Cooking with Toddlers: Handmade Pasta with Kale Pesto

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Fig has always been a pasta addict. In fact, pasta is a frequently used vegetable vehicle in our house. I’ve come up with some pretty creative ( lets use that term loosely) pasta sauces in an attempt to get the little guy to eat his vegetables. Some of them were wash your mouth out with soap bad and other dishes were pretty darn good. No matter if the dish is horrible or amazing, if it’s noddles, Fig will eat it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could put dirt puree on top of noodles and they’d be gone in 15 seconds.

We live 20 minutes away from ‘little italy” and one of our favorite things to do is grab some fresh handmade pasta from an awesome little shop. The noodles cost like a million dollars but they taste aaaaamazzzing.

So after spending the kids college fund on noodles I had the bright idea of making them myself. Since noodle making involves dough I knew little Fig would be game for a lazy sunday of handmade noodle making.

Noodle making is an awesome and super easy recipe to involve toddlers in. (It goes without saying that a mess of apocalyptic proportions will be left in the noodle making wake but I think the fun and deliciousness of making the noodles counteracts the grim post-cooking scene.)First of all there is kneading the dough, then the dough must be rolled, and then the dough must be cut into tiny little pieces. All three of these activities are perfect for a two year old since so much sensory and fine motor skills are involved.

Even if you don’t want to so thoroughly involve a little person in pasta making you could always make some extra dough, give them a rolling pin, and have them “make pasta” next to you. I know I’ll be doing this next time pasta is on our menu!

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Pasta Dough

  • All Purpose Flour
  • Eggs
    • The pasta making rule is 2 eggs for every 1 cup of flour.
    • We used 6 eggs and three cups of flour to make about 5 servings plus extra for Fig to play with.

Kale Pesto.

  • 2 cups of packed kale leaves
  • 2/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • Juice from 1/2 a small lemon
  • salt to taste if needed

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Directions for pasta noodles:

  • Combine flour and eggs in a mixing bowl.
  • Knead well.
  • Let sit for a bit ( 20-30 minutes)
  • Sprinkle flour on a surface and with a rolling pin, roll the dough as thin as possible since the pasta puffs up when cooked
  • Using a sharp knife, cut into thin strips and set aside.
  • When ready, place pasta noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes ( it cooks fast!).

Directions for Kale Pesto:

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until fully blended.
  • Serve on pasta.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Smashed Potatoes

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I have yet to come across a toddler who doesn’t enjoy mashing, smashing, banging or otherwise attempting to destroy things. Unfortunately for me, Fig has a tendency to deconstruct items of value. Furthermore, I usually make it to the crime scene after the damage has been done and there’s no possibility of thwarting the the tiny act of vandalism.

So making smashed potatoes with a toddler is multifunctional; they can smash and mash to their little hearts desire and make a tasty side dish at the same time. There is one drawback to this dish; every time Fig now sees a potato he tries to smash the crap out of it. A recent side dish of whole roasted rosemary potatoes was destroyed in under 30 seconds the other day while we were not looking. You’ve been warned!

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Potatoes with a side of plane please!

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Also note to add a few extra potatoes to the batch as several will most likely get eaten during the smashing process.

Ingredients:

  • Baby Red Potatoes ( we cooked about 10 for three people)
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Bring potatoes to boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to low and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
  • Let potatoes completely cool.
  • Once cool, invite an eager toddler to smash them onto a baking sheet.
  • Preheat oven to 415 fahrenheit.
  • Drizzle smashed potatoes with olive oil and salt; bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and brown.
  • We serve our potatoes with Sage Aioli but they are just as delicious with a bit of butter.
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Having a toddler do the smashing makes for some interesting shaped potatoes but the taste is still amazing!

 

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Apple Rings and Apple Cider Vinegar

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I’m not a very crafty or festive person but I’m working on it. Planning and doing seasonal crafts and activities are akin to torture for me, but I realize the importance of creating a rhythm to the year through holidays and the celebration of seasons for young children.

That being said, Fall is my favorite season and there seems to be no shortage of food related projects my little ones can do. Our newest and latest obsession is the apple peeler. Something about cranking machine is super exciting for my little Fig and since we bought the machine (a week ago) we’ve probably gone through $40.00 of apples.

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And while I generally try to keep my kitchen uncluttered with unnecessary kitchen appliances I consider this apple peeler a necessity! If you love dried fruit as much as we do it’s a worthwhile purchase and can provide hours of fun for little hands. It is an activity, however, you must be hyper vigilant in supervising  since the peeler and corer are very sharp.

After peeling and removing the cores; simply bake at 175-200 degrees fahrenheit in the oven for several hours; checking frequently to ensure the apple rings do not over crisp. The apples should have the chewiness of store bought dried apple rings when done.

