What to Cook with Your Kids When You’re All Stuck at Home

Whether you’re facing a bout of snow days, a widespread virus, or anything else that’s forcing you inside with your little ones for days at a time, here’s a list of 37 recipes you can easily make together to keep everyone happy and entertained. (Look for the * for recipes that are especially baby- and toddler-friendly!)

Recipes to Cook With Your Kids

Breakfast

A finished dish full of Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas.
CaliGirl Cooking is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

“Feed-a-Crowd” Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas

Coconut Vanilla Chia Pudding Parfait

Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Date “Shake”

Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes*

Hidden Veggie Acai Bowls*

Kid-Approved Breakfast Banana Splits

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar are the perfect healthy breakfast for busy mornings on-the-go.

Make-Ahead Freezer Oatmeal Cups with Maple and Brown Sugar

Oat Milk Chia Pudding with Blueberry-Orange Compote*

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies*

Red, White and Blueberry Blender

Slow Cooker Superfood Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Cherry Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Carrot Muffins*

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups*

Weekday Festive Funfetti Waffles

Lunch

Protein-Packed Healthy Chicken Waldorf Salad is the perfect quick-and-healthy lunch for any day of the week.

Protein-Packed Healthy Waldorf Chicken Salad

Quick-and-Healthy Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Thai Chicken Burritos

Snacks/Sides

An overhead shot of Festive Guacamole in a bed of tortilla chips.

Festive Guacamole with Cotija and Pomegranate

To-Die-For Candied Bacon Deviled Eggs

Cheddar and Chive Brazilian Cheese Bread*

Cheesy BBQ Garlic Bread

Pumpkin Popovers

Cranberry, White Bean and Grain Salad

Crunchy Pea Salad with Prosciutto

S'mores Granola Clusters | CaliGirl Cooking

Addicting S’mores Granola Clusters

All-Dressed Party Mix

Chocolate Chip-Sunflower Seed Butter Protein Bars

Dinner

This Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board features slow-cooked pulled lamb, pomegranate arils and refreshing sliced cucumber to make the perfect healthy appetizer for your next get-together!

Loaded Mediterranean Hummus Board

Bruschetta Bar

Weeknight Beef & Veggie Stir-Fry

Eggplant Parmesan Bread Pudding

Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes*

Island-Style Teriyaki Beef Sliders

Dessert

5-Ingredient Indulgent Date Bites

Banana, Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate “Faux-Yo”

Ways to Get Your Kid Involved in the Cooking Process

You may be thinking, “Sure, these recipes are all great, but how do I actually get my kid(s) involved?” Here are a few ideas for different ages:

A toddler and mom baking together at the kitchen counter.

Toddlers

  • Let them add ingredients to a mixing bowl
  • Have them stir ingredients in a mixing bowl
  • Let them space things out on a baking sheet
  • Allow them to prepare simple ingredients, like cutting softer items with toddler-friendly knives or shelling peas or edamame
  • This is a great time to give them a pair of tongs and let them practice their hand-eye coordination by trying to grab something
  • Have them squeeze citrus
  • TIP: Pre-measure out all your ingredients before starting to cook or bake with your toddler. Things will run much more smoothly this way!

Younger Kids

  • Have them measure out your ingredients for you
  • Allow them to prep your baking vessel – whether by spraying on cooking spray or lining a cupcake tin with muffin liners
  • Continue to allow them to cut things using age-appropriate knives
  • Let them pour things into a vessel through a funnel
  • Have them wash produce
  • Ask them to retrieve ingredients out of the refrigerator or pantry for you

Older Kids

  • Have them dice or mince ingredients for you
  • Let them go through the entire process of adding ingredients, stirring and transferring to the proper cooking vessel
  • Teach them how to safely use the oven and stove
  • Allow them to come up with the menu for a meal!
  • Let them season meat and teach them about proper raw food handling techniques

I’d love to hear your favorite recipes or tips for cooking with kids in the comments below!

 

Weekday Festive Funfetti Waffles

The BEST way to celebrate a special occasion on any day of the week, these festive waffles get their slight pinkish hue (and tasty tang) from freeze-dried raspberries and are loaded with multi-colored sprinkles to really take your breakfast over the top. The best part? They come together in almost no time at all!

