Making ragi palatable for a toddler isn’t as hard as it sounds, and the only option for overripe bananas isn’t baking banana bread. There are lots of creative and easy ways to use these kitchen staples to create meals for a fussy child. In the interest of public disclosure, I’ll have you know that my pantry is also chock-full of chips, chocolates and more varieties of noodles than I can count. However, if life is about finding a balance, I hope I have achieved it with this handy collection of virtuous pantry essentials—and recipes—that I can always rely on to feed Jr (and us) with simple snacks that are as nutritious as they are delicious.
Sprouted ragi flour
If you thought the finger millet ragi, was just for making rotis, think again. As a nutrient-rich and naturally gluten-free powerhouse of iron and calcium, ragi has historically been the first weaning food given to babies in South India. In its simplest form, ragi can be cooked with water and a pinch of ghee on medium low heat until it thickens into a smooth porridge. You can sweeten it with bananas and/or add chopped dates and jaggery for older toddlers. Ragi flour can also be added to muffins and used as the base for making a healthier version of a pizza. Just be conscious of sourcing organic sprouted ragi flour which has an amplified nutritional content right from magnified levels of iron, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and B12 (as compared to unsprouted ragi), through to reduced fat and starch content.
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Overripe bananas work wonders for more than just banana bread. The next time you see spotty bananas lying around your kitchen, mash and stir them with rolled oats and your favourite nut butter to whip up three-ingredient cookies or toss them into your go-to muffin batter. By adding a natural sweetness, the addition of bananas in baked goods cuts down the added sugar required, whilst imparting a subtle (but never overwhelming) trace of banana flavours.
Oats are another versatile pantry staple. Slow-simmered on the stove, it sets a steadying start to Jr’s day in the fibre-rich form of his breakfast porridge. Finely-blitzed into “oat flour,” it lends a soft and fluffy texture to his favourite blueberry tea cake. With its mild flavour, oats are the perfect canvas for showcasing and enhancing a variety of flavours. A few cups of good old fashioned roll oats are all that stand between you and a batch of homemade granola, customised with your family’s favourite flavours. Trust me, once you’ve baked your own granola, you’ll never look at store-bought the same way again.
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From silkily-soft scrambled eggs to poached eggs with avocado, there is no dearth of delicious ways to serve up this protein-rich food to your toddler. Eggs also make for savoury muffins that can be eaten at any time in the day. Simply whisk your eggs well, folding in finely chopped spinach and grated parmesan or fresh mozzarella (for a creamy calcium boost), baking until the tops are golden brown.
Assorted dried fruits
Dried raisins, dates, figs and cranberries are just some of the dried fruits always found in abundance in our homes. Not only do they make a wholesome and easy snack in themselves, they can be added to most baked goods to amp up the antioxidants and nutrients with sweet-and-tart flavours.
Also read: How to fix your toddler’s fussy eating habits
Recipe: Baked chocolate chip oats
Baked oats have a soft and fluffy texture that’s not unlike eating cake for breakfast (or at snack-time)
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 small banana
3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp maple syrup / coconut sugar (optional)
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
2 -3 tbsp dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Blitz everything (with the exception of the chocolate chips) in a blender/ mixer until you have a smooth batter.
Fold in the chocolate chips, reserving a few for later.
Pour the batter out into a ramekin/ small baking dish and gently press the remaining chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 14-15 minutes until the edges are set but the centre is still soft.
Let your baked oats cool down slightly before digging in. Enjoy, your cake for breakfast is ready.
Ayushi Gupta-Mehra is an economist, F&B consultant, self-taught cook and founder of The Foodie Diaries®. Follow her adventures on Instagram @The_FoodieDiaries and @Mummylogues