High Protein Lemon Ricotta French Toast for Baby-Led Weaning

This High-Protein Lemon Ricotta French Toast is perfect for baby-led weaning, but also perfectly acceptable for adults! Thick multigrain bread is coated in a lemon-ricotta batter and grilled to perfection in this tasty breakfast.

Two slices of lemon ricotta French toast are stacked on a plate, topped with a pat of butter and drizzled with syrup.

If you’ve up until now been of the mindset that French toast is a carb-heavy breakfast with no nutritional value, today I’m prepared to completely change your mind.

That’s because I’ve taken your classic French toast and turned it into a breakfast superstar that’s baby-led weaning approved. How, you ask? Well, let me tell you!

FRENCH TOAST MADE HEALTHY

Okay, first things first, let’s talk about bread. I’ve always and forever been the complete antithesis of gluten-free, I love my gluten! And I’m very fortunate that I have no issues processing it. That being said, I’m also a firm believer of everything in moderation, and I know that the path of consuming too many carbs is wayyy to easy to go down, so I try to be conscious of how much and what type I consume.

Yes, I meant to put that extra emphasis on what type. This is soooo important and all too often overlooked. There are a ton of nutritional benefits to consuming whole or multigrain breads (and carbs in general) as opposed to the white stuff. You can check out more on these benefits in this helpful article, but I let’s continue on with this Lemon Ricotta French Toast, because we don’t have all day!

An overhead shot of two pieces of lemon ricotta French toast on a plate with a lemon wedge, topped with a pat of butter and syrup, flanked by purple flowers.

In addition to using a thick multigrain bread for this recipe (and yes, I’m referring to the type you have to slice yourself so you can get those big ol’ slices), I also added some ricotta to the dipping batter to really up the protein content. We want our little ones to have full and healthy tummies as they start their day!

For some fun extra flavor, I added fresh lemon juice and zest.

Side note: Does anyone else’s child enjoy snacking on entire wedges of lemon? Or is it just mine?

A toddler snacking on a lemon wedge.

Whether your child would eat an entire lemon if you let them or not, I’m pretty sure they at least like the zingy flavor.

Let’s get to cooking!

GRIDDLE SKILLS

Once you have your bread sliced and batter ready, the cooking will be done in less than 10 minutes. That’s a breakfast win if you ask me!

Simply dip the bread in the batter and place it on a preheated griddle to cook away. Flip once and you’re done. Easy as that.

WHAT’S THE DEAL ON TOPPINGS?

Okay, this is where I feel I need to state the obvious: If you’re making this Lemon Ricotta French Toast for your little one, I DO NOT recommend drowning it in syrup. Now, I’m not one to tell you how you should parent or critique the food decisions you make, but my friends – that syrup is a messy, slippery slope. Once you start, you will not be able to go back.

If you are, however, making this French toast for yourself (or slightly older kids who may be able to at least slightly control their obsession) then go for it! I know, it is so good.

Another angle of two pieces of lemon ricotta French toast on a grey plate, topped with a pat of butter, with syrup and butter in the background.

That all being said, I also have some tasty alternatives that are both baby-led weaning and big kid-/adult-friendly:

No matter which way you serve this or who you serve it to, it’s bound to be a hit.

If you’re looking for more healthy breakfast recipes for the family, be sure to check out my post on Easy Breakfast Recipes That Are Baby-Led Weaning Approved and this tasty recipe for Toddler-Approved Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies!

Another overhead shot of lemon ricotta french toast on a grey plate, covered with butter and syrup, with a lemon wedge for garnish.

High-Protein Lemon Ricotta French Toast for Baby-Led Weaning
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

This High-Protein Lemon Ricotta French Toast is perfect for baby-led weaning, but also perfectly
acceptable for adults! Thick multigrain bread is coated in a lemon-ricotta batter and grilled to perfection in this tasty breakfast.







Course: Breakfast
Keyword: baby-led weaning, breakfast, brunch, French toast, kid-friendly, lemon
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 433 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 loaf whole unsliced multi- or whole grain bread You'll want to get about 8 slices out of it.
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Instructions
  1. Place griddle or large pan on the stove and begin heating over medium heat.

