Cooking with Toddlers: Cabbage Bowls with Quinoa and Sorrel in an Almond Sauce

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Cabbage bowls; the perfect dish for when all your dishes are dirty.

Our house is wired in such a way that you can’t have both the laundry machine and the dishwasher going simultaneously. This is rather unfortunate given that Fig rolls around in the mud all day long and has a remarkable talent for dirtying up clothes. I often find myself pondering if I should wash the feral cat poo Fig accidentally meandered into or the dishes. Poo always wins.

Which is why you’ll frequently find Fig eating his lunch on cutting boards or devouring his sandwich out of a bowl ( mom fail). A two year old could really care less if his quesadilla is jammed into a bowl but it always gives me pause. It was on a particularly horrendous laundry day that we decided to test out cabbage leaves in lieu of proper dishware. Not only are they pretty but there are no extra dishes! The scraps were fed to our worm farm post-lunch.

The wonderful thing about these bowls is you can really dress them up anyway you want and include a little one in the process. We chose quinoa, corn, sorrel, and avocado (aka what was left over in our fridge) and dressed it up with our homemade version of yum sauce.

Fig loves scooping and cutting and had a great deal of fun designing his own little bowl. His bowl turned out a little more messy avant garde but toddlers are passionate and temperamental artists and are best left alone in matters like these.

Cabbage Bowls:

These are quite simple. All you need is cabbage leaves, fixings and a killer sauce. Mix your fixings of choice in the cabbage bowl and drizzle with sauce. Relax for an extra 10 minutes after lunch since there are no dishes 🙂

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

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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.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Braised Fennel and Mandarinquats

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The other day as Fig, Cedar ( our newest sous chef; aged 3 months)  and I were doing a bit of grocery shopping we stumbled upon a Mandarinquat. Mandarinquats, as the name suggests, are a Mandarin and Kumquat hybrid. And since I’m a sucker for over-priced produce with fancy names I bought as many as would fit in a produce bag and hauled it home.

Fig loves fennel and will eat it raw but he’s especially keen on braised fennel. So we decided to do our usual braised fennel dish but with the lovely addition of our new citrus friends.

Since both the fennel and the mandarinquats are a bit tough to cut I pre-chopped everything for Fig so it was a bit easier for him to handle. Of course, he did a little dicing and slicing but mostly shoved everything in his mouth as fast as he could.

Ingredients:

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 mandarinquats (kumquats will also work if you can’t find mandarinquats)
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions: 

  • Chop up fennel and Mandrianquats in even uniform pieces.
  • Sear the fennel in a pan at medium to high for about a minute or two with olive oil and salt.
  • Turn down the heat to low. Add the Mandrianquats.
  • Fennel is ready when its juicy and tender. This could take around 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the fennel.
  • Serve warm.

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe: 

  • Chopping ( however, its best if everything is pre-chopped for easier handling)
  • Adding chopped pieces to the pan.
  • Adding a dash of salt when vegetables are in the pan.

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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: Sage Crackers

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We recently moved into a new place with a massive front and backyard. The previous owners had the teeniest tiniest patch of garden and I never understood why until we started expanding it. The amount of crap we’ve unearthed is truly astounding ( see picture below for a sampling of the loot).

My first thought when we commenced Project Garden Expansion and quickly started exhuming a multitude of thingy-ma jigs was “What if we find buried treasure!” quickly followed by the morose thought of ” What if we find a coffin?”. This second scenario is much more likely  given the trajectory of our findings ( i.e. glasses , cuff links and a hammer).

Anyway, we’ve also realized that the previous folks remedy to every garden conundrum was to “put some hay on it!”. Have you seen that Portlandia skit where they put a bird on everything? This hay situation is pretty much the exact the same thing. HAY ON EVERYTHING. My husband and I joke that they probably didn’t even clean the house, they just threw some hay on it!

However, after some deep meditative thought I realized I am in no place to judge our hay-loving friends given I do the exact same thing with sage.

I solve any and all recipe problems with sage.  In fact, my first thought when thinking of what to cook for dinner typically starts with ” I wonder what I could do with all that sage in the fridge. There is usually no less than several bushels of Sage in our fridge. Yes I said bushels.

So yet again, Fig and I found our way into the kitchen after a long day out in the garden hauling hay and busted out the sage for some good old fashioned crackers. Really, can you ever have enough sage?

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Sage Crackers:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoons of cold butter
  • 1 bunch of chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • Olive oil for brushing

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Add the salt and flour to a large mixing bowl
  • With your hands work in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs ( this can take upwards of 5 solid minutes).
  • Chop sage finely and add it to the flour.
  • Pour in heavy cream and stir well. Let dough sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  • With your hands  knead the dough well and then divide it into two pieces. With a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball very thin ( as thin as you want the crackers to be).
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt before placing in the oven.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly golden.
  • Cool and then slice into little squares and eat!

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe: 

  • Mixing the salt and flour
  • Working in the butter
  • Chopping with sage ( with a kid-friendly knife and supervised)
  • Kneading Bread
  • Rolling out the dough ( I always give my little guy some “scrap” dough that he can play with)
  • Brushing the olive oil on the rolled out dough.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Cranberry Apple Sauce

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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.

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Minty Potato and Quinoa Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  • 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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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: 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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