Cooking with Toddlers: Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

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When you’re two and you have an attitude the best thing to do is squeeze some OJ.

Fig has his moments, usually in the afternoon, in which he wanders around the house like a zombie with a low-grade sob and utters ” I don’t want that“. That is an umbrella term Fig uses for anything and everything that displeases him at any given moment. For example, should I be drinking a cup of coffee when he is in one of these moods, he’ll point with a quivering lip and proclaim ” I don’t want that“; followed by a river of tears . Should I put in a load of laundry?  I don’t want that“; again cue dramatic weeping. Things like air, gravity and birds have also been cause for alligator tears.

I’ve come to realize, the only thing that will snap him out of these moods is giving him something sensory to do with his hands. Washing dishes, peeling, shelling, and lately, squeezing oranges.

The key with squeezing oranges is they must be quite soft. Too firm and little ones won’t be able to get much juice out of them. Mandarins and clementines are the best. We had some blood oranges that were a bit past their prime and quite soft. I demonstrated with a few and then Fig hit the ground running.

20 minutes later, he was enjoying a glass of freshly squeezed OJ in the garden and with his zest for life restored, returned to cavorting with the family of squirrels that have taken residence in our backyard.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Candied Saged Walnuts

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I’m a huge fan of dandelion greens. For me, the bitter flavor is exquisite. To make a killer salad I chop up a bunch of dandelion greens, throw in some candied walnuts, dried cranberries and feta. Add a dash of olive oil, salt, and lemon juice for a dressing and viola; amazing.  

I wasn’t joking about it being a killer salad; I gave some to my husband and it literally almost killed him. After gagging and choking on what he thought surely must be poison, he concluded that the salad tastes like nail polish remover ( a slight over exaggeration in my opinion). This is totally fine by me since it means I don’t have to share.

Everytime I do make the salad however,  I  have a twinge of guilt. The cost of candied walnuts are pretty outrageous. So I started making my own with bulk organic raw walnuts. I decided to enlist the help of little Fig, since I’ve been trying to get him on the walnut-train with limited success. Fig can eat cashews and sunflower seeds by the fistful but isn’t keen on walnuts. Walnuts are extremely healthy and full of beneficial nutrients and minerals but, according to Fig, “me no like da walnuts. Mo’ cashoes please!!”.

These walnuts were a total hit with my two year old, both to make and eat. It’s a pretty simple recipe that’s super easy to make with a toddler since it doesn’t take long. Plus, they make for a nice, slightly sweet snack. Fig believes he’s getting some kind of forbidden dessert , sneaking off to his bedroom to eat his walnuts in peace only to return 5 minutes later, begging for “mo’ nutz”.

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Saged Candied Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of raw walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup of brown sugar
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

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IMG_2095Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300
  • Add coconut oil and sage to a pan and on a low heat setting, cook sage until tender and fragrant.
  • In a bowl, add walnuts, sugar, salt and syrup. Mix well.
  • Pour sage and coconut oil over the walnuts. Mix well.
  • Spread walnuts on a baking sheet making sure each nut has ample space. Cook for 30 minutes, flipping ( as best you can) the nuts at 15 minutes.
  • Eat plain or serve in salads

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Celebrating Summer Solstice with Young Children

MidsummerHonoring the earth and seasons through our actions is something I hope to consciously bring to our family life. I want our children to be aware of the leaves turning, the snow falling, and the days growing longer. Just as important are the smaller, less dramatic changes of our mother earth; The crickets chirping, the river’s swell, the mushroom blooms.

One of the easiest ways to celebrate these wonderful rhythms are through festivals. Festivals, which I’ve come to learn in my rather brief time as somebody’s mom, is something little kids enjoy immensely. And who could blame them? Running wild in the green grass with a bowl of nectarines; basking in the glow of the warm summer sunshine. These are the moments of childhood.

And since I love food, festivals provide an exciting opportunity to highlight the deliciousness of the current season.

