Cooking with Toddlers: Peeling Carrots

IMG_5998

I wonder if I can make Chicken Kiev with Fig? That was an actual thought I had a few days ago while I was under the influence of butter. Deliciously fragrant butter messes with your mind I tell you.

In my butter-induced altered state, I began contemplating some of the best times Fig and I have had in the kitchen. All of them have a commonality about them. Rather spontaneous and simple, they’ve emerged out of moments of quiet where I’ve been busily working in the kitchen only to feel a small tug of my pants and soft utterance of  “can I help please?

IMG_6032

To which the answer is always yes ( most of the time.) Peeling carrots is one of those easy kitchen activities that can provide minutes ( let’s be real about toddlers attention spans) of focused attention from an eager child and it’s about as simple as you can get.

It also happens to be the most reliable way I can get Fig to eat carrots. It was my intention to serve what was left of the carrots ( which by the time Fig was done peeling happened to be three) for dinner; roasted to perfection and served with garlic salt. But once these beauties were roasted we made the executive decision to sample just one more….which resulted their complete disappearance at the hands of a two year old.

A few hours later I saw the dog going at a carrot that had been apparently left in the grass by Fig. I left her alone in carrot bliss.

The next day, as I watched Fig putz around the garden I noticed him gnawing on something. A closer inspection revealed it was the same dirty dog carrot. Apparently roasted carrots are even better the next day with a hint of dog slobber and bit of morning dew.

IMG_6011

IMG_6199

IMG_6196

IMG_5982

Cooking with Toddlers: Coconut Ice Cream with Bee Pollen

IMG_6286

Ice and cream; two words, when combined and subsequently uttered in the presence of a two year old, will result in deliberate, merciless and unrelenting harassment.

“Hey Fig, want to help mama make some ice cream?”. The words just slipped out of my mouth before I knew it and everything went downhill from there.

Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Mom can I have some ice cream? Is the ice cream ready? Ice cream. I want ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Hey mom, is the ice cream ready. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. iceeee creaam ….

This went on for an entire day because, as the name implies, making homemade frozen desserts requires time to freeze. Time and toddlers don’t go well together especially when ice cream is on the line.

While this is an incredibly easy recipe to make with a toddler, I’d suggest you don’t mention what it is unless you want to be pecked to death for the next 12 hours.

No Churn Coconut Ice Cream with Bee Pollen

Everything is in bloom here, spring is everywhere and so are our allergies. I decided to throw some local bee pollen in for decoration + to help with our runny eyes. This is vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free.

Ingredients:

  • Two 15 oz cans of coconut cream.
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar (optional, but adds a bit of sweetness to this rich cream).
  • Bee pollen for garnish.

Directions

  • Scoop out the two cans of coconut cream into a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
  • Whisk on high for several minutes until the cream is light and fluffy.
  • Pour mixture into a 12 X 8 baking dish and freeze ( we left ours for 12 hours).
  • Once the ice cream is frozen, you’ll need to let it thaw for quite some time. We let ours sit in the sun for around 20 minutes before we were able to scoop it out.
  • Serve in cones or bowls and sprinkle with bee pollen.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe

  • Scoping the coconut cream into the bowl.
  • Pouring in the vanilla extract.
  • Licking the whisk attachment ( Fig considers this crucial).
  • Sprinkling the bee pollen on the cones.

IMG_6217

IMG_6226

IMG_6245

IMG_6241

IMG_6259

IMG_6307

IMG_6285

 

Cooking with Todders: Easy Peasy

IMG_5934

I haven’t been able to pull Fig out of the garden lately. Not even the lure of a cheesy quesadilla will do it. He’s having too much fun romping around. Between trying to make friends with a few feral cats ( with limited success), patrolling for squirrels ( with great success) and fishing in the grass for twout (trout), he’s too busy to be bothered with the going-ons of the kitchen.

So in light of the delicious spring weather and his complete resistance to being indoors, I’ve resorted to bringing his lunch and snacks outside. This has also saved me quite a bit of time cleaning the explosion of food scraps that are left under Fig’s chair post-meal time.

Fig has always loved peas and shelling them to uncover the sweet rounds of goodness pretty much rocks his world. As with most two year olds, he’s constantly in-motion. It always takes me by surprise when he focuses so intently on a task and shelling peas, with their promise of sweet succulence, requires all his energies.

But Fig is not the only one who loves a good batch of fresh peas…….

