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Tapas for Toddlers

January 8th, 2009 · 9 Comments

It’s no secret that tapas are one of my favorite foods and Jaleo, the first outpost of gregarious local chef Jose Andres’ growing empire is my favorite local restaurant. When you think about it, tapas (“little plates”) are really the ideal toddler-friendly meal, with small portions, varied colors and textures that catch their eye without being intimidating.

I recently posed a question to Chef Andres via the PBS Engage blog‘s “Five Good Questions” feature (a great read, by the way).

I am a long-time fan and Jaleo was one of the first restaurants we took my son out to eat in. He was a big fan of the (original) patatas bravas. I know you have young children too so I’m curious what their favorite tapas recipes are? Colleen

My girls love croquetas! I think all children do. Crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. They also love pan con tomate, the classic Catalan tomato toast. Many parents tell me that their children love tapas. They love the little plates and the fact that they don’t have to make up their mind and can try a little bit of everything. I think it also reflects the pure straightforward nature of Spanish cooking. Children respond to the pure flavors of dishes where ingredients speak for themselves. – Jose Andres

For our Los Reyes feast this week, I made the croquetas from Andres’ previous cookbook, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America. The book includes all our favorites from the restaurant and is a great introduction to traditional Spanish flavors. (I don’t have his newest book, Made in Spain, yet, but it has even more inspiring recipes.) These croquetas are a fried, meat-filled (chicken and serrano ham) bechamel sauce, and while I added some finely chopped red peppers, they are still not exactly a healthy dish. But, as an occasional alternative to chicken nuggets (which the toddler thought they were, at first), these are a great treat. There’s not too much toddlers can do to help prepare this recipe, unless you put them to work rolling the dough into little logs. Of course, be sure to distract them away from the kitchen when you begin the frying.

Along with the croquetas, I adapted another Andres recipe for cider-braised chorizo, using a fresh non-alcoholic cider and adding carrots and garbanzo beans to make a main-dish stew. The toddler loves eating sausage with toothpicks, so this was designed especially for him. It would work for younger kids learning to eat with their fingers, too. Just use a mild chorizo or even a sweet Italian sausage if your little ones aren’t ready for the spicier ones. And we rounded out the dinner with a red pepper and orange salad and some citrus roasted olives. (My toddler actually hates olives, because he always thinks they are grapes and is then greatly disappointed by the salty taste. I’m sure he’ll come around eventually.)

Recipe: Cider Chorizo Bean Stew
Adapted from Jose Andres


  • 8 ounces chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch slices (or milder sausage)
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 carrots, cut in thick slices
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • fresh parsley, optional

Instructions: In a medium saute pan, brown chorizo over medium high heat for a 2-3 minutes. Add carrots and beans, cook 1 minute. Pour in apple cider and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 40 minutes, until cider reduces and becomes syrupy. Top with a little fresh parsley and serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

Update: Jose Andres cooked some recipes from Made in Spain on Martha this morning.

Tags: cooking with toddlers · proteins · recipes

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jill // Jan 8, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Yum, makes me hungry for your cooking and for Jaleo!

  • 2 liz // Jan 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Hi, Liz from Meal Makeover Moms here. I must say, this recipe looks incredibly easy, healthy, and yummy. I definitely plan on making it!

  • 3 foodietots
    Twitter: foodietots
    // Jan 9, 2009 at 12:59 am

    @ Jill – We need to visit the Beverly Hills outpost together!

    @ liz – Thanks so much, hope you enjoy it!

  • 4 Ruth // Jan 9, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Fantastic idea. I’m really appreciative now that my 2 year old grandson loves to pick and choose what he eats. Thanks for sharing.

  • 5 Jill // Jan 9, 2009 at 11:34 am

    There’s a Beverly Hills outpost of Jaleo? Since when?

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