Sunday, August 31, 2008

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

For me, the art of cooking just for Abby is often to use the little bits and pieces of leftovers around the house - it helps us waste less food, and it saves me time. This recipe is an example of putting what you have on hand to use.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Total time: 15-20 minutes

1/2 cup mashed potatoes (leftovers, or made from dried potato flakes)
1/4 cup mashed butternut squash (I keep frozen butternut squash in the freezer, or you could use a butternut squash baby puree)
1 egg yolk
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
pinch of curry powder
butter, grated Parmesan for serving

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Mix together the mashed potatoes, butternut squash, egg yolk, sugar, nutmeg, salt and curry powder in a small bowl to form a moist dough (add more flour if necessary). Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into the boiling water and let boil for about 2 minutes, until gnocchi rise to the surface of the water. You may need to do this in batches to keep gnocchi from sticking together. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Serve with butter and a little grated Parmesan cheese. Makes about 2 toddler-sized servings.

Abby ate these right up - and I helped her finish them! They were tasty and a lot less work than I thought they would be. I would not recommend using whole wheat (or white whole wheat) flour in this recipe - the taste is too strong and overpowering. These would make great finger foods for children who are learning to self-feed.

Smoothie Popsicles

We had a BBQ at our house last night, and I wanted a tasty dessert for the toddler guests. Since we were going to be outside, it was the perfect night to make popsicles!

Smoothie Popsicles
Prep time: 15 minutes
Freeze time: several hours

1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tsp agave nectar (or 2 Tbsp sugar or 2 Tbsp honey)

Puree the blueberries and strawberries together in a blender until very smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; this will help remove the majority of the skins and seeds. Pour the mixture back into the blender and add the yogurt, vanilla extract, and agave nectar (or sugar or honey) and blend until very smooth. You may want to taste and add more sweetener as necessary.

Pour the smoothie mixture into popsicle molds and put in the freezer to freeze for several hours (or overnight). This batch filled five of my Crate & Barrel popsicle molds. Serve to delighted toddlers.

These were a big hit with our toddler guests! As Abby did not eat much dinner, I was thrilled to give her a "dessert" that was so low in sugar. I had just found the agave nectar at Whole Foods and was delighted to try it out - it sweetens without having too much of its own flavor, which is nice (unlike honey, which makes everything taste honey-like) and a little went a long way.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Zucchini Nuggets

I realize now I plated these in just about the least attractive way. Live and learn! I had a lonely little zucchini left in the fridge and needed a way to use it up. These did the job nicely.

Zucchini Nuggets
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 small zucchini
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1-2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil

Finely grate the zucchini. Put the grated zucchini in a colander and press out the excess water. In a small bowl, mix together the zucchini, cheese, egg and a dash of salt. Add about 1/3 cup of the Panko bread crumbs and mix well. Add more breadcrumbs as needed until mixture holds together.

Place 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Form heaping tablespoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into balls and slightly flatten. Coat the zucchini disks with bread crumbs. At this point, the disks can be placed on a plate, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated until you are ready to fry.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini disks and fry for 2 minutes on each side, and then 1 additional minute on each side or as needed until the nuggets are golden brown and cooked through.

I served these with ketchup and Abby tucked right into them - and she has often balked at eating zucchini. The Panko bread crumbs are light and crisp up really well - you should be able to find them with Japanese foods in your grocery store.

Granny New Englander

I made this one while we were on vacation in NH but didn't end up putting it on the blog. I keep thinking that I should have because I think its a good one so here I am. Unfortunately I dont' have a photograph of it so you'll have to use your imagination. :o)

Mini Whole Wheat Pita Pockets (The ones you can buy at Whole Foods that are slightly larger than silver dollar size)
Extra Sharp Vermont Cheddar Cheese (I reccomend the orange kind for a little visual interest since all the other ingredients are white)
Boar's Head "Bacon Lovers" Deli Turkey
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled and cut into slices

Cut an opening in the pita. Stuff with a slice of cheese, half a piece of the turkey and a slice of the apple. Serve!

Neko loved the components of this sandwich individually...meaning she took the sandwich apart and ate all the parts seperately. I ate one (assembled) and thought it was really, really delicious!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Herbed Peach-Plum Salad

Sure, you could just cut up some peaches and plums for your child... but why not take it a step further?

Herbed Peach-Plum Salad
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus an hour to marinate

2 ripe plums
1 ripe peach
1 handful champagne grapes (or red grapes)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp herbes de Provence

Dice the plums and peach (skin the peach if you think your tot will object to the texture of peach skin). If using regular red grapes, cut them into halves or quarters. Toss the plums, peaches, and grapes in a bowl with the honey and herbes de Provence, mixing well to coat all of the fruit with the honey and herbs. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.

