Zucchini Noodles in a Minty Pea Sauce

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Looking for a green St. Patrick’s day dish? Check out my recipe for Zucchini Noodles in a Minty Pea Sauce over at Growing Up Herbal. It’s my favorite resource for all things herbs and has excellent information on herbal medicine for young ones!

Cooking with Toddlers: Rose Infused Vegan Cheesecakes

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I am pleased to contribute to one of my favorite blogs Growing Up Herbal. We’re big believers in herbs and herbal medicine and I frequent the blog for ideas and remedies for my two little ones. I highly recommend checking the site out if you’re interested in herbs for children. While you’re there check out my recipe for Vegan Infused Rose Cheesecakes; just in times for Valentines day!

Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender Flower and Honey Bread

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The first time Fig and I ate this bread it was ,no joke, like eating a bar of soap. Needless to say, it took us a few attempts to get the proportions just right but once perfected I succumed to it’s deliciousness, devouring an entire loaf in one day. Since eating an entire loaf of bread is never good for one’s thighs, Fig and I have vowed to make this only for special occasions. Luckily we have Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve approaching. All legit holidays and thus a perfectly acceptable reason to make these loaves.

Despite this being insanely delicious and a perfect pairing with tea, the recipe was inspired by a not-so inspiring day of toddler shenanigans. A few weeks ago, Fig was having the worst day known to humanity. Everything was a major deal and cause for a complete breakdown. For example, forbidding him to clobber his baby brother with a wooden block? TEARS. Asking him to not paint on the wall with his watercolors. TEARS. Setting him down for lunch? TEARS. Taking away said lunch because nothing had been eaten? TEARS. No matter what I did or didn’t do that day resulted in, you guessed it, TEARS.

By 3 PM my patience was out and I was near tears myself when I decided we might as well bake some bread. Seeing as we both needed to unwind, lavender ( way too much of it in fact) was thrown into the dough last minute and upon trying it ( and consequently gagging), decided that it certainly had potential if we could make it less soapy and more bready.

Now, after many attempts, and a few extra pounds, Fig and I give you our perfected Lavender Flower and Honey Bread; the perfect antidote for a stressed out mama and a cranky toddler. Making it soothing and so is eating it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of finely crushed lavender flowers
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 package of dry active yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 3/4 cups of warm water, possibly a bit more depending on how the kneading the dough goes.

Directions:

  • Crush lavender flowers finely ( I used a mortar and pestle to do this)
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, honey, sea salt, lavender, yeast, and warm water.
  • Knead very well ( 5 minutes or more) and form into a rounded ball.
  • Place bread in floured bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  • After two hours, divide dough in half. On a floured work surface, form each piece of dough into a rounded loaf shape.
  • Bake at 400 for about 30-35 minutes, checking frequently to ensure the bread doesn’t over-brown.
  • Let cool before serving.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Hemp, Tomato and Cilantro Salad

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Fig usually doesn’t help me with salad preparation except when all other attempts to “inspire” him to eat his veggies fail. No matter how I serve , prepare, or disguise it, there are some vegetables that Fig won’t come within a mile of unless he’s preparing them. Case in point this amazingly delicious Hemp, Tomato, and Cilantro salad. Fig categorically rejects all things involving fresh tomatoes unless he’s chopping them. Something about slicing those babies in half makes them suddenly OK to eat.

So, on this particular day, when Fig had pretty much only eaten cream cheese and bread all day I decided it was time to bust out his kid friendly knife and do some veggie chopping for my most beloved of all salads. Of course, I had to redo much of his work ( toddler’s apparently don’t pay much attention to aesthetics! ) but he ate about 10 tomatoes and about $10.00 worth of hemp seeds ( an excellent source of omega fatty acids) so I was happy to oblige.

I make this salad in massive bunches on the weekend for weekday lunches. By Tuesday it’s certainly gone and I’m always looking forward to making it again on the weekend, it’s that good.