So, our little family, found ourselves celebrating our first Summer Solstice picnic.IMG_8917

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What happens when you give a two year old a bowl of nectarines.

The food was simple. Mostly fresh, raw ingredients of the seasons. Nothing that couldn’t be done in the 30 minutes before we left for our picnic. The point was to celebrate the summer and the ease that comes with the season.

Our happy little toddler ran through the field coming back only to refill on fruit before venturing off to explore new places and spaces. He truly embodied the wonderfulness of summer.

Lemon Tahini Chard Salad

Lemon Tahini Chard Salad

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Fresh solar infused Jamaica Tea

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The tree that sheltered us from the sun

The tree that sheltered us from the sun

Of course, like all good things, the celebration ended due to a much needed nap. The fun of the day has lingered with us and will carry us through the beginning of the warm and sunny days to come.

Happy Midsummer to you! We look forward to sharing the bounty of summer and all the wonderful gifts the season brings.

 

 

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Ginger Cashew Bok Choy Chickpea Burgers with Mint Hummus

Mint Hummus Prep

I serve my two year raw vegetables nearly every lunch and dinner which, on a  good day, get several meager nibbles at best. So, as most mama’s are familiar with, the approach most often taken around here is one of deception and disguise.

And since burgers, french fries (and a salad) were in order for Father’s Day I decided why not veg it up with a little Bok Choy? Thus, the Cashew Bok Choy Chickpea Burgers with Mint Hummus was born; our vegetable centered take on traditional american fare.

Our purple saged potato wedges

Our purple saged potato wedges

Can't forget the salad! Mint, Black Olive, & Tomato Salad with a coriander vinaigrette.

Can’t forget the salad! Mint, Black Olive, & Tomato Salad with a Coriander Vinaigrette.

I knew these burgers would be good for little mouths when my son started eating the burger batter ( don’t worry, no raw eggs were in it) right out of the bowls with his hands. In fact, for fear our dinner would be lost before it started, we removed the bowl and replaced it with something less critical to the final outcome of our meal.

Peas in the Raw

Peas in the Raw

First let’s start with the mint pea hummus.

  • 1 cup of shelled peas ( or if you’re like me and don’t want to waste the crips pea shells, use two cups of chopped peas; unshelled)
  • 5 large leaves of fresh mint ( we used spearmint)
  • 1 tablespoon of Tahini
  • 1/2 a medium sized lime’s juice ( you could use lemon we just happen to prefer lime)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt to taste

Blend everything together into smooth and taste frequently. I find that everyone likes their hummus’ a bit different. My husband loves a bit more tahini in the mix and I’m a huge fan of really garlickly and limey hummus. If the proportions above don’t taste right play around with the ingredient amounts until you find a blend that you like.

After everything is blended to perfection, place in fridge for later use.

Raw ingredients

Helping with the Mint Pea Hummus

Lime time

Mint Pea Hummus

Mint Pea Hummus

Onto the burgers.

  • 1 cup of cashews
  • 1 can ( 15 oz) of cooked and well-drained chickpeas
  • 2 heads of baby bok choy
  • 1/2 cup of uncooked bulgur wheat
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • panko
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

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chickpeas

1) Bring the bulgur wheat to boil in two cups of water. Once the water is boiling, turn off and let stand until bulgur is fluffy and water is absorbed, around 20 minutes.  Once cooked, make sure to drain excess water if any remains

2) Add cashews , grated ginger,  chickpeas, chopped bok choy, garlic and salt to food processor. Blend until smooth.

grating ginger

3) In a bowl, combine the above blended mix with the bulgur wheat. Mix well.  Again, make sure the bulgur is well drained prior to adding it to the mix!

4) With hands ( perfectly fun for toddlers-just ensure you give them a small batch of their own to “work with” lest you lose a great deal of burger batter due curious mouths), craft burgers into desired size. We did a 1 inch thick by 4 inches wide, but you could certainly make smaller burgers as well or sliders.

Little Hands

5) Next you’ll need to bread the burgers. In one wide bowl, place the whisked eggs in. In another wide bowl or plate, spread a generous amount of panko.