This was simple but excellent. Abby ate it all up and asked for seconds. The herbs add a nice touch, and the honey is just enough to bring out the fruit flavors without being too sweet.

Cheese, Egg, and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla

It was breakfast for dinner for Abby tonight... with a twist! She had these with a side of herbed peach-plum salad.

Cheese, Egg, and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 5 minutes

1 tsp butter
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
1 egg and 1 egg white
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 whole wheat tortilla (fajita size)

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, until it begins to brown. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are nicely browned, about 10 minutes more. Remove the onion to a cutting board and dice it. Beat the egg and egg white together in a bowl and scramble the egg in the skillet over medium heat.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the tortilla in half; on one half, layer 1/2 of the cheese, then the diced onion, scrambled egg, and finish with the other 1/2 of the cheese. Top with the other half. Put the quesadilla on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges before serving.

Abby loved this; she called it "pizza," and being a big believer in the power of marketing, I let her think it was pizza. Whatever it takes to get her to try new things!

Sweet Potato and Millet Muffins

Here's a lightly sweet whole grain muffin absolutely chocked with vitamin A! The millet gives it a fabulously crunchy texture.

Sweet Potato and Millet Muffins
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes

2 1/4 cups whole grain flours (I used 1 cup white whole wheat, 1 cup whole wheat, and 1/4 cup graham)
1/2 cup millet (uncooked)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
3 oz vanilla soy milk (or regular milk + 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, mix together the flours, millet, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and ground ginger. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sweet potatoes, eggs, applesauce, maple syrup, and milk until smooth. Add the liquid mixture to the dry and stir just until combined. The dough will be fairly thick.

Divide the dough between 14-18 muffin cups (depending on just how big you want each muffin to be). Bake for 15-2o minutes, until the tops are slightly browned and the muffin springs back from a light touch.

I am surprised by how much Abby likes these. I had to move the plate out of her reach after she stole two muffins and scarfed them down - I needed the rest to take to a playgroup! These make a big batch, so you could freeze some of the muffins to have on hand for quick snacks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

African Dinner Date

Abby and I hosted dinner this week, and the theme was African cuisine!

Bourek and Yellow Rice with Raisins

Bourek (beef packets from Algeria)
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Bake time: 15 minutes
2 Toddler Smiles!

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 egg
onion powder
garlic powder
6 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 Tbsp butter

In a small skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat, breaking it up into very small chunks. Drain it in a colander and then place it in a bowl. Add to it the egg and a dash each of the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper; mix well.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Lay one sheet of phyllo out on your work surface. Fold it in half lengthwise. Spoon 2 tablespoonfuls of the beef mixture onto the corner of one end. Fold the beef inside the phyllo in a triangular fashion (see the pictures):

Set each triangle on a lightly greased (or sprayed with non-stick spray) cookie sheet. (The triangles can be refrigerated until ready to bake at this point). Melt the 1/2 Tbsp of butter in a small bowl in the microwave and lightly brush it over the top of each triangle. Bake the triangles at 400F for 5 minutes; then reduce the heat to 325F and continue to bake for 10-15 additional minutes, until the phyllo is golden and the beef is cooked through (you may want to cut one open to check).

Yellow Rice with Raisins (South Africa)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
2 Toddler Smiles!

1/2 cup white rice
1 tsp white sugar
1/8 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp salt
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 strip (approx. 1 inch long, 1/2 inch wide) lemon rind
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup raisins

Add all of the ingredients except for the raisins to a medium pot. Stir well, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes. Add the raisins, stir, and continue to simmer for 5-10 more minutes, until the rice is tender. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon rind before serving.

Benne Cakes (West Africa)
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour for dough to chill
Bake time: 10-15 minutes
2 Toddler Smiles!

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds (check your grocery store's Japanese food section)

Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract, and lemon juice until well combined. Add the flours, baking powder, salt, and sesame seeds. If the dough seems too wet/moist, add another tablespoon (or two) of all-purpose flour. It should have roughly the consistency of a typical chocolate chip cookie dough.

Put the dough in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 325F. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto a lightly greased (or sprayed with non-stick spray) cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-15 mintues or until the edges are browned. Let cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, and then move the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.


The whole dinner was a success! The girls liked everything, and I had a lot of fun poking around looking for ideas and crafting recipes. The bourek were very tasty, and I could eat mounds of the rice - yum! The benne cakes came out too flat the first time around, which I blame on me not noticing that the dough was too moist - there was definitely some extra flour needed. The taste was to die for, if you are a fan of salty-sweet combinations.