  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest to make the batter.

  3. Place butter on preheated skillet and let melt.

  4. Once butter is melted and evenly spread over your cooking vessel, begin dipping bread slices in the batter and placing on the skillet.

  5. Cook for a few minutes – or until the bottom of the bread becomes golden-brown and the egg is set – before flipping and cooking the other side.

  6. Serve immediately with your desired topping.

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Medium

One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.

An overhead shot of a pan of bison meatballs with broccolini and tomato sauce. The pan is tied off with a hand towel and there are tomatoes and bread on either side.

If you’ve never treated yourself to bison before, you’re in for a huge treat with these One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce! They’re tender and juicy and full of flavor. In fact, you may never want to go back to regular old ground beef again.

BISON VS. BEEF

You can think of bison as beef’s fancier and more flavorful cousin, although, bison is actually lower in calories and higher in protein than both ground beef and turkey. It does tend to be more expensive, so I say save the bison for a once-in-a-while treat as opposed to an everyday thing.

You can usually find ground bison wherever ground beef is sold. In fact, I found a high-quality double-pack of ground bison at Costco. I popped one of the packages in the freezer (because we all know how helpful it is to have freezer options on hand!) and used the other one to make these delicious One-Pan Bison Meatballs.

HOW TO COOK IT

When it comes to cooking, ground bison can be prepared in the exact same way ground beef is prepared. Aside from meatballs, you could also use ground bison to make burgers (bison burgers are a favorite of mine), taco meat or even a meat sauce for over pasta.

A close-up view of One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce with some crusty bread in the background.

But today we’re here to talk about meatballs, so let’s get to it!

LET’S MAKE SOME MEATBALLS!

Making the meatball mixture itself is the longest hands-on part of the process, and you’re going to have to get a little bit dirty. After all, I find the best way to mix up some meatballs is to get your hands in the mixing bowl to blend it all together.

You’re going to throw all of the typical meatball ingredients into the mix – egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, shallots, oregano – you don’t need anything special because, when it comes to bison, it already has so much flavor.

I guess this recipe is technically a two-dish one (if you count the mixing bowl), but once it comes to cooking, you’ll only need a large cast iron skillet [*affiliate link] to make these meatballs come to life.

You’re going to place your meatballs in a piping hot cast iron skillet on the stove first – you want to give them a good sear so they have that nice crispy outside before baking – then pour all of the tomato sauce ingredients over top (with the exception of the pancetta, which goes in first so you can use some of the oil for cooking the meatballs). Top all this with broccolini and delicious grated Fontina, throw it in the oven for just under 30 minutes (boil up some pasta or quinoa while you’re waiting) and – voila! – your One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce are ready to be devoured by the fam.

A plate of pasta topped with bison meatballs, broccolini and tomato sauce.

Have you ever tried cooking with ground bison before? Let me know in the comments below!

One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on
time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.







Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bison, dinner, family-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, meatballs, one-pan
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 636 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Other ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 8 ounces broccolini
  • 3 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Place all meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using hands, blend together until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

  3. Begin heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron skillet on stove over medium heat. Add pancetta and begin cooking, stirring occasionally while you form your meatballs. Also add the garlic at this time.

  4. Form meatballs into 2- to 3-inch rounds and place in cast iron skillet along with pancetta (which should be mostly cooked by now.) Allow meatballs to sear (about 2 minutes) and then flip them over to get the other side browned as well.

  5. Turn heat down and add entire can of tomatoes (including juice.) Sprinkle basil over top and tuck broccolini in amongst everything.

  6. Finally, sprinkle the entire mixture with Fontina cheese and place in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

  7. Serve over cooked quinoa or pasta and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Medium

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 18-Month-Olds

Here’s a list of the top five nutrient-packed foods we make for our 18-month old that she gobbles up in no time!

A rack of cooling Sweet Potato Zucchini Muffins shows one with a bite out of it. Vegetable-packed muffins are a great food for 18-month-olds.

