7 posts categorized "Recipes - Kid-Friendly"

Sunday Meal Planning: Back to the Lunch Grind

September 04, 2011

I start every school year thinking this will be the year I win my kids over with the homemade lunches. And every year, I end up giving in to the siren song of the cafeteria (last year, it was the second week of school, when Truman came home with a bill -- he'd been getting both a cafeteria tray and his lunchbox every day). Certainly, I've loved being here in Portland, where school food is undergoing a serious revolution, and, most days, the children will have ingredients from local farms on the menu.

However, as the photo above (taken at a field trip near the end of school last year, so we've got to give them some slack for brown bagging necessities) indicates, there's a lot of room for unhealthy choices. As hard as I try at home to steer my children clear of refined sugar, preservatives, processed flours and other highly-processed foods: if Truman has a choice, it's chocolate milk every day, and, judging from this small window on school food, no one eats the good stuff like grapes.

So I'm trying to get it right this year.

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Sunday Meal Planning: Getting Kids Involved With 'The Whole Family Cookbook'

April 24, 2011

My friend Michelle Stern was still pitching The Whole Family Cookbook when I met her face-to-face a year ago during the IACP conference in Portland. Once she closed the deal and started creating recipes, I did a little testing and, as you'd expect, lots of photograph-making in the process. Because her book is focused on cooking together with children, I wanted to get Everett and Truman and Monroe involved; and I was immediately surprised to see how much benefit we get from having them join in the cooking fun. [Note: Enter a giveaway for the book by commenting; details at the end of the post.]


Even months before we got the book, then, we were discovering how much healthier kids might eat if they just take a hand -- not just in cooking the food -- but in planning that cooking. I'd ask Everett which of a couple possible recipes to try, and we'd discuss whether a recipe had ingredients he'd like together. I was a little thrilled when he said one of the recipes we tried was too sweet for him -- and we made another variation on it that had honey and a small amount of sugar and that we all loved, adding a great sherbet recipe to our family repertoire. (The recipe that made it into the book is a delightfully tart buttermilk lemon sherbet, a winner indeed.)

Handing kids a cookbook with lots of pretty photos of healthy food and asking them, "find something for dinner tomorrow" is the best way I can think of to get them involved in this hardest parental job (filling their stomachs with good "growing food") and to make sure the hard work you put in to choosing sources and shopping and lugging the stuff home and cooking it all on demand pays off. Until, that is, they're old enough to do all the shopping and preparing on their own (I was particularly freed by the image of Rebecca's teens from last week's post making turkey sandwiches and sweet potatoes). I did that one night, and the next night, we had taco salad straight from Michelle's book (my recipe adds red cabbage to the onions for a little extra nutritional zing).

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Homemade Granola Bars: crowd-pleasing & easy, too!

March 31, 2011

I came to realize that there were a handful of grocery items that really added to our level of waste: milk (at least we can recycle the jugs), cereal (boxes recycled, inner bags usually not), and granola bars (CLIF might have a recycling program for their wrappers, but all the other shiny ones are usually chucked into the landfill).  

So, I have been experimenting with making granola bars using ingredients I can buy in bulk (nuts, sugar, oats, choco chips!, dried fruit).  Other mamas have recently asked me for recipes, and lots of us seem to be experimenting, so I thought it'd be fun to share tips, tricks, and favorite recipes.

The hardest part is getting the consistency down, making sure the liquid binders (maple syrup, honey, butter, peanut butter, coconut oil, etc) is ample to hold it all together.  When I mix it all together, if the end result doesn't look sticky enough, I'll throw in a beaten egg, which is sure to keep it all together.  So far, two of my favorite recipies are from Alton Brown and this thick chewey bar recipe that happens to be gluten-free (one of our kids is gluten-free).

Have you made granola bars at home?  Best recipes to share to make the perfect bar?  Must-try ingredients and mix-ins?

What we learned in a cooking lesson: Soup every way

March 07, 2010

A nice mama took me up on my offer from the post about Jamie Oliver, and came over Thursday for a cooking lesson. While I'd quizzed her on likes and dislikes before she came (no mushrooms, she said, and her husband wasn't an onion fan), we hadn't really talked about what she wanted to learn. "I feel overwhelmed," she said, with a 14-month-old in the kitchen and a tight budget. "How do people just always have what they need on hand?"

We quickly realized that she didn't need help figuring out how to dice and peel and saute: she needed to be released from the stress of a recipe. She's one of those people (on the other end of the spectrum of home cooks than I) who must absolutely put two teaspoons of thyme into a recipe if it calls for two teaspoons of thyme, and if she can't find thyme or if it's very expensive or if she gets home and realizes she has, after all, no balsamic vinegar (just cider), or whatever: she panics.

What she needed, I said, was to cook without a recipe at all. Just a process. That would save her from the planning, list-making, recipe-checking, budget-busting stress. She could just buy whatever she saw that was in season and inexpensive (or whatever was growing in her garden, arrived in her CSA box, or her mom had given her), and use the process to make it fit.

We made one thing: a cabbage black bean chili, in which I used the beans from the recipe I included in the first post, and I stressed throughout our time that weren't going to talk about quantities or requirements, just procedures, categories and maximums, and ways she could fit this process into her own family's life. One piece of advice I gave her was, I thought, universally useful, and that is to figure out what are your favorite and most versatile spices, and become comfortable enough with them so you'll always know how much to use. Mine are cumin, smoked paprika, dried chiles, cloves, nutmeg and allspice; other good standbys could include ginger, dry mustard, star anise, thyme, dill, cinnamon and cayenne or chipotle pepper. You could only have two or three (cumin and thyme and some sort of pepper, for instance) and still manage to make good food no matter what, I think. Buy the spices in bulk (Limbo has a fantastic fresh spice and herb aisle; many other neighborhoods sport their own super spice sources) and you'll save money and ensure freshness.