"Turkey Dinner" Shepherd's Pie

Its dinner date night! Hooray! Kara and I set up an arrangement where the Mom that hosts the dinner date makes dinner for the girls for that night. The mom attending brings a reheatable dinner that can go in the fridge or freezer for later in the week. Last week Kara brought Neko some of the red pepper pasta and yogurt bars that she made. Neko loved them both and it was SO nice to have a healthy, homemade meal in the fridge to just pull out, heat up and serve!

Tonight is my turn to bring a meal so last night after much thought I conjured up a twist on a shepherd's pie made with sweet potatoes, ground turkey and green beans (instead of mashed potatoes, green beans and ground beef). Shepherd's pie usually also has some gravy so I attempted to make a little gravy in the ground turkey pan. It worked out pretty good actually.

I served the "pie" (which really I baked in a casserole dish) to Neko fresh out of the oven for lunch and she totally loved it. I made a separate bigger one for dinner for my husband and I and then in a disposable foil mini-loaf pan I made an individual one to bring to Abby which Kara can heat up in the oven later in the week.

"Turkey Dinner" Shepherd's Pie

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp butter (I used smart balance 50/50)
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp Chinese five spice
3c. fresh green beans, ends cut, washed
1 pound ground turkey (I used the 94% fat free version)
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary
2 tbsp corn starch
¼ c. turkey stock
1/8c. milk

Peel, rinse and quarter the sweet potatoes. Put in a medium sized pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender (about 20 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking steam the green beans in a vegetable steamer until just tender (about 5 minutes). Allow beans to cool slightly and cut into bite sized pieces.

Add the oil to a large skillet and over med-high heat brown the ground turkey. Season the turkey with the sage and rosemary. Add the salt and pepper to taste. When the turkey is cooked stir in the corn starch, turkey stock and milk.

When the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove from heat and drain. Add the butter, egg, Chinese five spice and some salt to taste. Mash all ingredients together with a potato masher.

In a baking dish layer components as follows: ground turkey/gravy mixture, green beans and finally the sweet potatoes on top. I piped the sweet potatoes on top using a Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator because I was feeling fancy.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-35 minutes or until the sweet potatoes on top start to brown slightly. Serve.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whole Grain Fruit Crisp

I'm gettin' all sneaky like Jessica Seinfeld with this one!

Whole Grain Fruit Crisp
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes

1 cup diced fruit (I used 1 plum and a handful of blueberries)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup Cheerios, crushed (put them in a sealable bag and crush away! it's fun!)
1 1/2 tsp wheat bran
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Stir the diced fruit, sugar, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture between two ramekins. Set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the oats, Cheerios, wheat bran, and brown sugar. Add the maple syrup and butter and, with your hands or a fork, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it is coarsely held together in crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the fruit in each ramekin.

Put ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake in a 325F oven for 15-20 minutes, until topping is golden.

Is it shocking that Abby loved this? It's fruit crisp, for goodness' sake! She ate it all up and demanded more. Whatever you do, use unsalted butter. Or at least, don't use Smart Balance Light. It was too salty, so the topping tasted a little like buttered popcorn. Abby didn't care, but next time I will use unsalted butter!

Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin) Ravioli

I was all set to make pumpkin ravioli for Abby, when I discovered that the can of pumpkin I was sure I had in the pantry was a figment of my imagination. I hate it when that happens. Thank goodness there was a can of sweet potato in there!

Sweet Potato (or Pumpkin) Ravioli
Total time: 15 minutes

1/3 cup mashed sweet potato (or solid pack pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
ground ginger, salt, nutmeg
12 won ton wrappers
small bowl of water

Bring a saucepan of 3" of water to a boil. Prepare the raviolis while you are waiting for the water to come to a boil.

In a small bowl, mash together the sweet potato, cinnamon, and a dash each of the ground ginger, salt, and nutmeg.

Divide the filling between the 12 won ton wrappers, placing the filling in the center of each wrapper. Moisten your finger in the bowl of water and run it around the edges; fold one corner to its opposite corner (forming a triangle) and run your finger along the edges to seal. Repeat with remaining wrappers.

Boil six ravioli at a time for 2-3 minutes, until the wrap is translucent and the edges are tender. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper-towel covered plate; serve.

Though dubious at first, once I got Abby to take a bite - it was on. She gobbled ravioli down like it was going out of style. And this is a kid who claims not to like sweet potato! Ha!

