Written and photographed by Kristin Hackler
Before we get into recipes, I have to start by telling you that I’m a book addict, and not the electronic kind. I revel in paper. I get giddy over hardbacks and when I find an old book with a beautiful dust jacket, I don’t care if the title is Five Essays on the Splicing of Sweet Pea Varietals; I grab it without a second thought. From yard sales to library discount bins, if there are old books for sale I am probably there, standing in line before the shop opens.
It was during one of these book-hunting adventures that I came across a title that made me laugh in that sudden way that makes people turn and stare at you funny. It was called E. D. Ward – A Mercurial Bear.
Not so much written as drawn by artist and author Edward Gorey under the anagram Dogear Wryde, the book is basically a paper doll set for a teddy bear. But what got me wasn’t the bear figure, who looked somewhat somber about having to stand… sorry… bear naked on the cover of the book; it was the title.
You see, I have an incredible little one-year-old boy named Edward who is the light of my life, but if there was ever a single word in this world to describe him, it would be mercurial. One minute he loves playing with blocks, the next he hates the sight of them. For about half an hour he’s in love with a homemade macaroni rattle and in the blink of an eye he’s throwing it across the room and pouting. “Mercurial” is about as apropos as it gets.
And the same goes for his food preferences. For the longest time I thought he hated macaroni and cheese, but one night we were visiting a friend who has a two-year-old daughter and he was standing right there in front of her plate, dropping handfuls of cheesy noodles like he hadn’t eaten in a week.
Needless to say, this little guy keeps me on my toes when it comes to dinner preparations. At any given time I have about three finger foods in the fridge, ready in case a former favorite becomes today’s new wall decoration. Fortunately, his food swings rotate fairly quickly, so it’s rare that I have to toss something out because it’s been in the fridge too long.
And in a way, his pickiness has become a great source of inspiration. I’ve never been one to trust prepackaged foods and I go for organic every chance I get, so over the past several months I’ve crafted dozens of recipes for finger foods: from the super soft trial foods at six months to a mini version of mom and dad’s dinner at one year.
For those of you struggling with your own mercurial bears, here’s a recipe that has been tried and true through some of Edward’s worst meal aversions. Depending on the age of your child, you might want to leave out some of the “harder” items such as rolled oats or raisins, but overall this recipe works for any of the finger food ages and can be altered at least a dozen ways.
This is a great recipe to make just after breakfast or lunch, or whenever you have time to let it sit out and cool for a while before dinner. While this recipe takes very little time to prepare, it does take a while in the oven, so make sure you’ll be home for at least an hour before you start. I can’t say Edward always eats his bakes, but he at least gives them a try. And that’s the best I can ask for from my mercurial little bear.
Harvest Fruit Bake
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Makes one loaf pan
- butter or oil for greasing the pan
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
- 1 pear, peeled, cored and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons organic baby cereal (optional; I like to include it because of the added vitamins)
- 2-3 tablespoons apple cider or orange juice (enough to dampen the oats)
- 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon molasses, sorghum or maple syrup (optional)
- Tiny pinch salt (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325˚F and lightly grease a standard loaf pan with butter or oil.
Combine the remaining ingredients, making sure everything is well incorporated.
Scoop into the prepared pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for approximately one hour.
To make any of these variations, replace the apple, pear, carrots, and raisins with the following:
Apple & Cinnamon
2 peeled, cored, and diced apples; also, increase the oats to 1 cup and increase the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon
Sweet Potato & Carrots
1/2 cup peeled and diced sweet potatoes; 1/2 cup peeled and diced carrots; and 1/3 cup raisins
Butternut Squash & Apple
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and diced butternut squash and 1 peeled, cored, and diced apple
1/2 cup diced frozen or fresh strawberries; 1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries; and 1/2 cup frozen or fresh blackberries (the berries will become very soft and mushy in the baking process)
In addition to being a freelance writer and children’s book author, Kristin Hackler is a mother, crafter of artisan soaps and avid DIY enthusiast. Kristin writes a wide variety of kitchen, home, and family-related content for eBay.