Hemp, Cilantro, and Tomato Salad:

  • 1 cup of hemp seeds
  • I dry pint of cherries tomatoes
  • 1 cup of finely diced cilantro
  • 1/2 a lemon’s juice
  • 1 large garlic cloves, crushed into a paste with a pestle and mortar if possible.
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Try not to eat the entire salad in one sitting.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Sweet Potato Dog Treats

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Fig and Mafalda, our sassy little dachshund, have always had a love-hate relationship from the beginning. The two most frequent things heard ( read: yelled)  in our house by me are “Mafalda, stop humping Fig!” and “Fig, no pulling Mafalda’s ears!”. Yes, my dog’s favorite activity aside from eating is hands-down humping Fig. Meanwhile, Fig just can’t resist a good old tug on Mafalda’s long and floppy ears. I’m continually finding myself refereeing wrestling matches between the two of them, making sure Fig doesn’t steal Mafalda’s bones and eat them ( he’s done it before) and of course, trying to keep the humping and ear pulling to a minimum.

But deep down inside, I know their best friends. Mafalda will attempt to dismember anybody who comes too close to Fig on our walks ( I’ve actually considered putting a muzzle on her for this very reason) and Fig will vehemently protect Mafalda should some poor unsuspecting 3 year old ask to pet her.

So, in honor of their friendship we decided to whip up some Sweet Potato Cookies for our furry pal. Despite some initial trepidation on Mafalda’s part she soon decided they were amazing and proceeded, for the next 5 hours, to beg and whine for more. Even little Fig took a few bites and decided they were pretty good indeed.

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Mafalda

Are those treats ready yet?!?

Sweet Potato Dog Treats

  • Two cooked  and cooled sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 coconut oil
  • A dash of maple syrup

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F
  • Combine all ingredients in bowl
  • Form a 1 inch cookie and place on an oiled baking sheet
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes

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hmm..smells healthy…I don’t know about this.

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Oh yeah baby….this is the good stuff!

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Belly full of treats..resting on her neck "pillow" ( she has a paw chewing problem we are trying to solve)

Life is good..belly full of treats, resting on her neck “pillow” ( she has a paw chewing problem we are trying to solve)

Baking with Toddlers: Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chia Seed Cookies

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Getting out of the house with a newborn and a toddler is like trying to herd a pack of cats. So far, our attempts to leave the house have gone like this:

1) Start packing the 900 items we need 2 hours in advance of departure.

2) 30 minutes before departure, sit two year old on potty. He ” no have go”.

3) Change baby’s diaper and nurse him.

4) Put baby in carseat.

5) Baby has an explosion in his diaper; change baby.

6) Toddler now pees on carpet while saying “I had an accident; no biggie!”

7) Clean up carpet, change toddler’s clothes.

8) Toddler proclaims ” I’m pooing” which is code for ” I need to go use the potty”.

9) Set toddler on potty; wait for 10 minutes while he does his business. Congratulate him profusely for letting us know he had to go.

10) Clean up potty and toddler.

11) Baby now cries due to hunger.

12) Nurse baby.

13) Baby has another explosion in diaper.

14) Toddler now cries due to hunger

15) Repeat process until by some stroke of luck, the stars align and we are able to make it out the door only two hours behind schedule.

Needless to say, we’ve tried to stick as close to home as possible since having our second baby. While my husband and I have attempted to remain as zen as possible during this transition, we’re both ready for a stiff drink by the time 8 PM rolls around.

So, in our time spent at home,  Fig and I have been up to lots of cooking projects, our most recent being Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chia Seed Cookies! While these certainly have a lot of sugar they are not totally an empty calorie food due the beans, pumpkin and chia seeds. I feel a little bit better about giving them to Fig as a sweet treat. After all, having a new baby brother is hard work and sometimes a cookie is just what the doctor ordered.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups of black beans
  • 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree ( our puree was homemade from our recent pumpkin patch trip but canned would probably work just as well).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate or carob chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips, sugar, flour and chia seeds in a food processor until smooth
  •  Pour mixture into a bowl, mix in chia seeds,flour, sugar, and chocolate chips
  • Spoon out batter  (about two tablespoons per cookie) on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Recipe makes about 15 good sized cookies

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Cooking with Toddlers: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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We’re back after a little baby break. Now we are a family of four! Having a 2 year old and a newborn is way easier and way harder than I expected. Easier because I know what to expect with our new arrival. Fig is a different story however. Having a new brother has been a bit rough on him and he’s had no problem letting us know!

I think I laid in bed for nearly two weeks after Fig was born. This time I think I laid in bed for two hours after coming home before I decided that my postpartum r&r probably wasn’t going to happen with little Fig. So despite having a baby just day’s old, we headed out to a local farm to let Fig run off his energy while we harvested some awesome pumpkins and gourds for a few cooking projects we’ve been meaning to get our hands on.