(If your sweet potato is canned in light syrup, as mine was, I'd recommend rinsing it off very well first. No need to get your tot hopped up on sugar at dinnertime!)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cold Chinese Pasta Salad

Abby likes peanut butter, and she likes noodles. Abby LOVED this salad.

Cold Chinese Pasta Salad
Total time: 30 minutes (most of which is waiting for water to boil or pasta to cook)

7 oz dried whole wheat linguine
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter (preferably natural peanut butter - Skippy or Jif might be too sweet)
onion powder and garlic powder to taste (I used just a dash of each)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Prepare the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the chicken or vegetable stock, soy sauce, peanut butter, onion powder and garlic powder.

Drain the pasta and put it in a large bowl. Toss it together with the sauce, red bell pepper strips, and cilantro. Set it aside to chill, or eat it warm (but I think it tastes better chilled).

This will make a big batch of pasta - if you only want a few toddler portions, make half this recipe (if you want a lot for the whole family, double it!). Abby and I brought this salad with us to a playdate today, and it got two toddler thumbs up. Neither girl would try the red pepper, so I might replace that with carrots in the future. They each had a second helping, though! My mommy friend and I both gobbled it up, too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mini Maple AB&J Pancake Sandwiches

Mini Maple AB&J Pancake Sandwiches
1¼ cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups milk1 egg
¼ cup Justin’s Maple Almond Butter
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Wild Blueberry Jam

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. (I made this mixture at home before we left on vacation and brought it with us sealed in a Ziploc bag.
2. Beat milk with egg and almond butter until smooth.
3. Add to dry ingredients and beat just until well moistened.
4. Lightly butter hot griddle. Spoon by tablespoons onto griddle making silver dollar sized pancakes (mine actually ended up a little bit bigger which was fine). Cook until golden brown on both sides.
5. Spread desired amount of blueberry jam between two pancakes. Serve!
I came up with this idea in Whole Foods when I found the maple flavored almond butter. The maple inspired me to make something New Hampshire-ish that was also toddler friendly and fun. She liked them but is that any realy accomplishment? I mean pancakes+peanut butter (almost) and jelly? Thats a sure thing, right? I ate the pancakes with syrup but Daddy had them with the blueberry jam and we both thought they were delicious! Even Papa had a bite!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Good To Go Cheesy Spinach and Egg Muffins

This morning we had to get up bright and early and get in the car for a 3 hour drive to New Hampshire. Normally for these morning car trips we would hit a Dunkin Donuts for bagel sandwiches and coffee. I was inspired by Kara's savory muffins and thought that something similar would be the perfect car breakfast! I used a basic whole wheat muffin recipe and came up with these:

Good To Go Cheesy Spinach and Egg Muffins
(6 servings)

3/4 cup whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Smart Balance 50/50 (or butter or your favorite butter sub)
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup whole milk
3/4 cup fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I actually used 2 LiveActive cheddar cheese snacks cut up into little chunks...I actually think this was key to the deliciousness of these muffins)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 6 cup muffin tin.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl
3. Stir the melted butter, egg, milk, spinach, and cheddar cheese together separate bowl until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture to form a batter (do not over stir).
4. Fill each muffin cup about ¼ full.
5. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

I made these the night before our trip and right before we walked out the door I zapped them for 30 seconds in the microwave. I also packed a container of 3 different types of grapes that I had washed and cut up. We brewed a pot of coffee, filled our thermos and we were off!

The muffins were a huge success! Not only did Neko love them but we did too! Sometimes baking with whole wheat can be hit or miss but here is definitely a case where it really, really works. I will definitely make these again.

Pita Pizza

I made Abby a little pita pizza for lunch today. Yeah, yeah. Not very exciting or original, I know! But, I had never actually done this before - I don't know why, it just hadn't occurred to me. So maybe it will inspire someone else!

Pita Pizza
Prep time: milliseconds
Bake time: 5 minutes

1/2 of a pita (I cut it horizontally, to make 2 round pitas - as opposed to cutting it into 2 pockets)
3-4 Tbsp of your favorite marinara sauce
A few handfuls of your tot's favorite shredded cheese (we used mozzarella and cheddar)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Top the pita with the marinara, and sprinkle the shredded cheese on top. You could have your child help! Put it on a cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. This took about 5 minutes for me. If you have a toaster oven, you could use that, too - we don't have one :-(

Unsurprisingly, this was a big hit. Abby gobbled it up and said "deeee-licious!" a few times. She left a few scraps, which my husband inhaled and also pronounced "delicious!", but he's easier to please than Abby is. I did not try any, as I am nursing a dairy-allergic baby, but it sure looked good!