IMG_5926

IMG_5937

IMG_5931

IMG_5945

IMG_5917Oh yes, Mafalda the Dachshund, whose love of peas was documented here, will give her right paw for a mouthful of peas. The dog will stick her nose up at sweet fruit but will nearly rip your finger off trying to snag a pea. Fig is happy to share his beloved peas with her and I’m quite happy to see that both my kids got their greens in.

IMG_5953

IMG_5964

IMG_5961

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Homemade Greek Yogurt

IMG_5729-2

One of the most precious moment’s from Fig’s babyhood is a sweet video we took of him shoveling yogurt into his face so ferociously and screaming “mo mo mo!” (baby talk for more) with each bite. I re-watch this video like 4 times a week I love it so much.

Some things have yet to change with Fig and his love of yogurt is one of them. Every time we go to the store he begs/pleads/squeals for yogurt but most of the brands have so much sugar in them I might as well just hand him a Snickers. So after a little research we decided to venture into the world of yogurt making.

Surprisingly easy and toddler-friendly, yogurt making is the perfect activity for a slow day at home. It’s really quite easy and mostly requires a lot of waiting. Every once and a while Fig would appear from the garden, covered in mud, and inquire as to whether or not his yogurt was ready. We’d take a quick peek at our cultured creation and let it sleep just a bit longer. Finally, after much waiting, checking and hoping our yogurt had set and cooled and we were ready to test it. Judging by the last picture below, I’d say it was a major success.

*In order to make yogurt you’ll need a starter. We used Culture’s for Health Greek Yogurt starter which can be found here. There are a lot of different companies that make a variety of starters but I’ve always had good success with their cultures. Most starters will come with specific directions on how to make a batch of yogurt.

IMG_5624-2

IMG_5634-2

IMG_5644-2

IMG_5724-2

IMG_5726-2

IMG_5743-2

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Naan

IMG_4862

Every friday night I plan out the next week’s meals and accompanying grocery list. This may seem about the dullest way to spend a Friday night ( don’t worry, I jazz the night up with not one, not two, but three cups of chamomile tea) but I look forward to it every week. Spreading out dozens of cookbooks, I read, think and plan what we’ll eat all in a wondrous silence that only mothers of young children can appreciate. I usually have too many ideas and slowly widdle my list down until I have a reasonable compilation of meals that won’t bankrupt us and and are feasible on a weekday.

But this past Friday I couldn’t think of a single thing. Nothing sounded good, everything seemed far too complicated and little boxes of macaroni and cheese started to float inside my brain availing themselves as legitimate dinner options.

So instead of flipping through page after page of fancy cookbooks I thumbed through my old meal planning entries hoping to find some easy inspiration. It was there I discovered the not so ugly truth; We have a clear Indian food addiction and didn’t even know about it. Curries, Daal, Tikka Masala; the list went on. At the height of our Indian obsession we were eating Indian food 2 or 3 times a week. And who could blame us? Is there anything better than piping hot vegetable tikka masala poured over a bed of rice with a huge delicious and buttery hunk of naan? I dare say not.

Speaking of naan, it never occurred to me to actually make naan despite making the accompanying dish from scratch. While I’d never actually seen a recipe for naan I assumed it would be laborious and difficult.  Let me tell you something; once you go homemade naan, you never go back. Store bought naan is like cardboard and homemade naan is like manna from heaven.

Making naan involves dough balls and rolling pins and thus lends itself to tiny helping hands. Seeing all those tiny little dough balls rolled up elicited a high pitched squeal and a ” wow ..how cool!” from Fig who promptly got to work rolling out the dough balls and handing them over to me.

So as you might have guessed, Indian food is gracing our table several times this week. We made a batch of 20 and freezed most of it but not before eating a few warm slices just ensure it was palatable and safe for consumption ( the sacrifices we make as home cooks I tell you!).

Bonus: I showed Fig how to use his naan as a vehicle for getting Tikka Masala into his mouth and he was totally into it. I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner since Fig is a sucker for all things bread. Getting him to eat heavily spiced foods with complex flavors usually comes with quite a bit of coaxing and sometimes even bribery but I think we’ve solved that with naan!

IMG_4770

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼-oz. package active dry yeast ( standard one package)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plain, full-fat yogurt ( if you don’t have yogurt I’ve used coconut milk cream with amazing results as well).
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt

Directions:

  • Combine water, honey and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Add the flour and yogurt. Combine well and knead. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.
  • After dough has risen, divide into 10 equal tiny balls.
  • Roll out to to about a 1/4 inch thick.
  • Oil a pan and heat on medium.
  • Cook naan on each side. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when tiny bubbles appear over the surface.
  • Serve warm!

