Babies are born with little or no knowledge about what is good or bad for them---whether it be food, activity or toy choices. I have two daughters and as babies they were lots of fun at the same time, hard work to raise. My first born N was born a normal 7 lbs but she was such a poor eater consuming little to no milk or any baby food for that matter.She was a tiny toddler with selective eating habits. I had a challenging task ahead of me to find foods that she would be drawn to eat. A child has a need to be shown from infancy to teenage years on how to eat well and also to redirect their actions and behavior towards safe activities, positive energy and healthy foods. Her energy level was extremely high, so pediatricains insisted that she was perfectly healthy. But being the concerned mother, I refused to take their word for it and kept wanting my child to eat all the healthy foods possible.
Secretly, I experimented on her food tastes and discovered that I should eliminate milk and yogurt from her diet since she did not take a liking to either one and replace her dairy intake with something else. I placed her in a baby seat at the dining table while we ate our meals and had a small plate for her too. She learned to ask for food by pointing to my plate or R's. Then I placed little portions of it on her plate and watched her either love it or spit it out. She loved wheat, desserts, lentils, bread and chose to eat Ragi flour custard to her hearts content. While experimenting with foods both N and I learnt that she loved steamed fish, custards, milk shakes and chicken.
My younger daughter V on the other hand loved all kinds of vegetarian meals, but avoided eating anything sweet. It was an extremely healthy way of eating and she ate well but not for very long. Baby V was a rice and yogurt eater so fresh vegetables and fish were her favorites. But, by then N was learning to eat some vegetables and learning from seeing her little sister toss those vegetables in her mouth. But there were clashes when rice for one had to be replaced with roti for the other and so on with my experiments. Once Moms and babies discover what the baby loves to eat then there is no intervention on the part of the parent quite as often and it gets easier to come up with wholesome diets for kids.
Toddlers are a handful to deal with and mine were no better than the normal terrible twos. N was so active --it didn't take her more than a minute or two to get into a bad fix. I was always vigilant to keep her out of trouble, but sometimes she beat me to it. She was known for getting into too many appliances and/or turning them on. On one occasion N got her head stuck in between the staircase rails and screamed until I eased her head out of the slot. As she was a tiny toddler, she could easily squeeze herself into a mess and then scream in fright!!
On the other hand, V being a bit chubby believed in the game of hide and seek and was excited to hide in a paper basket or clothes hamper sometimes getting entangled in bed sheets and towels. I would look for hours until I found and dis-entangled her out of the mess. She was not afraid of anything as a toddler and if I did not watch her like a hawk, she would walkaway with strangers at the mall. I never believed in smacking their little hands or scaring them instead my idea was to redirect their attention to something safer or more positive. I always talked to them like they were adults and listened for hours to jibberish even if it didn't make any sense to me!! Babies are good at identifying objects ifyou were to ask them "What is that?" and slowly tell them what it is. A nice little game would be to quiz them later on to test their memory. Babies are smart and they will repeat what you say so be careful what you say around them!
My girls found it very soothing when I read to them at bedtime. It helped them learn language--- simple words are picked up very young expanding their vocabulary as they grow, and books that have large letters and lots and lots of colorful pictures will grab their attention and bring a sparkle in their little eyes.
Oops! I got carried away with my 'baby' stories.... I can go on forever:)
Anyway, my point is.. it's awkward for me to cook for kids now -- I don't even know what kids these days love to eat. I can imagine Spaghetti and Meatballs--the basic Italian meal has to be one of the most fun dishes for most children even after all these years. If you were to place a large mound of spaghetti in front of a child, he/she would twirl the strands onto a fork around thick tomato sauce, sucking in the long pasta strings that didn't quite make it into their little mouths the first time-----what's not to love about that picture?
I remember both my girls agreed on their love for meatballs and spaghetti !! This recipe is an adaptation from an old time classic book by America's Test Kitchen from the Editors of Cook's Illustrated. N's friend U shared the book with me and I picked out my girls' all-time favorite. Only, this time the meat balls are infused with buttermilk soaked bread cubes, ricotta and paremesan cheeses making them so very soft that every bite melts in your mouth.
My meatballs were plain ground beef without the pork or veal as I usually do, only because I was too lazy to pick up ground pork from the store:) Just look at those gorgeous meatballs and tell me if they aren't luscious? they were so incredibly delicious that no one seemed to notice that any of the veal or pork was missing..
2 slices whole wheat bread torn into bits
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 lb ground beef
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup grated Mozarella Cheese or Ricotta
2 Tblspn fresh parsley minced
1 large egg
6 cloves garlic
1/2 tspn garlic paste
Shallots chopped -1
Grape jelly- 2 Tblpsn
3/4 tspn pepper and salt to taste
2 bottles store brought good quality Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti - 1 lb any brand I prefer Barilla mutli grain
1.Combine the bread and buttermilk in a small bowl and let soak for about 10 mins. Mash with fork,
2. Place the ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg, garlic paste, enough salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.
3. Add the bread mixture to it and combine very gently together shaping into 1 inch diameter balls.
or wrap the tray with Saran wrap and freeze for a few days and use later on in the week.
4. Place the balls on a cookie sheet with a little space in between.
5. Broil the meatballs until they are lightly browned.
5. Boil a pot of water and cook spaghetti as per the directions on the box. Drain
6. In a crockpot, heat Olive oil and add a pinch of crushed red pepper(if desired) and then the lightly crushed garlic cloves.
7. When the garlic aroma is given out, add the shallots and saute for one minute.
8. Add both bottles of storebought Sauce into the crockpot along with grape jelly pepper and salt to taste.
9. Cook on low fire for 5 mins, gently add the meat balls and cook for another 10 mins with the lid on but on very low fire.
10. When the sauce thickens remove from fire and serve over spaghetti noodles topped with extra Parmesan Cheese.