A stack of funfetti waffles topped with butter and fresh berries, drizzled with syrup.

CaliGirl Cooking is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

ICYMI last week, I shared some big news on Instagram – Baby Girl #2 is coming this August! We are over-the-moon about this new special addition to our family and, such as was the case with the news of our first baby girl, I felt the need to make a new special recipe to celebrate. Enter these Weekday Festive Funfetti Waffles!

I’ve not shared a specific recipe using this particular technique, but one of my favorite ways to add a festive hint of color to many baked goods and sweet treats (without a ton of artificial colors or flavors) is by mixing in some crushed freeze-dried fruit. My favorite way to use it is in a homemade frosting recipe, but I decided to branch out a bit and give mixing it into waffle batter a shot. I’m thrilled with the result!

Now, because I (like many of you) have limited free time to make from-scratch recipes these days, I decided to make these Festive Funfetti Waffles as easy to whip up as possible. They’re so easy, in fact, that you could easily make them on a weekday morning if you have something special to celebrate. So, let’s get into it!

Four quarters of a funfetti waffle stacked on top of each other and topped with butter and fresh berries with butter and maple syrup in the background.

How to Make Funfetti Waffles

Okay, friends, I told you I was going to make this an easy one. That’s why we’re going to forego the “from-scratch” mentality and instead focus on finding a healthy and tasty boxed pancake and waffle mix. I used Bob’s Red Mill 7-Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix and loved it, but there are tons of healthy options out there.

Once you’ve settled on which mix you’re going to use, just follow the directions on the package (the recipe below is based off of the Bob’s Red Mill mix instructions) and also include the freeze-dried raspberries (which you can find at Trader Joe’s or on Amazon). You’ll want to mix together the batter using a blender to ensure the raspberries get properly incorporated into the batter.

A flat lay of all of the ingredients you need to make these Festive Funfetti Waffles: water, eggs, waffle mix, sprinkles, oil and freeze-dried raspberries.

Once you have the batter made in your blender, you simply stir in some festive sprinkles. I highly recommend using this type, as the non-pareils such as those sprinkled on top in the photos tend to bleed a lot in a batter.

And once the batter is made, all that’s left is to whip out your trusty waffle maker (here’s one similar to the one I use) and cook as you would any other old waffle.

Ways to Enjoy Your Waffles

There are tons of different ways you can finish these festive bad boys off. Here are just a few:

  • Keep it basic with butter and maple syrup
  • Add some whipped cream
  • Top with a variety of berries or your choice of fresh fruit
  • Turn them into a dessert and top with a scoop of ice cream
  • Add more sprinkles!

An overhead shot of Festive Funfetti Waffles topped with butter, fresh berries and sprinkles.

Other Festive Weekday Breakfast Recipes

In my opinion, celebrating a special occasion at breakfast is far too often overlooked. Here are some other fun breakfast recipes you can make for your next birthday celebration:

These Kid-Approved Breakfast Banana Splits take your kids’ favorite after-dinner treats and make them a healthy yet entertaining breakfast. No cooking involved!
We all know that heading off to school is usually NOT our kids’ favorite time of day, but what if you make it fun with these Back-to-School Papaya Breakfast Boats?
Prefer a more savory celebration? Prep these Make-Ahead Breakfast Enchiladas the night before and just pop them in the oven in the morning.
What kid doesn’t want to eat pudding for breakfast? This Coconut Passion Fruit Chia Pudding will transport your entire family to the tropics whether it’s the middle of winter or the start of a monotonous school day.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to take your waffle game to the next level? If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a rating and a comment to help other curious mamas find it!

A plate of funfetti waffles topped with butter, sprinkles and fresh berries.

Weekday Festive Funfetti Pancakes
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

The BEST way to celebrate a special occasion on any day of the week, these festive waffles get their slight pinkish hue (and tasty tang) from freeze-dried raspberries and are loaded with multi-colored sprinkles to really take your breakfast over the top. The best part? They come together in almost no time at all!

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: birthday, breakfast, celebration, entertaining, funfetti, kid-friendly, sprinkles, waffles, weekday
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 481 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat waffle maker and spray with cooking spray.

