Cooking with Toddlers: Gnocchi in a Lemon Cream Sauce with Onion and Mushrooms


Dough and toddlers just go together. I’ve never been able to make something that involved dough and not have little Fig come pulling around my pant legs saying        “Can I have some……pah-lease” ( in his little british accent he’s somehow picked up).

We’ve tried our hands at pasta, pizza , bread and today we ventured into the world of gnocchi. There is a bit of prep work that needs to be done before inviting a young child into the process but making snakes with the dough is well worth the wait Fig will tell you.

Making gnocchi with a toddler isn’t something you do on a whim. It takes a bit of planning, oversight and instruction but it’s certainly an awesome toddler-friendly dish if you’re willing to do a bit of prep work ahead of time.

We loosely followed Epicurious’ recipe for Gnocchi ( minus the nutmeg and parmesan). We did not have a ricer so I used a cheese grater ( classy, I know). I also found Mario Batali’s video with Mark Bittman helpful.

Once I had the dough made I invited little Fig into the kitchen to help with the rolling  ( we called it “making snakes”), cutting and ridge making. Needless to say he was in hog heaven with all that dough. We topped it all off with a Lemon Cream Sauce with Onion and Mushrooms. The dish is magnificently delicious ( as evident by Fig shoveling into his face with both hands) but between the cream sauce and the dough, it isn’t exactly the world’s healthiest dish. We’ve relegated this dish to special occasions but oh my is it worth it.

Ingredients and Directions for the Lemon Cream Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Salt to taste
    • Combine all ingredients in a pot and let simmer on low for 20 minutes. Once warm, serve on top of fresh gnocchi and dress with sauteed onions and minced green onions.









Cooking with Toddlers: Building a Yum Bowl


Fig isn’t a huge fan of “mixed bowls”. I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact he can’t distinguish what’s in the bowl, that all the different ingredients are touching or even that the flavors are too intense because he get’s several ingredients with each bite. Either way, he’ll typically eat a few bites ( if we’re lucky) and then run off to play only to promptly return and beg for cookies ( which is always met with a negative by us and “omg you guys are the WORST” glare topped with a bit of crying).I try to be somewhat sensitive to his likes and dislikes but ultimately I’m not a short order cook and sometimes a mixed bowl is what’s on the dinner menu for that night .

Recently I’ve been having a bit of nostalgia for the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. In my totally biased opinion there is no better or beautiful place than the rugged coastline that stretches from Oregon up towards British Columbia and Alaska. I grew up in Seattle but spent much of my childhood traveling between Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

It was on one of these adventures as a highschooler that my older sister took me to a Cafe Yumm! where I was introduced to one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever tasted. The Yumm Bowl. This bowl is pure genius and pure deliciousness. Despite only having eaten a Yumm Bowl twice or three times in my entire life nearly a decade ago, I’ve NEVER EVER stopped fantasizing about them.

And then I discovered this and this. Firstly, you can actually buy the sauce directly from Yumm Cafe! Secondly, you can make it yourself thanks to a wonderful recipe I found online. I chose to make it myself for the purposes of immediate cravings ( and it tastes pretty darn close to the real thing) but sooner or later I’ll probably buy the original sauce to save myself some time.

So, this weekend we embarked on a Yum Bowl ( without the extra M since it’s not the original!)  adventure and I decided that letting little Fig build his own bowl might just entice him to actually eat it. And guess what? It totally worked! He probably ate a solid 10 bites; which is a full meal in toddler land. Another plus, it’s super easy to prep everything yourself and just set everything out for your toddler on a small table. Being able to actively develop his own bowl was super exciting for him. We kept admiring his bowl saying “wow, did you make that yourself? It looks delicious!”. He kept proudly nodding his little head; clearly pleased as punch at his own little dinner creation! This is definitely an activity/tactic we’ll employ more often.


Yum Bowls:

  • Fresh Tomatos
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Brown Rice
  • Black Beans
  • Black Olives
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Avocado
  • Yum Sauce  ( found here or here)


  • Cook beans and Rice
  • Add all ingredients together in desired proportions
  • Drizzle sauce over bowl
  • Mix
  • Enjoy!






Cooking with Toddlers: Elderberry, Mint, and Fig Popsicles


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!



 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!




Toddler Meals: On Our Table this Week


Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Carrots

We spent nearly a month in Mexico, returned to california and immediately moved ( not recommended). Things are finally getting back to normal around here and I’m thinking potty training is our next big “to do”. It would be AWESOME to get Fig fully trained by the time our new baby arrives in October but I think its best if we limit our expectations given that today little Fig handed me what I first thought was dirt, excitedly proclaiming ” mama look!”. I soon realized the ugly truth, that this had come straight from his diaper and then promptly barfed in my mouth. This all went down while I was cooking lunch to make matters worse.

Enough of the potty talk, here is what has been on our table the last week ( or two!).

Caper and Heirloom Salad Pasta Salad

Caper and Heirloom Tomato Pasta Salad

Hazelnut and Tahini Pasta with Pine  Nuts and Greens

Hazelnut and Tahini Pasta with Pine Nuts and Greens

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Burrito

Black Lentil and Cauliflower Burrito

Sumac Spiced Black Lentils with Mint. Roasted Carrots.