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Once home we decided that roasted pumpkin seeds were in order. As with all things super messy, Fig loved the activity. Full of scooping, sorting, washing, drying, and organizing. Really a toddler’s sensory playground. The activity was made sweeter by the fact that this was Fig’s pumpkin; the one he had helped picked out at the farm. Connecting the land to our food is something I believe to be highly important and a connection I hope to continue to make throughout his childhood.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Cut pumpkin open and remove seeds.
  • Wash seeds under warm water; remove all pumpkin fiber strings.
  • Put seeds in a pot of water with salt; bring to boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. ( For every 1/2 cup of seeds use two cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt).
  • After seeds have boiled, toss lightly in olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet making sure there is ample space between seeds.
  • Roast for around 6-7 minutes at 350 degrees F. Check frequently to ensure they don’t over-toast. Ideally the seeds should be lightly browned.
    • Baking time will vary depending on pumpkin variety you use. My advice; check the seeds often!

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Spinach Cakes with Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche

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Today I share with you one of our favorite Monday meals. This is one of several “go to” 20 minute meals that I make when we are short on time and don’t have a lot of food in the fridge. Fig loves these spinach cakes and can put more than a few back under proper conditions. It’s also a great meal to make with a toddler since it’s so simple and requires measuring and mixing; two toddler favorites.

I’ve tried these cakes with chard, tomatoes, kale, and a number of other vegetables. All of the cakes turned out delicious, but the simple spinach recipe remains our favorite.

Spinach Cakes with Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche.

Ingredients for the Spinach Cakes:

  • 1 cup of pastry flour
  • 1 ¼ cup of finely chopped spinach
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp of ghee, melted ( clarified butter)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • ½ of a medium sized shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 egg white
  • Oil for frying

Ingredients for the Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche:

  • ¼ lemongrass stalk
  • 1/2 cup of crème fraiche
  • Juice from 1 small lime
  • ½ tsp of sea salt

For the Spinach Cakes:

  • Chop spinach finely (I typically use the organic bagged triple-washed spinach for this recipe to save myself the “hassle” of washing and drying the leaves )
  • Next mix the flour, baking powder, whole egg, ghee, salt, cumin and milk in a large bowl
  • Add the spinach, mixing well.
  • Finally, add the egg white, folding it into the batter.
  • Turn a frying pan on medium and place about 2-3 tablespoons of batter. Pat down to desired thickness. The cake is ready to be flipped when little bubbles appear on the surface, usually a few minutes at most depending on thickness.

For the Lemongrass Infused Crème Fraiche:

  • Grind the lemongrass in a spice blender and whisk with other ingredients. Alternatively, you can finely chop the lemongrass and whisk all ingredients together.

Serve the pancakes warm with a dollop of lemongrass crème fraiche and top with sprouts. Literally, this recipe is a piece of cake! Oh, and don’t forget to do the dishes…Fig never let’s me forget since it’s quite possible he loves cleaning the dishes more than cooking ( that will last forever right?)

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Kitchen Activities for Toddlers

www.cookingwithtoddlers.org

If you’re looking to incorporate your toddler into meal preparation, you probably fall into one of two categories. Those that are interested in teaching their young children about food for some specific reason ( perhaps to help a picky eater or teach children early kitchen skills) or those, like me, who can’t manage to prepare a meal without a little person sobbing at their feet desperate to be picked up. But whatever your motive or need, there are a few simple kitchen activities that are great for toddlers.

#1: Doing the Dishes: This is my “go to” kitchen activity for Fig when there isn’t much else for him to do and he’s needy. Not only is this a fun sensory activity for toddlers but the warm water is soothing and usually calms him down when he’s in a mood. I throw in some plastic cups, utensils, and anything else that isn’t breakable and let him play in the water for as long as he wishes. This activity is also the one that keeps him occupied the longest, upwards of 20-30 minutes.

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Cleaning Up

#2: Shelling Peas or Beans: Fig won’t eat peas in a dish but will eat them as he shells. In fact, he’s notorious for finishing off an entire batch of spring peas before they make their way into our meal. For this reason,  I usually keep extra peas on hand and let him go crazy. This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and inspiring some healthy snacking along the way.