One of the most common questions I get asked by other moms is what I feed my little one. I like to think that’s because they see me as an expert in the matter and not because my daughter is off the charts in height and weight, but you never know 😉

I thought it might be helpful to build a little library here on the blog outlining what some of Raia’s favorite foods have been at different ages. Since we just hit the 18-month mark, I figured I’d start here, but I’ll continue to add links to other ages as I get them published.

A quick note before we get started: As you may know by now, we decided to follow the method of baby-led weaning for introducing solids to our little one. I figure that by this age, most toddlers are all eating the same thing (whether they started with purées or not), but if you’re curious and want to learn more about baby-led weaning, I encourage you to read my post about knowing when to start your baby on solids, and also to read the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett [*affiliate link].

Without further ado, here is a list of my current Top 5 Favorite Foods for 18-Month Olds:

#1 SUPER-FOOD PACKED MUFFINS

These have pretty much been a favorite food of Raia’s since we started baby-led weaning, but you just can’t ignore how great they are (both in taste and nutritionally). Some great resources for nutrient dense muffins are Inspiralized Kids, this post of mine on healthy baby snack ideas, and my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers. I love making a batch of these on a Sunday or Monday and freezing them up to have them on hand for the rest of the week!

#2 SOFT TACOS OR QUESADILLAS

This is an easy meal to serve to kids of all ages that adults love as well. Also, if you go the quesadilla route, it’s easier to sneak in some veggies. For example, you can blend in some puréed pumpkin or butternut squash with cheddar cheese or dice up some mushrooms with taco meat and hide it under a pile of melt-y cheese.

A toddler enjoying a quesadilla. Quesadillas are another great food for 18-month-olds, especially when they have hidden veggies!

#3 NOURISHING SOUPS

Now that Raia is a little better with using utensils, she loves getting into a bowl of soup. It’s fun for her, and an easy way for me to get her lots of nutrient-rich foods. Some of her favorites are this Warming Minestrone Soup (made with minimal salt) and this Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup (again, made with minimal salt).

#4 FRIED RICE

Let’s be real: 18-month olds love making a mess of their food and deconstructing it. I choose to just accept it, especially when serving one of our favorite weeknight meals, fried rice! This is another great dish that allows you to get protein, veggies and carbs all in one dish, and it comes together in a snap. Use brown rice for even more nutritional benefits, and use little (if any) soy sauce, as you need to watch the sodium with the little ones. Try cooking the fried rice in coconut oil for some extra flavor and healthy fats!

#5 HEALTHY HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS

When you find a good recipe, you’ll always want to have these on hand so you don’t have to rely on all of the pre-packaged granola bars at the grocery store – because who knows what goes into those! I created a granola bar recipe that’s soft and crunchy at the same time, and doesn’t have any heavily processed ingredients. You can find this recipe in my e-cookbook as well!

A stack of soft and crunchy granola bars. A favorite food of 18-month-olds!

I hope this list gets you started on some ideas for delicious, nutritious foods you can make for your 18-month old.

Now, it’s your turn! Tell me some of your favorite foods for your 18-month old in the comments below!

Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas

If you have your baby or toddler in daycare – or even have to prepare food for a babysitter or nanny to serve your little one at home – this list of Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas is for you!

A toddler having a lunch picnic on the beach. Creative lunch ideas are important for exposing your child to a wide variety of foods!

For many of us, between 6- and 24-months is often the age we begin sending our child to daycare, or having some sort of regular childcare schedule implemented in our own home. This is also THE most important time for our little ones to be introduced to a wide variety of foods, so it’s crucial that we parents are on top of our game when it comes to sending our babes off with a healthy, well-balanced and flavor-diverse lunch.

That being said, I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in the rut of serving the same thing over and over again. So let’s first talk about some of the roadblocks I know we ALL face…

ROADBLOCK #1: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET CREATIVE

Well, you’re in luck! I’m taking the guesswork out of it for you today by providing some interesting, non-repetitive options. It’s not that hard if you’ll just open your mind to it!