Below is the process for bean soup I used. This is an endlessly great way to make soups, and could be vegetarian, vegan, or thoroughly meaty-creamy, depending on which options you picked. The one we made was delicious! And though I'll probably never make it exactly like that again, I'm sure we'll make many more great soups in our day that will best even that.

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urbanMamas snack: The recipes that changed our lives

January 21, 2010

Never one to shy away from an opportunity to hyperbolize food, I was enthralled with my neighbor Camellia's email today, asking me to try a recipe for raw, vegan "brownies," and write about them here in the context of life-changing food. What, she asked, are the simple, healthy, delicious recipes we couldn't feed our families without? 

Immediately, I thought of my favorite shortbread cookies, made with measures of brown rice flour, whole wheat flour, and white flour; honey; and plenty of butter. They put me at peace despite the fat content; it's all whole "real" foods and it's giving us the sweet cookie fix we all crave with a hefty dose of whole grains and none of the processed sugar I've come to fear. I also love the "recipe" Truman and I devised; stir together plain hazelnut or sunflower butter, honey, and a few drops of vanilla, eat with a spoon (that was breakfast today). And of course, there are zinemama's zucchini carrot muffins, shared with us just yesterday (great way to use up frozen grated zucchini!).

As soon as I have 20 minutes to shell the walnuts (gathered, appropriately, from the enormous tree behind her house), I plan to try these out; she, like me, had been treating herself regular with pieces of chocolate bar and these -- with only the whole-foods sugar of the dates -- are a far less compromising luxury. And if you like these, also try the homemade "Lara Bar" recipes here and here. Please, share your recipes that delight both kid and parent alike with their delicious wholesomeness! Camellia's and my recipes are in the "more" portion of the post.

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Raab is cheap, green and good: Cooking from box, garden, market

April 29, 2009

Ok, I'll 'fess up: I've been casing out overgrown kale plants in my neighborhood, considering knocking on doors to offer my services as a volunteer harvester. The kale, the broccoli, the arugula and collards and brussels sprouts that have overwintered are now going splendiferously to seed. And what's shooting up like green and yellow fireworks is delicious. It's called "raab" or "rapini" or "rapa," and this is not the first time I've sung its praises.


Last weekend at the farmer's market, I asked about the price of some bunches of raab at the Viridian Farms booth. It was only the middle of the day but her veggies were already picked-over; the farm focuses on berries and peppers, so April is a quiet month. "Two dollars," she said. The bunches were huge and my eyes lit up. "No, $1, they're looking pretty limp." I handed over two dollars before she negotiated further (heh), and asked what kind of raab it was. "Arugula."

I always thought I didn't like arugula, but I sauteed one bunch up as soon as I arrived home, relegating to the pantry the booty of two bunches of kale raab and one of brussels sprouts raab ("it's only available this time of year!" the farmer said as another customer considered a bunch, critically -- some varieties, like Italian broccoli, produce raab year-round and are very easy to grow in a NW garden).

Unlike most veggies that can be prepared so many ways, I believe there is one best way to eat raab -- unless of course you have a garden, and you should just nibble straight from the stalk; the not-quite-open florets are the best part, along with the tender new leaves. I call it "raab one way" and I've detailed my method here at Culinate. Once you've cooked it, you can eat it straight, or toss into scrambled eggs or a frittata; with raw, chopped garlic or green garlic, white beans or lentils, and olive oil for a warm salad; as a bed for poached or fried eggs, with hollandaise, if you're the sort of person who makes hollandaise sauce; on a homemade pizza (I think a white pizza or pizza formaggi would be perfect); tossed with pasta (strozzapretti or gemelli would be fun, or fusilli), garlic and some sort of good hard cheese or fresh chevre; or with smokey blue cheese and canned roasted peppers or dried tomatoes.

Raab, more than anything, is a simple spring vegetable, full of newness and tender sweetness, a burst of spring, reminiscent of the plant underneath but mellower, brighter, its winsome little sister. You'll fall in love, like me, and chances are your children will too. (Everett, seeing a pot of sauteed raab on the counter: 'Oooh! Greens!' and makes himself a plate.)

Crafting with Kiddos

May 03, 2007

As a mama, I love to encourage my children to be creative, both through crafts and in the kitchen.  Lisa is looking for some ideas of activities to do with her new two year old child:

My husband and I are adopting a two year old boy that we brought home about a month ago.  I am hoping to get advise from other moms about good activities for two year olds.  We read tons of books, paint/color, play in the sand box, go to the park etc.  I am looking for some more indoor craft activities that give us a chance for a lot of interaction.  Also, he loves to help out in the kitchen so any fun recipe ideas would be great.

Img_6073_1 My recommendation for cooking would be to try easy baking things.   I like to let my little guy help mix up biscuits or pancake batter.  Playing with dough is fun for them, as is cutting out the shapes (making biscuits  - or scones! a winner in my house).  We also do crafts that involve multi-media type art, combining coloring, painting, and stickers all at once.  For recipes, you might check your nearest library for books that have kid-friendly recipes in them.  I have one that has a great pretzel recipe where the pretzels are to be shaped like letters.  We made one for each person in the family with their first initial (of course with M for Mama!).  Anyone else have some great successes in the indoor activity department?