Welcome back to my Cooking for Beansprout series, where I’m dishing up recipes that you can share with your babes. If you are the mom, dad, or caregiver of a mini person, this series is for you! If you are just joining me, check out the Introduction (and giveaway!) and this Baby-Led Weaning Primer.
Today I’ve got patty recipes! Meat patties, sliders and meatballs are perfect for beginning eaters, because (1) you can chop them into soft bite-size pieces perfect for little hands and teeth-less mouths (or even puree them if that works better for your babe), (2) you can pack them with interesting flavours (like lemongrass, ginger, fresh herbs, garlic and caramelized onions) and super-nutritious grated or mashed veggies, and (3) you can make larger adult-size versions (burgers!) for the big people in your family. They are also great for batch-cooking; I like to make a large quantity, bake them up, cool them down, and freeze them in zipper bags for quick lunches and dinners.
If you are a bit wary of grocery store ground meat (I will admit that I am), call ahead to your local butcher and ask them to grind up some fresh stuff for you. Or, if you are crazy like me, pick up a basic meat grinder (I have this one that attaches to my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer) and grind your own! If you can afford grass fed, organic or naturally raised meats, even better.
Also, forget everything you ever learned in the 1990s about the virtues of extra lean ground meats, and go for a slightly fattier cut when you can. Fat is good for babies, and definitely not terrible for adults (in moderation of course). And more importantly, a bit of fat makes the meat so much more flavourful and soft.
On with the recipes, all three of which are a big hit with the Beansprout (8 months), the Bean (3 ½) and the adults in our house. For the baby, I serve them plain with a side of steamed or roasted veggies. Older kids and adults might prefer them on a bun (burger-style) or atop a large dinner salad.
All these recipes can be easily doubled or tripled.
Thai Ginger-Lemongrass Chicken Patties
This is the perfect way to introduce your baby to the awesome flavours of lemongrass, cilantro and ginger. These also make amazing pan-fried chicken burgers, which we like to serve on a sesame seed bun spread with sriracha mayo and topped with arugula and tomato slices. Warning: do not barbeque these burgers! They are so moist (a good thing) that they fall apart (a bad thing). I speak from experience.
To make ‘em: Sautee 1 diced onion and 3 minced garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, until soft, and then set the mixture aside to cool. While it’s cooling, combine 2 pounds ground chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass (or the zest of one lime), ½ cup (or 1 small container) unsweetened applesauce, 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, 1 diced avocado and a large handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro. Then stir in the sauteed onions and garlic. Form the mixture into any combination of small patties and/or burgers you wish. Bake the small patties at 400 degres on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. The larger burgers are best pan-fried in a little olive oil or butter.
Lamb and Sweet Potato Patties
Lamb is super-flavourful and a great source of iron. My babies LOVE it. Kiwi and I love these patties too. We recently ate them for dinner with a side of homemade baba ghanoush, labneh (yogurt cheese) sprinkled with zaatar, flatbread and grated carrots and beets. Yum. One of my friends served these to her kids with a dollop of homemade tzatziki, which I think is a great idea!
To make ‘em: Combine 1 pound ground lamb shoulder, 1 large baked and mashed sweet potato, and 1 small finely grated zucchini (squeeze all the water out after grating). Form into patties and bake at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
Beef, Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Cheddar Patties
At 3 ½ the Bean is still not sure about mushrooms. Sometimes she will gobble them up, but most of the time she picks them out or spits them out. I’m convinced that it’s because I didn’t introduce her to shrooms when she was a wee lass, and I’m determined to do it right this time around. These patties are a gentle way to introduce the taste of mushrooms; they are mushroom-y but not overwhelmingly so. Even the Bean gobbles them up. The caramelized onion step makes this recipe a bit time-consuming (sorry), but the sweet oniony goodness is worth it! Plus this makes a huge batch of patties, including a few really delicious burgers for the big people in your family. Time well spent.
To make ‘em: Slice two onions into thin half moons (like this) and cook them in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until they are golden brown, soft and melty. This takes about a half hour or so. If the onions start to dry out, drizzle in a bit of balsamic vinegar. Remove the caramelized onions, and add ½ pound of thinly sliced mushrooms to the pan. Cook them until they are golden and have released all their water. Let the onions and mushrooms cool and then run a chef’s knife over them to chop them very finely. Stir the onion/mushroom mixture into 2 pounds of ground beef. Add 1 cup finely grated old cheddar and a small handful of thyme leaves (optional, but recommended). Gently mix everything together with your hands, and then form the mixture into patties (I like to make 4 adult-sized burgers and turn the rest into small kid-sized patties). Bake the small patties at 400 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through.