Whole Wheat Pancakes

We discovered last night that we had run completely out of (cow's) milk. My husband wondered aloud what he would use on his cereal in the morning, and when my suggestion of "soy milk?" was met with a look of disdain, I said "All right, I'll just make pancakes, then!" He held me to it, so here we are:

Whole Wheat Pancakes
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: not long, but it will vary

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Wheat Bran
4 tsp Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 Egg
1/2 cup unsweetened Applesauce
2 Cups vanilla soy milk (or 2 cups milk plus 1-2 tsp vanilla extract)

Whisk together all the dry ingredients in one big bowl. Whisk together the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the liquid to the dry and stir until just combined.

Drop by big spoonfuls onto a heated skillet or griddle, cook and serve! These cook up fast on each side, at least on my griddle, so watch them carefully.

These were a big hit. Abby loves these pancakes, I love them, my husband loves them. This batch is not toddler-sized - these ingredients are enough for about 6 servings, so scale it back if you just want to make a few for your child/children. If you're new to the whole "whole grains" bandwagon, these will taste very different from the usual Bisquick pancake - but we love the nutty taste of whole wheat flour and wheat bran, and these make a big, thick, fluffy, hearty pancake. And of course, pancakes are the perfect place to get creative with add-ins - mashed banana, chocolate chips, blueberries, strawberries, diced mango or peaches...

Friday, August 22, 2008


Despite a lifelong passion for hummus, I was about 25 years old before I ever tried falafel. It was instant love. Knowing how much Abby likes hummus, I thought I would try her on its spicier fried cousin today.

Toddler Falafels
Prep time: 5-10 minutes, plus time to chill
Cooking time: 10 minutes (but...)

14 oz can chick peas, drained and rinsed
3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/4 cup flour
2-4 Tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until they form a thick paste - kind of the consistency of Play-Doh. Take walnut-sized balls of dough with your hands and form them into little patties. Coat the little patties lightly in flour, and set on a plate to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat up 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the patties and fry for 5-10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels; serve! You could make a little yogurt-cucumber dipping sauce; Abby had them with ranch dressing.

These worked out pretty great... mostly. The taste was yummy. It took a little cajoling, but once I got Abby to try a bite, she really liked them and wolfed them down. Check out this empty plate!

And, I liked that I could prepare them ahead of time and only do the frying at lunch time - I made them while Abby was having breakfast, set them in the fridge to chill, and had lunch ready within 10 minutes of us getting home from errands.

But - my execution was terrible. I'm sure most restaurants are deep-frying their falafels, which is something I'm not willing to do (for health reasons and because I'm a scaredy-cat around that much hot oil). I found numerous recipes indicating that this flour-chill-pan fry technique would work, but my balls fell apart when I tried to flip them. They taste great and we'll definitely make them again, but I need to figure out a way to pan-fry but have them hold together. Got an idea on how I can improve this? Leave it in the comments!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Better Marshmallow Crispy Treat

Whole Grain Marshmallow Crispy Treats
(24 servings)

I'm always on the lookout for good playgroup snacks that fit everyone's needs. Most of the Mom's are dieting, one of the Mom's (Kara actually) can't eat dairy and the kids need something relatively healthy. This recipe certainly fit every bill. I didn't pay attention to the other toddler's reactions but Neko ate one while waiting for her friends to show up and seemed to enjoy it. I think it was a little hard for her to chew because the Kashi cereal is very crunchy so that was a bit of a bummer but otherwise I'd say this recipe is a keeper.

3 tablespoons butter (I used Smart Balance Light with Flax Oil)
1 (10.5-oz.) bag miniature marshmallows
1 (15-oz.) box multi-grain cluster cereal (I used Kashi GoLean Crunch)
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries, divided
Vegetable cooking spray

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows, and cook, stirring constantly, 4 to 5 minutes or until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Stir in cereal and 1 cup cranberries until well coated.

3. Press mixture into a 13- x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
4. Chop remaining 1/4 cup cranberries, and sprinkle on top.
5. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until firm. Cut into 24 bars.
(Recipe adapted from a recipe found on

BCT Muffins

I had a playgroup to go to this morning, and I knew I would need a fast and easy lunch to grab for Abby when we got home. Normally, I would turn to yogurt or string cheese and call it a day - but then I couldn't blog about it, now could I? So I figured I would throw together some savory muffins in the morning that could go straight from fridge to mouth when we got home.

