I know of some who turn their noses at the sight of the word ‘vegan’ in recipes. In fact, there are some who immediately gloss over vegan food blogs or Instagram accounts primarily on differing dietary preference reasons alone. It is a grossly common misconception that vegan foods and/or recipes are tasteless, bland, and lacking in texture and complexity of flavour because of the absence of fundamental go-to’s like eggs and dairy.
My first foray into vegan baking began when lil A started on solids, and I chose to strictly adhere to the no-eggs-and-milk-before-one rule, fearing any allergy on this lil bub of mine. It was difficult, and needed some getting used to, especially since I also opted to administer a refined sugar-free diet for her, turning to dates and bananas for natural sweetness. Now that we are assured that A is allergy-free, and loves her eggs and milk, I still turn to vegan recipes not only for the ease (oh you know those days when eggs or milk mysteriously disappears), but to share with other parents who may have difficulty baking / cooking for their little ones with allergy. And when they taste as good as these you’ll-never-guess-they-are-vegan fluffy pancakes, I know I had to share.
Now that A is at that age when she is able to tell me in not so many words exactly what she wants, I look forward to meal times and snack times;- hearing “pancake”, “cheese toast”, “egg”, “fries” or “mummin” (muffin) definitely makes life for mommy easier. And of course if she doesn’t finish her food, it gives me the prerogative of saying, “You asked for this, remember?”. Having a greater and more discerning palate also means that she is almost always looking over at my plate, and insisting on having what I am, with the exception of anything I say “spicy”, which have now, judge me if you will, included any fast food, carbonated drinks, and ice cream.
And so it was that one morning when I was craving for chocolate chip cookies, or rather any cookie with some smidgen of chocolate chips in it, and decided to throw some rolled oats and spelt flour in the mix to well, mix things up, then along came the little toddler into the kitchen exclaiming, “Cookie!”. And there it was, that lonely bag of chocolate chips I had purchased a few days prior, sitting on the counter, tsk-ing loudly as I grabbed the pack of oft-overlooked raisins right next to it. I know a little chocolate won’t hurt, but knowing how much this 2-year-old of mine (yes, she turned two last weekend!) loves cookies, a little chocolate would turn into a whole lot of chocolate her momma wouldn’t want to be responsible for.
This post had been a long time coming. Of all the photos of A’s meals I’ve shared on my Instagram account, these mac & cheese bites never fail to garner a recipe request. And if you follow me there long enough, first off, “Hello, stranger!”, and second, you may have noticed by now the different variations and times I’ve posted them.
You see, most times, cooking or baking for my 19-month-old is a breeze. But since I don’t eat half of the things I bring to her table, I’ll have to fall back on the mister’s feedback when it’s pertaining to cheese, which, as aforementioned, possibly constitutes to half her meals. And as much as lil A readily eats anything she can hold in one hand without any “Come here, and eat!” disruptions to her playtime, I’d prefer tweaking and reworking a toddler-friendly (read: possibly bland) recipe till it is suited for an adult’s (in this case, the self-proclaimed cheese monster of a mister) palate.
Every time I get recipe requests for the meals I post on Instagram, my immediate reaction is to cringe. Let’s be honest here; the reason I go by my moniker is because of the comfort I find in baking, not so much cooking. In fact, for so many years now I have been so adamant my inadequacy in the stovetop area of the kitchen is out-of-my-hands fatalism that I began cooking from within the depths of my oven. Even though I now know how to cook a roux without burning it, adopt a palate for the oft-quoted “salt to taste”, cook the mister’s (and now my toddler’s) favourite baked rice and mac & cheese without involving any canned soup, I can’t help but feel silly, almost pretentious if you’d care to call me out, to be posting cooking recipes, most of which would probably leave readers rolling their eyes, and go, “I don’t think anyone would need a recipe for that!”.
So if you happen to be one of the aforementioned people reading this (and subsequent cooking posts in the future) and thinking that, good on ya! And do share your cooking knowledge, okay? But for the rest of us, myself included, who thrive and appreciate simple recipes suited for beginners, or simply as idea boards for why-didn’t-I-think-of-that moments, here is a toddler-friendly (fresh ingredients, non-spicy) take on one of my favourite Malay dishes, macaroni goreng (stir-fried macaroni).
As much as I count my blessings that I have a fairly adventurous toddler when it comes to eating, there have undeniably been days when meal times would take quite a bit of effort, and then some. Thankfully though, it’s not of the screaming-while-climbing-out-of-the-seat type of experience;- well, at least not yet, God forbid;- but she has had moments when she would be adamant on refusing something specific on her plate, such as peas, chicken, and some days even her favourite carrots.
When these unfavourable times sneak up on us uninvitedly from around the corner, I turn to a quick finger food that has never failed to catch her attention, and is a real cinch when I find myself short of time and short of ingredients.
Lil A, on her 1st birthday photoshoot, with the obligatory cake smash shot.
I remember specifically that one morning while I was preparing lil A’s lunch, and the mister mentioned, “Why aren’t there any ‘On today’s lunch table for A’ photos on your Instagram?”, referring tongue-in-cheek to my regular meal posts. Premonition or not, as it turns out, several months later, I would have to take back my hasty reply of “I don’t think anyone would wanna know what a baby eats!”. In fact, not only have A’s meals caught the attention of some of my dear readers who had requested me to share the recipes, they have also introduced me to a new community of mothers who are ever so generous with their meal ideas for their little ones. From local friends who are just a phone text message away, to kind strangers on the other side of the globe with an e-mailed note, I hope to share some of the baby / toddler-friendly recipes these ladies have gifted me with, along with several of my own personal kitchen favourites, on Toddler Tuesdays, beginning with this go-to (banana) pancake recipe.