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And of course, don’t waste those precious apple cores and peels! We decided to make apple cider vinegar ( we used this recipe) which I’ll later turn into an herbed apple cider vinegar disinfecting  kitchen cleaner.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Elderberry, Mint, and Fig Popsicles

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I had a crazy pregnant lady moment the other day when I consumed the entire batch of homemade strawberry popsicles I had made for Fig at 11 PM while watching ( oh god, I hate to even admit it) Keeping up with the Kardashians. How this happened, I don’t even know. I just awoke from a kardashian induced haze with strawberry popsicle residue all over my shirt. I felt dirty.

Even worse, the next day when Fig asked for his after lunch poppycle I had to explain the ugly truth; that mama had eaten them at point blank.  I assured him that right after nap time, we’d get busy making a new batch. And so we did and decided that Elderberry, Mint, and Fig would be our creation of choice.

Popsicle making is a great activity (albeit messy) for toddlers and the highlight for Fig ( aside from eating the smoothie mixture while ladeling it into the popsicle mold) was putting the sticks into the mold. In fact, that activity alone is something we might save for a rainy day activity since it kept him occupied for a quite a while.

Even worse, these popsicles require more self control on my part than the strawberry ones. I might need to invest in a second popsicle mold since clearly Fig isn’t the only popsicle connoisseur in our household!

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 Elderberry, Mint, and Fig Popsicles:

  • 1/2 a cup of dried elderberries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 dried cloves
  • 6 large figs
  • Chopped mint to taste ( we about 20 sprigs)

1) In a large pot, boil three cups of water, the elderberries,cinnamon sticks and cloves..Once boiling, turn the stove off and let sit for 30 minutes.

2) After elderberries have cooled, strain out the cinnamon, cloves and berries.

3) Combined the infused elderberry water, figs, and mint in a blender. Pulse into fully blended and pour the mixture into popsicle molds.

4) Enjoy once frozen!

Too delicious to resist!

Too delicious to resist!

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Cooking Safely with Toddlers

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A two year old wielding a knife isn’t exactly a comforting image for most parents. And since my kid could find a way to injure himself on a marshmallow, naturally, I was a bit apprehensive when we started cooking together. Boiling water, micrograters, garbage disposals; the possibilities for disaster seemed infinite. But , at the end of the day, we all wanted to eat dinner and there was no way I could finish a meal with a sobbing desperate baby who just wanted to be involved. So into the kitchen we went.

We started working together in the kitchen when he was around 12 months and most of what he did was really quite removed from the real action. He would sit on the floor and play with extra dough or “mix” some veggies in a bowl. As he got older though, these types of simple activities no longer cut it.  They would passify him for about 20 seconds before he would ask to be “up”. If anyone has tried to chop an onion with a toddler on your hip, you know it’s impossible. So I let him, with much supervision and direction, take on more complex tasks. Tasks that actually aided in the progression of dinner.

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Here is how we got started cooking in the kitchen safely: 

#1) We bought a small working table for him. I had him on a stool for a bit so he could reach the counter, but at 16 months, he wasn’t steady enough. Managing a boiling pot of water, chopping with a sharp knife, and making sure your baby doesn’t hurl off the edge of a tall stool and break his face was really too much.

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#2) Around 18 months of age I bought a child sized knife so he could start chopping, an activity that can captify him for hours to this day. Before letting him use the knife I tried to impale, slice and otherwise injure myself in earnest. The knife we purchased was really quite dull (as would be expected with a child’s knife!). Despite it being so dull, it took dozens upon dozens of times for Fig to use the knife properly. I had to watch him closely the whole time and correct him on the technique. This was probably the most frustrating aspect of teaching Fig to cook.  To this day, he still has to be monitored closely because you never know when he’s going to bust out of the kitchen in a full sprint, knife in hand.

#3) We set some early ground rules.

  • When I’m working at the stove I won’t pick him up ( which, to this day, results in a sob fest)
  • He must stand back a good 5 feet when I open the oven door.
  • When I say “careful,  hot!”, as in transferring a boiling bowl of pasta into a colander, he must stand back 5 feet.
  • When I’m working with sharp objects, he can’t be in my arms or near me ( Again, sob fest)

#4) I try to do all the “dangerous” aspects before working with him OR get his cooking table set up and engage him in a task while I do my part.

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In the year we’ve been in the kitchen together the only accidents we’ve had involved the food ( rock hard, burnt to a crisp muffins anyone?)  Partly because I’m hypervigilant and paranoid but also because I invested a lot of time into making sure he uses tools correctly and engages in safe behavior.

While I started involving Fig in the kitchen out of sheer necessity, it’s grown into something enjoyable for both of us.  I hope that it stays that way for years to come.