BCT (Bacon, Corn, and Tomato) Muffins
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 15-20 minutes

3/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted and slightly cooled
3/4 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen, drained if canned, or cut off of the cob)
1/4 cup chopped tomato
1 oz cooked, crumbled bacon

In a large bowl, mix together the corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just combined. Stir in the corn, tomato, and bacon until just combined. Divide between 8 muffin cups; bake in a 350F oven for 15-17 minutes.

These got an okay response. Initially, Abby liked it and said "yum!" a lot. And then, she noticed a piece of the bacon that was a little dark, said "oh no!" and wouldn't eat anymore. This is why cooking for toddlers (or at least for Abby) is so darned frustrating - the most minor thing can make her refuse an entire food. I'll freeze a few and serve a few at breakfast or lunch tomorrow... and most likely, my husband and I will just polish them off. Because, hello, bacon!! In a muffin! How can she not love them?? I like the general idea of this and think I'll tinker with other savory muffins in the future.

Cheddar Crackers

It should be no surprise that Abby loves Goldfish cheddar cheese crackers - is there a toddler who doesn't? I first had the idea to make Abby her own homemade cheddar crackers about a year ago, and I make these from time to time when I am tired of seeing the neon orange Goldfish crumbs all over the house. Are they as good as Goldfish? Well, no, I won't lie - they aren't. Goldfish are like toddler crack. But these are good, and tasty, and crispy, and best of all - you know what's in them.

Cheddar Crackers
Prep time: 5 minutes (plus 40 minutes of chilling)
Bake time: 5-10 minutes

3/4 cup flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 cup butter, cut in pieces
1 cup grated cheddar

Add the dry ingredients to your food processor and pulse 2-3 times to mix. Sprinkle the butter pieces on top; pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the grated cheese and run the processor until the dough forms big globs that are sticking together (this takes me about 1-2 minutes). Turn the globs out onto your work surface and knead and pack the dough with your hands until it all comes together. Form the dough into a 2-inch roll. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 35-40 minutes (or longer).

Slice the chilled dough into 1/4" thick rounds. Bake in a 400F oven on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. OR, cut the rounds into six wedges to make smaller, triangular crackers, and bake in the 400F oven for 5-7 minutes (5 minutes yielding a fairly soft, chewy cracker - 7 will give you a crispy cracker, but with danger of a burned bottom. If your toddler is like mine, she will pick up each slightly burned one and say "oh no! black!" and refuse to eat it. So watch those bottoms!).

Personally, I prefer to cut the crackers into wedges - it only takes a tiny bit more time, and then each cracker can be eaten in one bite, cutting down on the crumbs produced. If you are not too worried about sodium intake, you can take a few pinches of coarse salt and sprinkle it over the crackers before baking - it really improves the flavor.

The first time I made these, I rolled out the dough and used cookie cutters to make little animal shaped crackers. This was back when I only had one child, who took 2 naps a day, and I had a lot of time on my hands. It worked, and if you are so inclined, go ahead and cut out billions of little crackers into cute shapes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Family Favorite

Spaghetti (squash) and Meatballs
(Serves 4)

This one is a big hit in our house. Neko loves it and doesn't even notice that its not actual spaghetti. My husband and I love it because its jam packed with veggies and also very low in fat. We go through phases where we have this once a week because we like it so much.

For the "noodles":
1 spaghetti squash

For the sauce:
1 lb. tomatoes
1 red pepper
Assorted "sauce veggies" mushrooms, roasted eggplant, etc.

For the meatballs:
1lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves (chopped)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Splash of Worcestershire sauce

1. Heat up your broiler.

2. Brush the red pepper with olive oil and then place it under the broiler. Keep and eye on it and turn every so often until each side gets one or two small char spots. Remove the pepper and set aside.

3. Put all the meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix them together by hand. Form into small to medium sized meatballs and set aside.

4. Heat the oven to 350.

5. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet and put them in the oven. Roast them for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the squash.

6. Finely chop the tomatoes, basil, and onion and place them in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with oregano, salt and pepper.

7. In a large skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil and then add the meatballs to the pan. Brown the meatballs on all sides then add to the simmering tomato sauce.

8. Remove the skin and seeds from the roasted red pepper and then chop. Add that, along with any additional veggies you like, to the sauce. Cover and reduce to a low simmer for 30 minutes.

9. Remove the squash from the oven. When fully cooked, the inside of the squash should easily peel away like "noodles" with a fork.

10. Divide the squash up into equal portions, cover with sauce and meatballs and top with cheese (optional) and serve.

Dinner Date!

To keep us motivated to create healthy and creative meals for our girls we set up a weekly dinner date! This week it was my turn to cook and I came up with a (loosely) Middle Eastern menu. I came up with a rating system. Its pretty simple. In fact, I'm not even going to insult your intelligence by explaining.