6) Carefully, since the burgers are delicate, cover each patty in eggs and then cover completely in panko. You may need to re-egg and re-panko several times to get desired coverage since they are delicate. The shape may get lost in this process, but just reshape them prior to putting them on the stove.

7) Over low medium, cook burgers until each side is nicely browned ( around 3-5 minutes on each side).

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8) If desired, drizzle olive oil on buns and pop into the broiler for a bit to toast the buns.

9) Add patties to the bun and top with mint Pea hummus and any other toppings you see fit.

Final Father's Day Meal

Final Father’s Day Meal

On Our Table This Week

Tomato of my dreams!

The tomato of my dreams; which eventually found it’s way into a quesadilla

What a week! Between an international business trip, a summer cold ( blah!), and a few birthday parties we weren’t able to spend as much time in the kitchen as we usually do, but so is life. The “Zen Bowl” was probably the winner of the week. Fig just loves noodles and doesn’t mind barreling his way through the vegetables, which in this case happened to be sunflower sprouts and bok choy, to get to those precious udons. I made a simple herbal broth which consisted of star anise, fennel seeds, garlic, onions and salt and then cooked the noodles into the nutritious broth. The meal was half inspired by a Pho bowl but was really a vehicle to get rid of some older vegetables that were nearing the end of their days in my fridge.

Fig was also a huge fan of the Butternut Squash Cornbread Muffins. Like most little kids, he can pound down carbs like nobodies business,  filling up on starches and then not touching anything else on his plate. For this reason, I avoid giving him bread with his meals unless the items are homemade and typically contain some kind of vegetables that needs to be used up quickly.

So without further adieu, here is this week’s sparse edition of “On Our Table This Week”

Fruit and Nut Quinoa, Tuna Salad, and a Butternut Squash Cornbread Muffin

Fruit and Nut Sprouted Quinoa Mix, Tuna Salad, and a Butternut Squash Cornbread Muffin

Assisting with the butternut squash cornbread muffins

Assisting with the butternut squash cornbread muffins

Loaded Vegetable Quesadilla with Cucumbers and Strawberries

Loaded Vegetable Quesadilla with Cucumbers and Strawberries

Potatoes and Spinach with Cumin Roasted Rainbow Carrots and Kale Bread

Potatoes and Spinach Mix with Cumin Roasted Rainbow Carrots and Kale Bread

Zen Bowl

Zen Bowl

And of course, copious amounts of figs

And of course, copious amounts of figs

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Radish Top and Peanut Wontons

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It starts with a simple phone call. “Hey honey, we’re out of ( insert missing grocery item). Could you stop by on your way home and pick it up? ” My husband happily obliges and upon returning home, I notice that he is not carrying the one item I’d requested but is instead holding a large brown bag, which from the looks of it, appears to be jam packed with goodies from none other than Trader Joe’s. We live in Southern California, an abundant food mecca and are lucky enough to get nearly all our food from local farmers via our outdoor markets and Coop. But we all have our vices, and my husband has a weakness for Trader Joe’s danish pancakes, pizza’s, and most recently wontons. ( And really, can I blame him? Those Danish Pancakes are amazing albeit a little sketchy when it comes to nutritional value). It was these Wonton’s that upon returning from a walk, was horrified to find both my husband and 2 year old double fisting them into their mouths as if they were the very last Wonton’s on earth. While making an effort to conceal my disappointment at the not-so-healthy lunch my family was pounding down with gusto , I made a mental note that my not-so-baby baby apparently loves Wonton’s which are incredibly easy to make, deliciously fun for little hands, and the perfect vehicle for so many different kinds of veggies. Radish tops aren’t a vegetable most american’s eat and its certainly not something you would imagine a toddler liking but it seems a crime to waste a perfectly delicious and magnificently healthy green for no good reason. That being said, radish tops are a leafy green that taste like a leafy green and for that reason we added peanuts to this dish; to include a fatty, nutty flavor and disguise the vegetables a bit. I think between the peanuts and tamari, my little man hardly noticed that he was consuming a powerhouse of dark green vegetables and that’s something I’m totally OK with. Greens