Sumac and Mint Spiced Black Lentils with  a  side of Roasted Carrots.

Cream Cheese and Salmon Sandwich with sprouts with Fresh Strawberries.

Cream Cheese and Salmon Sandwich with sprouts with Fresh Strawberries.

Spinach Cakes with Lemon Grass Infused Creme Fraiche

Spinach Cakes with Lemon Grass Infused Creme Fraiche

Pumpernickel Squares with Corn and Peas.

Pumpernickel Squares with Corn and Peas.

Open Faced Tuna Sandwich

Open Faced Tuna Sandwich

Fig and Halloumi Pesto Pizza

Fig and Halloumi Pesto Pizza

Fruit Salad!

Fruit Salad!

Mint and Blueberry Popsicles

Mint and Blueberry Popsicles

Scrubbing Beets for our Juice

Scrubbing Beets for our Juice

Beet, Carrot, Apple, and Lime Juice

Freshly Squeezed Beet, Carrot, Apple, and Lime Juice


Baking with Toddlers: Bliss Muffins


True Life: My son’s a muffin addict.

In fact, several nights ago we awoke out of our sleep to the screams of “MUFFINSSSS!!!!” coming from my son’s bed. Upon closer examination, it was discovered that little Fig was having a passionate and vivid muffin dream. Muffins rock my little guy’s world and I’m happy to supply his daily fix.

In my attempt to make the healthiest muffins on the block, I stumbled across this recipe for “bread”. I’ve made several loaves, all of which were scrumptious but had no luck convincing the little guy to eat it. So, I’ve been experimenting with several different variations over the last few weeks. Eventually I decided to load it with dried fruit and make it into the revered muffin.

Nicknamed The Bliss Muffin ( for the bliss it supplies Fig), these Muffins are a great activity for little kids to participate in. In fact, muffin making in general is a quick, easy, and super fun way to get little folks into the kitchen. Just watch out that the batter doesn’t disappear before your eyes. All that goodness can be hard to resist!

The Bliss Muffin:

muffins1-5 First and foremost, I suggest you check out the original recipe ( found here) and even make a loaf or two of bread.

Ingredients for 12 Muffins:

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shaved almonds
  • 1 ½ cup of rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup of dried turkish apricots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup of currents
  • 4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 4 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
  • 1 3/4 cups / 350ml water

muffins1-6 muffins1-8 muffins1-7


Fig thought adding a touch of Aloe soap might make this muffin recipe come alive! I persuaded him otherwise.


  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl ( except the water, coconut oil and maple syrup)
  • Melt the coconut oil in a pot. Once melted, add the water and maple syrup to the pot. Mix well.
  • Add the mixed coconut oil, water, and maple syrup to the rest of the ingredients and make sure everything is mixed well and thoroughly coated.
  • Place batter in a muffin tin. Pack down batter as much as humanly possibly without the batter spilling over the top ( this is key).
  • Let batter set in the muffin tin for at least 2 hours. The longer the better.
  • Bake muffins at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
  • You’ll need to be very vigilant in watching the muffins to make sure they don’t over crisp.
  • Leave muffins to cool. Again, the longer the better. I left ours overnight and was amazed at how structurally sound they were compared to other batches that fell apart much easier.


Kitchen Activities for Toddlers

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.


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.


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.

chopping garlic 2



#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.


#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.





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.



#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.



#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

Toddler Meals: Mexico Addition

Pomegranate and Spinach Wrap

On our Table this week:

Our adventure in Mexico City wraps up this week. It certainly was a welcomed respite from our everyday life and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Although, I am excited to return home and get my little one back on a regular eating schedule. For the last few weeks, Fig’s eating has been something like this;  1st breakfast, 2nd breakfast, 3rd breakfast, after breakfast snack, afternoon snack, mid afternoon snack, late night snack. I’m beginning to think he’s a hobbit with all that breakfasting.

While I had several internal freak outs over what someone was giving my two year old (late night slice of cake anyone?), I had to remind myself that these moments don’t last forever and a few weeks of eating less than perfect isn’t going to ruin his health forever.

Most of what Fig ate these past weeks could be summed up in one word: Fruit. However, I did manage to get a few “real” meals into him. His favorite was the Pomegranate and Spinach Wrap, burritoed just so to hide the spinach. He also liked the Blue Corn Papaya Tacos , mostly due to the papaya ( obviously).

However, most surprising was his love of Nopal cactus. When cooked, the cactus turns a putrid shade of green and is slimy ( yes, slimy). No matter, he ate it with gusto and asked for more. This reinforces the importance of feeding little kids a lot of different foods even if you’re 99.99% sure they will hate it. You might just be surprised!

One final note; There is hardly any natural light in our Mexico house, so these pictures aren’t the best.

Ricotta with Quinoa

Ricotta with Quinoa, Carrots, and Guava Fruit

Papaya and Fruit Blue Corn Taco

Papaya and Fruit Blue Corn Taco

Cactus and Zucchini Flower Taco with Labne

Cactus and Zucchini Flower Taco with Labne

The Nopal and Flowers before cooking-much prettier!

The Nopal and Flowers before cooking-much prettier!

Helping sort the flowers

Helping sort the flowers

Juice Making

Juice Making

Delicious, fully ripe, oranges for juicing

Delicious, fully ripe, oranges for juicing