IMG_4785

IMG_4942

IMG_4823

IMG_4931

IMG_4937

IMG_4939

IMG_4969

IMG_4992

IMG_4861

Cooking with Toddlers: Cranberry Apple Sauce

IMG_2969-2

One of the hardest parts about cooking with young children is the horrific, borderline apocalyptic mess that always ensues. There has been plenty of days where cleaning up after Fig took more time than making the dish itself. The mess is hardly even just contained within the confines of the kitchen. It’s the toddler ( try getting honey out of  a two year old’s hair) and sometimes even the dog. On horrible days, it might even be the carpet that falls victim.

Often times, I find myself questioning why I even do this in the first place. Surely and without doubt, it’s much easier to prepare meals without the “help” of a two year old and  cooking solo rarely requires me to bust out the mop, scrub the walls , bathe the dog, and do extra loads of laundry.

But this whole cooking with toddlers really wasn’t my own idea in the first place. It was little Fig’s. He was so interested in the going-on’s of the kitchen and eager to be involved in real work. And saying Yes! to little hands in the kitchen has been an incredible learning experience for both. Fig has taught me so much in his two years of life but one of his greatest teachings has been the art of keeping a good attitude while being so very patient and going with the flow.

Speaking of going with the flow, I recently embarked on a little cran-apple sauce adventure and was intending to make this by myself seeing as Fig was occupied trying to color the dog’s tail. However, once he got wind that I was doing doing something with apples he begged to help. This is a pretty simple recipe to make with a toddler and a great way to effortlessly introduce measurements. Fig also learned that raw cranberries are “no bueno” is his words ( can’t say I didn’t warn him!).

Apple Cranberry Sauce

  • 2 cups of fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups of chopped apples
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cardamom
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil.
  • Turn down to low and let sauce simmer until apples are tender.
  • Cool and serve.

IMG_2975-2

IMG_2977-2

IMG_3000-2

IMG_3016-2

IMG_3032-2

Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender Flower and Honey Bread

IMG_2927-2

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.

IMG_2672

IMG_2696

IMG_2731

IMG_2569-3

IMG_2920-2

Cooking with Toddlers: Cucumbers with Minty Labne

 

IMG_2828

There are few dishes that don’t need a major intervention after Fig’s had his way with them. For Fig, making a salad  involves squishing the life out of a few tomatoes, throwing a half head of lettuce in the bowl (that has first been mercilessly stabbed to death by a blunt kids knife) and if he can get to it quick enough before I catch him, a good half a cup of salt.

Cucumbers with Minty Labne is the perfect side dish that requires minimal parental post-processing intervention. The dressing hides what can only be described as hideously chopped cucumbers compliments of a superbly blunt knife and an over-eager two year old. And peeling the cucumbers? Aside from intense supervision on my part to ensure no accident flailings took place, it is officially Fig’s new favorite kitchen activity.

We love this dish for it’s taste and ease but also because it reminds us of abuela. Fig’s grandmother is the most amazing cook. Every one of her dishes nearly brings tears of joy to my eyes; it’s that good! I only recently realized that probably 60% of everything I cook in a given week is either completely one of her dishes or at least inspired by it. Both Fig and I are so lucky to have her!

IMG_2770-2

IMG_2780-2

IMG_2785

Ingredients:

  • Two large cucumbers
  • A large handful of fresh mint, chopped finley
  • Juice from 1/2 a large lime or lemon
  • 1 cup of labne
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, mashed into a paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Chop cucumbers in small pieces
  • In a large bowl combine cucumbers, chopped mint, lime juice, labne, olive oil, garlic paste and salt.
  • Mix well and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

IMG_2800

IMG_2810

IMG_2844

Minty Potato and Quinoa Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

IMG_2471-2

My mother-in-law, who incidentally is the best cook in the world ( for real!),  makes these absurdly delicious potato cakes. They are light, fluffy, and amazingly delectable. In fact, she recently made some for Fig and I’m pretty sure he consumed at least a pound of potatoes in the process.

When Fig likes something, I tend to over-milk it, making six thousand versions of whatever he originally liked. Adding all kinds of different vegetables and herbs, I try to sell it as the “exact same thing!”. Sometimes he goes for it; most of the time not.

So it’s no surprise that upon discovering his love of abuela’s potato cakes I decided to recreate them with a few more vegetables hoping they’d be a huge hit as well.