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3) Pouding/Mashing: Toddlers love destruction. Whether it be garlic, mashing avocados, or breaking nuts, pounding is a great activity for little kids. Of course, you must demonstrate the proper technique and supervise since an overenthusiastic toddler could easily pound their fingers along with the rest of the ingredients.

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#4) Sorting: Another great kitchen activity if you don’t have much else to give your toddler. I grab some nuts and a few empty jars and tell him to transfer the nuts into the various jars.

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#5) Stirring, Mixing, Measuring, and Transferring Dough: These activities can result in epic messes if not properly supervised ( take it from me, I’ve cleaned far too many flour explosions in my days). If you have the time to demonstrate and supervise, these activities can be really fun for both toddler and parent. Working with dough is a time tested toddler approved activity. Giving your little person a tiny batch of dough for themselves is even better as it allows you time to finish what you’re working on. Mixing and measuring is a great way to effortlessly and naturally introduce quantities and measurements to toddlers. Transferring dough into a muffin pan is not only fun but a great way to improve motor skills and accuracy.

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Making Sopes

#6) Cleaning Vegetables: This is an easy way to involve little kids in the beginning of meal preparation. Taking the outer layers of an onion or garlic off, scrubbing root vegetables or rinsing fresh greens in the sink have all proven to be engrossing activities for my little guy.

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#7) Chopping: After the initial time investment it takes to teach proper knife skills, this can be a great activity for little hands. In fact, once Fig gets chopping he typically doesn’t want to stop and keeps asking for more and more items to chop; which of course can be problematic! Read about my post regarding kitchen and knife safety here.

Parsley

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#8) Juicing: Last but not least, helping a toddler squeeze juice from fresh fruit is super satisfying for little folks. Not only does my little guy enjoy squeezing fresh oranges, he also loves using a citrus reamer and working with lemons and limes. Just make sure your toddler doesn’t have any open cuts on their hands or touch their eyes ( again, learned the hard way).

Making Juice

My toddler ate dog food and other concerns

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So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in enticing Fig to eat avocados. This is a pity because avocados are one of my favorite foods not to mention superbly nutritious. S0, when I stumbled across this recipe by Oh, She Glows for 15 minute creamy avocado pasta I was confident I’d hit the jackpot. Not only does it take 15 minutes to make ( 30 with a toddler) but because Fig is a sucker for all things pasta,  I was confident it would be the solution to our avocado woes.

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And because Pasta is the perfect vehicle to sneak more veggies into my little guy, I decided to add freshly shelled sweet peas, fresh corn  and a little cilantro; we are in Mexico after all. All was going as planned until I left for two minutes.

As any mama knows, a toddler can accomplish an incredible amount of mischief in less than 30 seconds flat. Less time is needed with an accomplice.

Enter, Mafalda the Dachshund. A sneaky, sassy little sausage dog with a weakness for freshly shelled pea. 2 minutes is all it took for 1/2 our peas to go down the hatch of a veggie loving dachshund with the help of a two year old sous chef.

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Dog

I walked in on the pea debacle in full swing, quickly realizing I had nobody to blame but myself. Rule # 1 of cooking with toddlers, never leave them unattended, especially with a dog.

We had plenty of corn and cilantro, so our recipe wasn’t shot yet.  Next we set out to make the avocado sauce only to find that Mexico City’s rainy season had other plans for us. With the power going on and off, we weren’t able to make use of the blender. No matter, hand grinding did the trick and was deliciously fun for my little chef.

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With the avocado’s prepared, back to the kitchen we went to assemble our creation. As I’m adding the garlic, lemon, and cilantro the dish I feel Fig’s presence behind me; quietly absorbed in some task. I want to take a picture of our final product since it looks quite lovely and am scrambling to do so before the lights turn off from the storm.

2 minutes pass with no peep from Fig. As I turn around to bring the meal towards the table I see him squatted by the dog’s bowl, back towards me, the rhythmic motion of his jaws moving up and down.  It takes me a full 5 seconds to realize he is scarfing down the dog’s food.

That night, Fig did not eat his Avocado Pasta. He was too full off of kibble ( albeit, high quality organic kibble from Whole Foods, but kibble nonetheless).My only consolation was the several dozen peas that made it into his stomach prior to giving the rest to the dog, the tiny bit of avocado he tried while processing it, and the plethora of dried vegetables and fruit found in the kibble.

We’ll redefine success for the day and call it a win.