Also, meal prep is a godsend for busy parents like you and me. One hour of planning and prepping can set you up for HUGE success the rest of the week. I urge you to take 20 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday and roughly plan out your meals for the week. Be sure to leave some flexibility for eating out once in a while and making good use of leftovers. Then, make a shopping list and head to the store!

I’ve found that since I’ve implemented meal planning into my life over the last six months or so, I’ve saved so much time by knowing exactly what I’ll make each night, taking just one trip to the grocery store each week, and also always having healthy, interesting leftovers on hand.

A basket of fresh produce. Meal planning and prepping is a huge help in making creative lunches your little one will love.

ROADBLOCK #2: MY CHILD ONLY LIKES CERTAIN THINGS

C’mon, mom and dad. Don’t give up that easily! Your child probably only likes certain things because (a) they’ve not been introduced to enough variety early on in life, or (b) you give in to them refusing certain things and offer to make them an alternative. I understand this may be controversial for some of you, but take a look at my healthy meal prep for your baby or toddler post to get a better idea of where I’m coming from.

Also, keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ palates are constantly changing and evolving. If they don’t like something the first time you give it to them, try again in a week or two with the food prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!

ROADBLOCK #3: MY CHILD DOESN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOD I PACK THEM

Question for you: Do you get excited about the food you pack them? Does your child ever see you eating the same foods that you’re putting in their lunchbox? We often underestimate how much children learn by osmosis. If they see you getting excited about the different things you’re giving them, they’re more likely to get excited about it themselves.

Take, for example, the time I made posole but decided my little one probably wouldn’t like it, so I made her a quesadilla instead. NOPE! She saw mom and dad eating the yummy posole and wanted some of her own! Kids always surprise us – especially if you just give them a chance!

So, how’d I do? Did I squash all your fears or concerns? If there’s something else that’s holding you back, I want to know! Give me a chance to prove you wrong 😉

Now, let’s get to the good stuff!

Here are some ideas of creative lunches you can pack your baby or toddler (also note, many of these include snacks):

  • Lunch: Ground turkey, butternut squash zigzags, avocado; Dessert: Kiwi; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin

A packed toddler lunch consisting of ground turkey, butternut squash zig zags, avocado, and sliced kiwi, with a healthy pumpkin muffin for snack.

  • Lunch: String cheese, sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Sliced pear; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin
  • Lunch: Half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Orange

A packed toddler lunch consisting of half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zig zags and a power protein bite, with an orange for dessert.

  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Raspberries
  • Lunch: Sliced steak, avocado, roasted veggies (carrots, zucchini and broccoli), Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Freeze-dried strawberries; Snack: Happy Tot Fiber & Protein Granola Bar [*affiliate link]

A packed toddler lunch consisting of sliced steak and avocado, roasted vegetables, a power protein bite and dehydrated strawberries for dessert. There's also a fiber and protein bar for snack!

You get the gist…

In short, I try to offer a main protein, a vegetable, and either another protein or vegetable or whole grain as the main lunch, plus a fruit for dessert and a well-balanced snack. I love making healthy muffins for snack (as you can see) or sometimes I just end up throwing in a granola bar.

If you still need some more ideas, here are some other ideas in each category for you:

MAIN
  • Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
  • Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
  • Meatballs
  • Slider on a whole grain bun
  • Hard-boiled egg
  • Shredded chicken with hummus
VEGETABLES
  • Zucchini noodles
  • Steamed green beans
  • Roasted sweet potato
  • Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
  • Sliced roasted beets
  • Roasted asparagus
OTHER
  • Quinoa
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)
  • Veggie straws
  • Rice cakes
  • Hidden Veggie Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Two toddlers enjoying an outdoor lunch at a kids' table.

Have I inspired you yet? I sure hope so! I’d also love to hear some of your ideas. What are your favorite lunches to pack your little ones?

Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Once you try this easy recipe for Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches, you’ll never wonder what to make for lunch again!

A Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwich cut in half on a plate with produce behind it.

Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.