But we ran into a few problems. Namely, the recipe was given to me in spanish and I don’t speak spanish. Turns out, understanding 75% of a recipe is kinda a big deal when it comes to cooking ( who knew??). When I had a gooey mess on my hands, I dialed up my husband, completely potatoifying my iphone in the process and explained the situation. Namely that the cakes were going to shit and I now had a two year old on my hands with potatoes so gooey I might as well poured super glue all over him.

But don’t you remember he said, she told you this dish requires a lot of patience. No, no I do not remember that.

IMG_2510-2

So, after realizing I was plum out of patience (or should I say, never had any to begin with), I quickly nixed the original recipe and decided to improvise a bit. The cakes were pretty delicious nonetheless and Fig had a smashing time ( pun intended) mashing the potatoes. For a two year old who pretty much lives for total destruction, mashing the potatoes is as good as it gets.

IMG_2520-2

IMG_2485-2

Minty Potato and Quinoa Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Ingredients for Patties:

  • 2 cups of mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of mint, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of garbanzo flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Oil for frying

Ingredients for Lemon Tahini Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 a lemon’s juice
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • salt to taste

Directions for Patties:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Form mixture into patties
  • Fry on medium until patties are golden brown on each side
  • Serve warm with Tahini Sauce

Directions for Lemon Tahini Sauce

  • Mix everything in a food processor and serve on top of patties.

IMG_2532-2

Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender and Wildflower Honey Lollipops

IMG_2214

This post could also be titled How I Nearly Burnt Down Our House…Twice….In The Span of 15 Minutes. One may think, how could you possibly burn down your house making lollipops? I shall explain.

In all honesty making lollipops is pretty easy but it takes a bit of vigilance. The honey must reach 300 degrees F in order to properly harden. In theory, all you need to do is watch the temperature. Once the honey hits 300 degrees you simply take it off the heat, stir in the spices and pour it into a mold. Easy peasy right?

When the temp reached 260 degrees F things took a turn for the worst . My 6 week old started crying due to ” extreme starvation” ( his words not mine). Right about that time, Fig entered the scene, pantless, strumming on his guitar and singing/squealing/screaming so loud I feared the windows may shatter. To add a bit more to the chaos, the dog decided that now was as good a time as any to start furiously barking at, let’s see, nothing. Because that’s how Mafalda the Dachshund rolls.

I checked the temperature of the honey right before rescuing the baby from near starvation. It was at 270 degrees Fahrenheit. In my sleep and caffeine deprived mind, I’m thinking I have a good 2 or 3 minutes before that baby reaches 300 degrees. Nope. Honey can, I learned the very hard way, go from 270 to 300 degrees in mere seconds.

A few minutes later, a nursing baby still in my arms, I start to smell something sinister and then the thick smoke came wafting into the living room. Upon reaching the kitchen I discovered a pot full to the brim with what appeared to be thick black tar straight from the depths of hell . “MOTHER F…Mother of Fudge” . Fig was staring right up at me as I nearly dropped the F bomb  and proceeded to repeat for the next four days ” Fudge …I need fudge”. Yeah Fig, I need fudge too. And wine, lots of wine.

To make a very, very, very long story short I nearly burnt down the house for the second time when I attempted to clean the “tar pot”. Turning on the wrong burner on the highest setting only to discover, 10 minutes later, that an empty and dry cast iron pot was near combustion. Strike two.

IMG_2201

I almost gave into these demon lollipops but decided I could not let evil win. I promptly decided that lavender was a must given my shot nerves.  Regaining composure, I let Fig crush up the lavender while I started a new batch of honey ( now we’re nearly in debt due to the amount of honey lost in the lollipop making process..demon pops I tell you!).

The final product; delicious. Fig is obsessed with them so I’ll call it a win despite the fight it took to make them.  I realize that you may never want to make lollipops given this story but trust me, they are delicious and totally worth it if you’ve had enough coffee and slept well the night before. You must watch the pot though! They say a watched pot never boils. Total B.S. It will boil, ruin your pot, and nearly burn down your abode!

IMG_2190

Wildflower and Lavender Lollipops:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of honey
  •  1 teaspoon of crushed lavender
  • Candy thermometer
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Lollipop mold ( not totally necessary, you can make your lollipops free form)

Directions:

  • Bring cup of honey to a boil on medium heat.
  • Once it reaches 300 degrees F, take it off the heat and stir in the lavender.
  • Place sticks in mold and pour honey into the mold.
  • Leave for an hour or so until the honey hardens and sets.

IMG_2232