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A must-have for feeding little ones

What? Me? Throw food?

They probably don’t sell it at Buy Buy Baby, and it doesn’t appear on a lot of expecting moms’ registries, but I think a key piece of equipment for anyone preparing to feed little ones is the mini-muffin pan.

I first bought one of these when my daughter was 10 months old, and I was looking for a way to avoid buying the pre-packaged baby rice rusks sold in stores. If you have ever fed one of these “Mum-Mum” products to a young child, you know how good they are for making glue.

Somehow, the combination of their ingredients reacts with baby drool to create a sticky, messy, hard-to-clean-up-substance that coats your baby’s clothes, cheeks, car seat and whatever else gets in its way.

So I made mini-muffins, working in some iron-fortified baby cereal to try to keep nutrients in my little girl during a period where feeding time more closely resembled using a blender with the lid removed.

Mini-muffins are exactly the right size for baby hands, and they’re easy to pack for outings. Really, they’re probably a more appropriate serving size for all of us than what is often sold commercially. Have you seen what has happened to muffins lately? There are muffins being sold in coffee shops that could probably feed four people! But I digress…

As my daughter has grown, my use of the mini-muffin pan has grown with her. The other night I was rolling out dough for a quiche. She’s fascinated with dough of all kinds and was eyeing the big pie pan, so I told her I’d make her two special “pies” of her own.

I tucked a few dough scraps into the muffin tin, threw in some leftover rice and vegetables and poured over some of the egg mixture from the grown-up quiche.

It was the first time I’d ever seen her eat eggs voluntarily.

This weekend’s snow wasn’t quite sturdy enough for snowmen, so instead, we made “snowball snacks” by molding Rice Krispie treats in the mini-muffin cups (And that’s about as crafty as things get in my house.).

The pan provides a great way to think creatively about how to translate grown-up meals for tiny eaters. Mini-meatloaves, miniature servings of baked spaghetti or other popular casseroles might all be more appealing to those who are just starting out with utensils than something gloppy that will inevitably drip from their spoon as they hold it in mid-air.

You can usually pop these in the oven with the larger dish and just keep an eye on them. My mini-quiches were ready about 10 minutes before the larger dish came out of the oven.

Does your little one like potatoes? Try mixing an egg and some cheese with mashed potatoes and baking it into potato cakes that will pack a little more protein than their parent dish.

So if you’re shopping for a mom-to-be who you know already has plenty of Onesies, stuffed bunnies, board books and baby-rocker-swing-bouncer-contraptions, exit the diaper aisle and seek out a solid mini-muffin tin.

Unlike the Exersaucer, it will get used for more than a few months.

Find my recipes for applesauce and banana-yogurt baby muffins here