The dinner date started with an hour of play (naturally) while I prepped dinner. Abby and Neko tried out some dragon feet!

Then it was time for dinner! On the menu we had:

Abby, BaaBaa and the 40 Lentils
(4 servings)
Rating: 1 Toddler Smile

1 cup Lentils, cooked (You can buy pre-cooked lentils in a can from most grocery stores. I cooked up some dry lentils which adds about an hour to the total cooking time of the dish.)
1/4 cup Tomatoes, small diced (I used cherry tomatoes)
1/2 Avocado, small diced2 tsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive Oil`
1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
2. Serve.

I got this recipe (which I simply renamed but did not otherwise alter) from Weelicious one of the few existing websites dedicated to healthy, homemade baby and toddler food. It’s a cute site with a decent handful of recipes.

Neko dug right in and told us all that she, in fact, liked it! (Woohoo! A healthy dinner that only takes 10 minutes to fix and she likes it!) Abby on the other hand (who, ironically, the dish was named after for the occasion) was literally gagging at the sight. I can't say that I blame her too much since in a way it does kind of look like...well...puke.) I think Neko gobbled without complaint because there is nothing she likes more than beans and lentils are right up her alley.

Pita Pinwheels
(2 Servings)
Rating: 2 Toddler Smiles!

1 Joseph’s Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pita (or any whole wheat pita)
½ cup hummus (homemade or store bought—I used Cedar’s Garden Vegetable Hummus because that’s what we had in the fridge)
1 cup white eggplant, roasted (I decided to throw this in because we were given a couple eggplants from someone’s garden and I thought this was the perfect place to slip them in. You could also use roasted red pepper, zucchini or any other vegetable that roasts to a soft consistency)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Wash, peel and cut eggplant into 1” chunks. In a small bowl toss eggplant in olive oil. Put in an oven safe pan (or foil) and bake until pieces are soft (mine took 45 minutes). Remove from oven. Allow eggplant to cool.

2. In a food processor puree the hummus and eggplant until smooth. Refrigerate mixture until ready to use.

3. Spread enough hummus mixture on pita to cover one side. Roll the pita up and slice into pinwheels. Serve.

If I had this one to do over again I would have used something with more color in the hummus. Red peppers would have been good...or something green maybe. The "pinwheel" effect was kind of lost with all the tan on tan going on. The good news is that both girls ate them right up with nary a complaint!

Mocklava” Sundaes

(Serves 2)
Rating: 1 Toddler Smile (but...)

1 Whole wheat pita
1c Vanilla Frozen Yogurt (cinnamon or honey flavors would also be delicious!)
2 tsp Honey
1 Tbsp chopped nuts (I used a combination of pistachios and walnuts)
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Brush both sides of pita with canola oil and sprinkle both sides with cinnamon and sugar. Cut pita into 4 triangles. Bake in preheated oven until crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. Scoop ½ cup of yogurt into 2 separate bowls. Put half of the nuts on each sundae and lightly drizzle with honey.
4. Top each sundae with 2 cinnamon sugar pita chips. Serve.

So I got impatient while the pita was crisping in the oven and decided to throw them in the broiler. Welllll, then I got a little too chatty and ended up with this:

Whoops! I decided in the moment to scrap the pita (which incidentally I tried the non-burnt sides of and were delicious). I'm sure they would have been great and I will try it again someday. Pita chip or no pita chip this was a delicious sundae! I know because I snuck bites of Neko's. She, of course, devoured it because its ice cream. Sadly for Abby we Moms gotta stick together and this little dinner date club is following a "no dessert for little girls who don't at least try their dinners". It was painful not to give it but we remained strong. (Mean Mommies!!) Someday I WILL remake this sundae for Abby. :o)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Red Pepper-Zucchini Sauce

Dinner tonight was a zesty spin on boring old spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Pasta with Red Pepper-Zucchini Sauce
Total time: 30 minutes

4 oz dried pasta shapes of your choice (I used Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Rotini)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 of a small onion, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1/4 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice, plus 2 Tbsp of the juice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, set aside.

In a small pan, heat the oil and add the onion and pepper; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are nice and soft. If your pan gets too dry, add in some extra juice from the canned tomatoes, or vegetable or chicken stock, or water, or even white wine - just enough to keep the ingredients from getting too dry and burning. Put everything in a blender (if your blender is big enough; otherwise, do this in batches. Hot food + over-full blender = huge, painful mess) and blend to a smooth consistency.

Toss the pasta with the sauce, top with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan if it pleases your little connoisseur.