  2. Add first five ingredients* (waffle mix, oil, eggs, water, and freeze-dried raspberries) to a blender and blend until raspberries are completely incorporated into the batter (with no large chunks).

  3. Stir sprinkles into batter, then measure batter into waffle maker and bake waffles according to appliance directions, spraying with cooking oil after each batch to prevent sticking.

  4. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings!

Recipe Notes

*Exact ingredients and amounts may vary based on which waffle mix you’re using. Amounts for raspberries and sprinkles should remain fairly consistent for 6 waffles.

1. Topping Ideas: butter, maple syrup, whipped cream, berries or other fresh fruit, ice cream, more sprinkles!

2. Try to find a healthy, high-quality pancake and waffle mix like Bob’s Red Mill 7-Grain Pancake and Waffle Mix.

3. Waffle cooking times will vary depending on your specific waffle maker and how crisp you would like your waffles to be. I use one similar to this.

Nutrition Facts
Weekday Festive Funfetti Pancakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 481 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 82mg27%
Sodium 638mg28%
Potassium 323mg9%
Carbohydrates 64g21%
Fiber 11g46%
Sugar 13g14%
Protein 17g34%
Vitamin A 119IU2%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 152mg15%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

The Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce contains over five different vegetables, yet your little ones will never even know it. It’s the perfect base for a weeknight meal the entire family will love, plus it’s simple to make and freezer-friendly!A bowl of whole wheat penne loaded with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce, the perfect family-friendly freezer meal!

If you’re sick of struggling to get your toddler to eat anything of nutritional value, stuck in a rut with what to make for your family’s picky palates, or just ready to mix up your dinner game, this Ultimate Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce recipe is for you!

You’re going to love that this recipe is packed with nutritional value, comes together with almost no waste, can be made well in advance AND makes plenty to cover at least two dinners for your family. Every mama’s favorite kind of recipe!

Why Hide Veggies in Your Food?

While it’s important to remember to continuously offer your baby or toddler vegetables in their truest form, there are several arguments to be made for hiding them in recipes whenever you can:

Textural Issues of Whole Veggies

First, it introduces your child (or hey, even your picky spouse) to a new flavor or flavors even if he or she can’t get past certain textural issues with the vegetables in their pure form. The texture issue is a real one for many picky kids and this is a great way to overcome it!

Increased Nutritional Value

Secondly, sneaking veggies into a recipe your family already loves is a fantastic way to up its nutritional value. Many little ones love foods like muffins, pizza and pasta, so why not make them healthier versions and get some extra nutrients in in the meantime?

Benefits the Entire Family

One of the biggest things I stress to my clients and course students is the importance of eating together as a family and everyone eating the same thing. If you’re always thinking of ways to add more veggies into what you’re making for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the entire family will benefit from the increased nutritional value.

Food Segue

Hiding veggies in foods your little one(s) already love is also a great way to begin a food segue. This is a gradual technique used for feeding babies and toddlers that eventually gets them to like a certain food in its purest form. You can read more about how to do a food segue with your baby or toddler here.

A dish of pasta topped with Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce.

Tips for Hiding Veggies in Food

I know what you’re thinking: But where do I start when it comes to hiding veggies in all my favorite recipes? Well, this Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is a great start, but here are some general guidelines you can follow when you’re experimenting with adding veggies to other types of recipes:

Match Colors and Shapes

Think of a vegetable that will compliment a food that your little one already loves – and looks like it, too! For example, pair diced beets with berries, or kiwi with avocado.

Make It Small

One of the best ways to slowly start introducing a vegetable to your baby or toddler is to do it in small doses and then gradually increase the amount. Shredded or puréeing vegetables are perfect ways to work them into the mix.

Take Advantage of What Your Little One Already Likes

If your babe is already obsessed with sweet potato, slowly start working some butternut squash into the mix. If he or she can’t get enough of muffins or pancakes, play around with the different ways you can up their nutritional value the next time you make them. Capitalize on what already works!

An overhead shot of a bowl of Hidden Veggie Pasta.

How to Make Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce

The simple answer: throw everything together in a big saucepan or Dutch oven, let it simmer away, then purée!