Does anyone else have fond childhood memories of tuna salad sandwiches? They’re a classic lunchbox staple – perfect for field trips and picnics – however, in our house they were usually reserved for the weekends because Dad worked during the week and, well, Dad made the absolute best tuna salad sandwiches!

On the rare weekend we were actually home relaxing and not at some volleyball tournament or dance competition, my Dad would pop out to the garage around 12:30 or so and come back with a trusty can or two of tuna to whip up some salad sammies in just a few quick minutes. They were simple, but they were oh-so-good. And they had one secret ingredient that I’m going to let you in on in today 😉

SO HOW DO YOU MAKE TUNA SALAD HEALTHY?

While my Dad’s tuna salad sandwiches were delicious, they definitely weren’t what I would consider “healthy.” The tuna salad had a decent amount of mayo, and I’m still quite sad that my unnecessarily strict relationship with food in some of my early teen years held me back from enjoying those sandwiches every time my Dad made them. BUT, one good thing that came out of those struggles with food was the idea that things like Dad’s tuna salad (and many other indulgences he made) could be lightened up by just a couple of simple swaps.

A Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwich held together with a toothpick with lettuce, tomatoes and slices of bread in the background.

It didn’t take me long to realize that plain Greek yogurt was a great stand-in for most mayonnaise-based salads, and it has become one of my favorite “lightening up” hacks to this day. For example, I’ve made a couple of great chicken salads that are lighter in calories than the original, like this Healthy Curried Chicken Salad with Apples and this Protein-Packed Healthy Chicken Waldorf Salad. And you want to know my secret? I still add in a little bit of mayonnaise!

I sometimes find the tang of Greek yogurt to be a bit too much, and I find myself missing the good stuff, so I still throw some in. I find it helps trick my brain into thinking I’m eating the indulgent version of something, with a lot fewer calories.

WHAT’S THIS “SECRET SAUCE”?

No, it’s not the Greek yogurt. I hinted earlier at a secret ingredient I felt really took my Dad’s tuna salad over the top and now I’m going to tell you what it is!

KETCHUP.

That’s right, my friends, we put ketchup in our tuna salad. Sacrilegious? No. Delicious? Yes.

It adds a slight sweetness and almost umami taste to the mix, and I honestly no longer like most tuna salads that don’t have this secret sauce. Give it a try, my friends. You won’t be sorry.

WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO MAKE A HEALTHY TUNA SALAD SANDWICH?

The easy answer: Not much!

A Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwich cut in half and ready to enjoy.

Seriously, the tuna salad itself uses just the four ingredients I’ve mentioned (tuna, Greek yogurt, mayonnaise and ketchup) plus a little salt and pepper. You can also add in some diced celery if you like, I’m just not a huge celery fan so I choose to omit it. But it’s so easy! You can’t afford NOT to make this ASAP.

The only other components you need to make these delicious Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches are some good bread (anything works, but I like soft sliced multigrain bread like Dave’s Killer Bread), sliced fresh tomato and crispy green lettuce.

And if you find yourself REALLY missing the mayo, go ahead and spread some on the bread. (Oooo…or for some extra creaminess, some nutrient-dense avocado!) I know there are strong camps on either side of the toasted bread equation, but I personally find a tuna salad sandwich on lightly toasted bread (not too crunchy, not too soft) the absolute BEST.

Do you have any secret ingredients you put in your tuna salad sandwiches? I want to know in the comments below!

Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
 

Once you try this easy recipe for Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches, you’ll never wonder what to make for lunch again!

Course: Main Course
Keyword: after-school, healthy, kid-friendly, portable, sandwich, school lunch, tuna
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 372 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the tuna salad:
  • 2 5-ounce cans water-packed tuna, drained
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Diced celery (optional)
For the sandwiches:
  • 8 slices soft sandwich bread (I prefer Dave's Killer Bread) Lightly toasted, if desired
  • Lettuce
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Avocado (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place all tuna salad ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

  2. Spread mixture onto prepared bread to make 4 sandwiches. Add lettuce, tomato and avocado (if using) to complete the sandwich and serve!

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Low