parenting moments, my 11-month-old helped pick apples from a tree and made them into applesauce.
We like to involve her in cooking, showing her the whole foods and every step of the process. It makes her more excited to eat the food. And we love to show her plants growing, so that she knows tomatoes come from a plant, carrots from the ground, as well as eggs from chickens. It was a wonderful experience to take her to a local orchard last fall for apple picking. Babies at this age love putting things in bowls and bags (and taking them out again.)
When letting babies and toddlers help in the kitchen there are plenty of chores that do not involve heat or sharp knives. Since moving things from one container to another is a fun game at this stage, have little one (from 9 months on) move the apple pieces from the cutting board or a bowl into a (room temperature) pot. The pieces were too large for swallowing, in case she wanted to chew on or taste one. Mine also liked to move scraps and peel into the compost container. After 12-15 months, toddlers love to stir things, too. At 18 months, Little Bird loves to help scramble her eggs. We put a heavy bowl on the kitchen floor, let her watch us crack the eggs and she “stir, stir, stirs”!
Baby Bird’s First Applesauce Recipe
- apples, peeled, cored and cut in chunks
- a few splashes of apple juice or water
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon grains of paradise
- (optional) 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place the apples in a medium sized pot. Add enough juice or water to cover up the apples 1/3 to 1/2 the way up. No sugar is needed, as apples are naturally sweet, but if you prefer the sauce to be sweeter, choose apple juice over water. Add the grains of paradise and salt to taste. Bring the apples up to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and start to fall apart. Mash with a fork or the back of a spoon for a slightly chunky sauce.
Grains of Paradise are a pepper-like spice. They have less bite than black pepper and are absolutely wonderful with apples (as well as on eggs, in guacamole, and almost anywhere you would use pepper.) After trying them, I no longer like cinnamon in my apple pie or applesauce, but feel free to substitute. We keep ours in an extra pepper mill and grind as needed.
Baby Bird enjoyed her first adventure apple picking, apple bagging, sorting, eating and cooking!