Once you have all of the ingredients prepped, this recipe involves almost no hands-on time. I also love that this recipe has almost no waste, we use a full cans or cartons of everything, so you don’t have to worry about half a carton of broth sitting unused in your fridge for weeks to come.

Freezing Your Pasta Sauce

 If your making this recipe in advance and plan to serve it later (which you totally should!) follow these tips for storing:

  • Once the sauce has cooled down slightly, transfer it to Mason jars or a resealable plastic bag
  • Let it cool completely
  • Label it (and be sure to include the date you made it)
  • Freeze until ready to use!

Different Ways to Serve Your Sauce

News flash: This red sauce isn’t just for pasta! Here is a list of all of the different ways you can use up your batch of sauce:

Pasta
Pizza
Lasagna
BAKED chicken
Egg bake
stirred into Polenta
Eggplant Parmesan
Chili
Stuffed peppers/spaghetti squash
Minestrone or other tomato-based soups
As a dipping sauce for grilled cheese

Now, who’s ready to get cooking??

If you try this recipe, be sure to rate it and leave a comment below!

Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

This Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce is great for all ages and is the perfect base for a weeknight family meal. It's freezer-friendly and makes a ton so you'll always have a healthy dinner option on hand. It's also loaded with more than five different veggies!

Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, family-friendly, freezer-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, make-ahead, pasta, red sauce, toddler, vegetables
Servings: 20 people
Calories: 26 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium roasted sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning Salt-free for young babes
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 32-ounce carton chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste Minimize for young babes
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until onion starts to become fragrant and translucent.

  2. Add garlic, carrot, bell pepper, zucchini and sweet potato and stir to combine. Allow to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and stir to combine.

  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth, and once again stir to combine. Bring to a low boil (very gently bubbling), then turn off heat.

  4. Transfer sauce to a blender in two batches. You may need to use a mixing bowl to hold some of the extra soup while you are blending. Blend until smooth, then return to the original saucepan or Dutch oven on low heat.

  5. Season with salt and pepper as needed, but if you will be serving this to young babes, minimize the salt as much as possible.

Recipe Notes

TO FREEZE: Let sauce come to room temperature, then transfer to Mason jars with lids, label (including date made) and freeze.

You can easily sub in whichever veggies you wish if you need to use something up!

Nutrition Facts
Hidden Veggie Pasta Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 26 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 82mg2%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 1640IU33%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 9mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

The Easiest Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups

These Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups are baby- and toddler-approved, but great for the whole family! Make them in advance and stick them in the freezer to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast ready to go on busy mornings.

A cooling rack of freshly baked Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Cups.

I don’t know about you, but our toddler always wakes up hungry and ready to eat. It seems like we can barely get a clean diaper on her before she’s begging “Food! Food!” Breakfast also so happens to be her favorite meal of the day, and she eats far more in the morning than she does for lunch and dinner, so we always try to have healthy, quick options on hand for her.

We’ve been big fans of baked oatmeal in our household for a while now. I love that it’s jam-packed with nutrients (especially with the right mix-ins) and that it’s handheld, resulting in much less of a mess than classic or even overnight oats make. While traditional baked oatmeals (in baking pans or dishes) are great, turning your baked oatmeal into single-serving cups ups the convenience factor and makes it really easy to only defrost what you need.

Here’s how this easy and tasty recipe is done!

What You Need

The good news is – not much! Most of the ingredients you’ll be using you’ll already have on hand, especially if you’re making this in the fall.

Rolled oats

I love getting the big bags from Trader Joe’s (these ones also happen to be gluten-free if you need that.)

Pumpkin purée

Buy the can OR make your own with this super simple homemade pumpkin purée recipe!

An apple
Milk

Any kind!

An egg
Maple syrup

And pantry staples like…

Baking powder, salt, vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice

As far as equipment, you’ll just need a cupcake pan (we love these silicone ones *affiliate link*), a couple of bowls, a couple of measuring cups, and a whisk!

An overhead shot of Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups cooling on a rack.

How to Make Baked Oatmeal Cups

Once you get the basic process of these Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups down, you’ll be able to create tons of different variations.