Abby liked this a lot - she eats like a bird, so this recipe made about 4 servings for her. She gobbled her bowl right down, and dinner was accompanied by a chorus of "mm!"s and "yum!"s. Exactly what I like to hear! This sauce has a zesty and strong red pepper taste. An adventurous tot might like it with a dash of crushed red pepper, but we're not quite there yet!

In other notes, I need to get Abby some cooler plates and bowls if I'm going to be posting pictures. My Gerber bowls and Ikea plates are a little too... plastic.

Yogurt Granola Bars

Today I made Abby some Yogurt Granola Bars. I got the idea from a British cookbook that I have - it's aimed at children and is one of those reminders that "children around the world eat all sorts of things." It's full of recipes that call for potted meat and tinned sardines. Huh. I've never had either, and I've certainly never offered either to Abby. I saw a recipe for snack bars that contained neither potted meat nor Vegemite and thought I'd give 'em a whirl.

Yogurt Granola Bars

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes

3 Tbsp butter (or butter substitute)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup rolled oats (not instant!)
1/4 cup almonds, chopped fine
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried, pitted dates, chopped (I found pre-chopped at my grocery store - score!)
2 Tbsp yogurt (any kind will do... I used Stonyfield Farm Fat Free Lotsa Lemon, because it's all I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 325F and grease a loaf pan. In a large bowl, melt the butter and honey together in the microwave. Stir in the baking soda. Add in all the other ingredients and stir until well combined. Spoon into the loaf pan and pack it down with the back of your spoon. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the edges are starting to brown. Let cool completely before slicing; chilling them in the refrigerator would help even more.

These were a BIG hit. My only complaint is that, as you can see on her plate, they crumbled all apart; I think the next time I make them I'll try adding in some flour or egg or something to either dry them up or bind them together (and I'll edit this post with any alterations for the better!). But, the taste was fantastic and Abby gobbled up every little bit. I bet they would be fantastic crumbled over some vanilla fro-yo for dessert.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Google "toddler recipes", "toddler meals", "food for toddlers", "healthy meals for toddlers"...go ahead...try it. One site you'll come up with right away is a site that claims that "this site is devoted to feeding toddlers". When you click on the "toddler recipes library" (sorry about all the quotes...I know its annoying) and click on "dinners" you will find THREE recipes. Now that's some devotion!

Continue on with your search and you will find hundreds of recipes for "kid-friendly" versions of pizza, mac and cheese, pigs in blankets and spaghetti and meatballs.

I really don't think we give the palates of toddlers (and big kids too) enough credit. Toddlers in most other countries in the world don't even know what a chicken nugget is. Go here to read about what toddlers around the world are scarfing up in their booster seats. If toddlers in Japan slurp noodles in fish broth and toddlers Denmark gobble up liverwurst or cod roe sandwiches then why are we so afraid to serve up a lentil every once in awhile. Toddlers in India don't turn up their noses at food seasoned with tumeric, curry and fenugreek and some parents are lucky if they can get their kids to dip a dinosaur shaped nugget into some ranch dressing.

My kid has eaten dinosaur shaped nuggets (as well as mac and cheese, pizza and thousands of goldfish crackers). Thankfully, she loves LOTS of foods and will try anything put in front of her. Very rarely does she truly dislike a food. I would like to keep her this way. I am an adventurous, healthy eater and I hope that she will always be too. The challenge comes in being motivated enough to find/create recipes and cook for just her since she eats dinner much earlier than Daddy and I. It always seems easier to pop something from the freezer into the oven or to make one big meal just for her at the beginning of the week that she has for several meals that boring for her!

I think this great idea Kara and I have come up with will be just the thing to spice up my toddler chef performance.

I am devoted to feeding toddlers. ;o)

Ready To Do Better!

I feed myself well. Maybe too well, judging by my scale. I love food - I love to make it, I love to eat it, and I love to try new things with it. So why do I find myself hauling out my Costco-sized bag of frozen chicken nuggets for Abby's dinner every night? Why do most of her lunches consist of a yogurt and a handful of carrots? Toddlers are hard - they like what they like, and it's easy to fall into the trap of just serving the same things, over and over again. When I muster up the enthusiasm to make something new and different with Abby, it's either demolished with gusto or regarded with disgust... and watching her turn up her button-nose at something I've slaved over is a little demoralizing. But with Celeste (and the blog!) to spur me on to do better, I'm ready. Ready to make Abby REAL food. Ready to expand her palate. Ready to show her that there is life beyond grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, dino nuggets, and Goldfish crackers.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Alphabetical Listing of Recipes