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In addition to the radish tops, our wontons included peas, baby spinach, chard and carrots. Chard is very earthy, so if you’re trying to get your little one to eat more vegetable, I’d suggest omitting the chard and replacing it with a milder leafy green. Our local store only carried the 3 X 3 wonton wrappers, which is the perfect size for toddlers. However, I’ve seen them come in larger sizes which would work well too but you’d need to increase the ingredient amounts accordingly. Ingredients:

  • 25 Wonton Wrappers
  • 1/2 a cup of diced baby spinach
  • 1/2 a cup of diced radish tops
  • 1/2 a cup of diced chard
  • 1/2 a cup of peanuts, grounded down semi-finely
  • 1/4 cup shelled peas
  • 1 medium grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon tamari ( soy sauce will do if tamari isn’t available)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Salt to taste

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IMG_7919 Directions

  • Start out by chopping all the vegetables finely, grating the carrot on a micro-plane grater, and shelling the peas.
  • Next,  break down the peanuts into small chunks. We used a mortal and pestle, but you could also just have your toddler beat the heck out of them in a plastic zip lock bag.
  • Place the vegetables and peanuts in a Wok ( if you don’t have a Wok any pan will do) on medium high with sesame oil and tamari. Cook for about 5 minutes until the greens are vibrant.

IMG_7968 After the vegetable and peanut mix is done sauteing in the Wok its wonton wrapping time. This kept Fig’s attention for a solid 20 minutes. Eventually we realized that our wonton’s were be massacred beyond recognition and we set up him with several sheets of his own to minimize the destruction. Either way, this activity was a total win and so much fun for him.

  • In a wonton sheet put a heaping tablespoon of vegetable mix in. Dab your fingers in some water and wet all sides of the wonton wrapper and fold together in a purse like shape.

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  • Next the Wonton’s need to be steamed. Since we don’t own a bamboo steamer, we used a regular pot with a vegetable steamer insert and lined it with chard to prevent the wonton sticking to the metal.
  • Once the pot is steaming, line the pot with Wonton’s and cook for about 6 minutes ensuring the wonton’s do not touch each other.

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  • Once cooked, serve with Tamari sauce and enjoy!

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What we ate this week

I’m always interested in what other families feed their little kids so I’d thought I share what was on our table this past week. My little guy had a great eating week and scarfed down nearly everything that was put on his plate and then some.  The loaded spring quiche was a total win and a complete surprise. Telling him it was vegetable “cake” may have helped encourage him just a bit.  The only thing he unequivocally said “in your dreams” to was the raw garlic kale salad which I’m sure shocks no one.

Several meals where not photographed due to the sheer mayhem that surrounded the kitchen on those particular days ( think of a crying/clinging toddler, a barking dog, 4,000 dishes in the sink  and the smell of burnt bread wafting from the oven; a scene that happens too often around here).

So here we go; This week on Fig’s plate:

And of course, tons and tons of berries

No spring would be complete with tons of berries

Radish Sandwich

Radish sandwich with a side of cucumbers, cherries and blackberries

Chickpeas tossed in yogurt, lemon, and spinach

Chickpeas tossed in yogurt, lemon, and spinach

Cashew pesto pasta, kale bread, radishes and the imfamous garlic kale salad

Cashew tuna pesto pasta, kale bread, radishes and the infamous garlic kale salad

Pasta with a homemade marinara sauce with a Apple Fennel Salad ( not pictured)

Pasta with a homemade marinara sauce with an Apple Fennel Salad ( not pictured)

Sprouted Sushi with Cream Cheese and Cucumber

Sprouted Sushi with Cream Cheese and Cucumber

Mung bean daal

Mung bean daal

Monday: Spring Vegetable Quiche, Tabouli, and Blueberries

Spring Vegetable Quiche, Tabouli, and Blueberries