Simply whisk together the dry ingredients, whisk together the wet ingredients, combine the two, and bake. Easy as that!

Other ideas for flavor combinations might be:

Banana and chocolate chip
Sweet potato and orange
Zucchini and raisin
Peanut butter and apple
Cinnamon and berry
Vanilla and peach

The possibilities are endless.

A straight-on look at a freshly baked batch of Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Cups.

How to Store Baked Oatmeal Cups

Once the cups are baked and cooled, place them in a gallon-size Ziploc and freeze for up to three months.

When you’re ready to serve, simply microwave however many you need for 30 seconds to a minute (maybe more if you’re defrosting a bunch at once.)

Just like my Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins or my Peanut Butter and Banana Breakfast Cookies, these cups are a great on-the-go option for busy mornings, or even a great travel snack when you’re on the road. 

Read on for the recipe and, if you want to learn more of my tips and tricks for feeding toddlers, be sure you’re signed up for my weekly newsletter!

A stack of Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups leaning against a pitcher of milk.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins
 

These Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups are baby- and toddler-approved, but great for the whole family! Make them in advance and stick them in the freezer to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast ready to go on busy mornings.

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: after-school, apple, baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, breakfast, freezer-friendly, meal prep, oatmeal, pumpkin, toddler
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 131 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of your choice (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (Use canned or follow the link in the Recipe Notes to make your own)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup diced apple
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray cupcake pan with cooking spray and set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin purée, maple syrup, egg and vanilla.

  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Whisk in diced apple.

  5. Using your 1/4 cup measure, scoop mixture into prepared cupcake pan.

  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until oatmeal is set.

  7. Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely before transferring to Ziploc for freezer storage.

Recipe Notes
  1. Here's the recipe for homemade pumpkin purée!
  2. These oatmeal cups are baby- and toddler-friendly and are a great breakfast to stash in the freezer. To freeze, place cooled oatmeal cups in a resealable plastic bag and label them (including the date you made them.) These will last in the freezer up to 3 months.
  3. To defrost, microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Feel free to try other flavor combinations such as: banana-chocolate chip, sweet potato-orange, zucchini-raisin, peanut butter-apple, cinnamon-berry, or vanilla-peach.
Nutrition Facts
Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal Cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 131 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Cholesterol 17mg6%
Sodium 105mg5%
Potassium 184mg5%
Carbohydrates 23g8%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 7g8%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 3251IU65%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 80mg8%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes That Even Your Little One Will Love!

These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family – even your youngest eaters – will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.

If you have questions about starting solid foods, consult a physician or health care provider.

An overhead shot of Not-So-Sloppy Joes laid out on a cooling rack.

This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.

I hope you’re ready for an easy weeknight dinner that the entire family is going to love, because these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes totally fit the bill. They’re quick, easy, and so tasty you won’t even know they’re made specifically for tiny appetites.

That’s right, I’m thrilled to be partnering with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. to bring you this baby-led weaning-friendly recipe and share all of the amazing benefits of introducing beef as a first food to your babes.

By now you likely know what a huge proponent I am of the baby-led weaning method, which encourages the introduction of ALL foods in their most natural form starting from very early on in a child’s solid food journey. With BLW, it’s recommended that foods like peanut butter, eggs, dairy, and, yes, beef are all introduced before a child turns one in order to expand their palates and set them up for optimal physical and cognitive development.

You can read more about the baby-led weaning method here. In the meantime, let’s dig into some of nutrition benefits of beef, and how it lends itself to these important developmental milestones.

A close-up shot of "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes in their baking pan.

Nutritional Benefits of Beef for Babies

Beef contains high-quality protein, iron and zinc, all of which are essential nutrients for a child’s healthy growth and development. With more than ten essential nutrients, beef can assist in improved recall skills and reasoning abilities, and also support brain health and optimal cognitive development. You can read more about the nutritional benefits of beef as a first food on BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

While beef purées are certainly an option for ensuring your baby receives all of these benefits, I wanted to create a recipe with beef in one of its more natural forms for all of my baby-led weaning fans out there. So how did I create a Sloppy Joe recipe that’s baby-led weaning approved?

A "Not-So-Sloppy" Joe on a kids' plate with zucchini and tomato salad.

 

Let me tell you!

Ground Beef Sloppy Joes That are Baby-Led Weaning Approved

If you’re not too familiar with baby-led weaning, there are a few things to pay special attention to when offering foods to your little one:

CHEWING AND SWALLOWING ABILITY

When presenting food to a babe who’s just starting to eat, you want to make sure it’s appropriate for his or her current chewing and swallowing abilities. Ground beef – which I used for these Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes – is a great option as it’s already in small pieces and easy to chew. It’s even “gummable” for babies who may not have many (or any) teeth yet.

SALT

Sodium deserves some special attention when it comes to cooking for your little one. While adults can consume between 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium a day, babies and toddlers should be consuming much less, between 400-800 mg per day. That’s why you won’t see any added salt in this recipe, however, if you feel you want more salt in your Sloppy Joe mixture, feel free to set some “joe” mix aside for your baby and then season the rest as you wish.

SUGAR

While many traditional Sloppy Joe recipes use brown sugar as a sweetener, I try to steer away from pure sugar as much as possible when cooking for new eaters. To sweeten up the sauce a little bit, I recommend adding just enough maple syrup to tone down the acidity of the tomatoes.

THE MESS

If there’s one thing anyone who’s already gone through baby-led weaning can attest to, it’s that it makes a huge mess! In BLW, babies are encouraged to practice self-feeding from the very beginning, so things definitely don’t stay neat and tidy. The great thing about this Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe recipe is that the mess of the Joe filling will be at least somewhat contained by those fluffy crescent cups, and babies won’t even need to wield a fork to get to the good stuff.

"Not-So-Sloppy" Joes cooling on a rack, surrounded by a blue and white checked napkin.

While the nutrients in beef offer an ample amount of benefits, tomatoes and bell peppers give the recipe an extra dose of nutrition. With less mess and babies’ nutritional needs in mind, these “Not-So-Sloppy” Joe’s will be the perfect addition to your weeknight dinner rotation, not to mention they’ll be enjoyed by the whole family!

For more great family recipes and additional information about the health benefits of beef, be sure to check out BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

I’d love to hear all about your BLW adventures with beef in the comments below!

Ground Beef "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
12 mins
Total Time
42 mins
 

These Ground Beef “Not-So-Sloppy” Joes take a classic Sloppy Joe recipe and turn it into something the whole family - even your youngest eaters - will love. Sloppy Joe filling is tucked into fluffy crescent cups for a neater, handheld version of the popular weeknight dinner.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: baby-friendly, baby-led weaning, beef, entree, kid-friendly, main course, weeknight
Servings: 24 cups
Calories: 160 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ground mustard
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons coco aminos
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste (for adults)
  • 3 cans refrigerated crescent dough (enough dough for 3 dozen crescents)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven according to crescent dough package directions. Spray cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

  2. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until just translucent, about 3 minutes, then add bell peppers. Once bell peppers begin to soften, add Ground Beef. Stir in pan until it begins to brown, then add garlic powder and ground mustard. Continue stirring until most of the meat is browned.

  3. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to pan and stir until combined, then stir in the coconut aminos, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. If you want to add some salt for the adults and older kids in the family, now’s the time to do it, but go as light as you can. Turn the mixture down to low and let it simmer while you prepare the crescent cups.

  4. Unroll the crescent dough from its package and separate each triangle. Cut the top off of each triangle and then reattach it to the side to make a rectangle (as shown in the photos). Press rectangles one by one into the cupcake molds.

  5. Take a tablespoon measure and scoop 1-2 tablespoons into each crescent cup. Place cupcake pans in preheated oven and bake according to the crescent package directions (typically at around 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes), or until golden. Leave in pan until cool enough to touch, then gently remove, using a butter knife to gently ease them out if necessary.

Recipe Notes
  1. DISH DENSITY: Low
  2. When serving this dish to younger babies, be sure to watch the salt content.
Nutrition Facts
Ground Beef "Not-So-Sloppy" Joes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 160 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 13mg4%
Sodium 274mg12%
Potassium 82mg2%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 176IU4%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.