Cooking with Toddlers: Pickles

We’ve been off the grid for a few weeks due to potty training, a massive heat wave, and a very unmotivated pregnant mama who’s been less than inspired in the kitchen. There’s something about cooking a meal from scratch in insanely humid 97 degree weather while 38 weeks pregnant and a toddler who might poo on the carpet at any minute. Hopefully this baby will come sooner than later or we might be eating sandwiches forever. In the meantime, we did manage to make some pickles and had loads of fun doing it despite the heat and the grumpy mama.

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Fig avoids cucumbers like the plague. Not once has even so much as swallowed a morsel of cucumber in his life-until we made pickles. Fig had an all out cucumber bonanza. In fact, I’m confident he broke the record for most cucumbers consumed in a 20 minutes period.

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This is exactly why I love cooking with my two year old. He’s so much more receptive and open to foods he would otherwise scoff at. If given the opportunity to participate in the real work of creating a dish; he’ll sample (and re-sample dozens of times) whatever raw ingredients we’re working with. So far, cooking with Fig is one of the easiest and best ways to get him to try new foods and eat loads of fresh veggies.

Making pickles might be one of the easiest and most basic kitchen activities for toddlers. We used persian cucumbers which are a perfect size for small hands and are soft enough to make an easy cut leading to less frustration for little folks.

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Simple Pickle Recipe 

  • 1  1/2 persian cucumbers
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 wide mouth jars

Preparation: 

  • Wash and dry the cucumbers; removing the ends
  • Cut into spears ( or the shape you desire)
  • Pack the cucumbers into the jars
  • Combine the water, vinegar, and salt in saucepan; bring to boil
  • Pour the brine ( the water, vinegar, and salt) over the cucumbers, covering the pickles completely.
  • Let the jars cool at room temp and then place in the fridge for 48 hours before tasting.
  • Pickles will last for several weeks.

Cooking with Toddlers: Pumpkin, Chia, and Flax Seed Falafel

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Things have been crazy around here the last few weeks. Working from home full time with a toddler and a baby that is about to pop out in a few weeks ( or sooner!) is no joke. There is a distinct possibility that our brand new baby might come home from the birth center naked since I have yet to buy a single piece of clothing for him/her. Nesting clearly hasn’t happened to me but avoidance and procrastination has.

To say I’m behind on life is a bit of an understatement but no matter how behind I am on my ever growing “to do” list we still have to eat. Which brings me to a wonderful dish that little Fig and I cooked up the other day; Pumpkin, Chia and Flax Seed Falafel. This recipe was inspired by The Vibrant Table again. As usual, we didn’t have several ingredients that she called for; so we improvised quite a bit.

Fig LOVED making the Falafel “balls” because he could really sink his hands into the mixture. The actual act of “making balls” ( as he says it) was a very engrossing activity. Fig is so full of energy that it’s always nice to see him highly focused on a task and I’ve found that quiet kitchen activities are really beneficial for him. While he’s fairly good at balancing his own inner equilibrium he sometimes needs my help. Dishes that have a sensory aspect ( a mixture, dough, or batter etc) and a fine motor skill ( the act of creating balls manually) always draws Fig into a quiet focus and falafel is an awesome combination of both.

I was also highly skeptical he’d actually eat the finished product but he did with gusto!

Pumpkin, Chia and Flax Seed Falafel

  • 4 tablespoons of ground flax seed
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 a regular can of cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons of tahini
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic minced
  • 1/8 cup of chopped cilantro
  • Salt to taste ( taste the mixture as you go to determine the amount)

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Directions:

  • Grind up the pumpkin seeds so they are very small in a food processor
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Take out several spoonfuls of the pumpkin seed and set aside to coat falafel with later.
  • Combine the remaining ingredients ( aside from the sesame seeds) in the processor and pulse until blended yet chunky
  • Here’s where an eager toddler comes into play; Form little rounded balls and coat with remaining pumpkin and sesame seed mix.
  • Place on a lightly oiled baking dish and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Serve with warm flatbread and either hummus or a tahini sauce.

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Baking with Toddlers: Chia Berry Apple Crumble

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Fig and I spend most of our time outdoors. During the week you can usually find us hiking in our local canyons, at the beach or playing at our neighborhood park. Both of us pretty much hate to be indoors for more than a few hours a day but during the height of a southern california summer sometimes the heat is simply too intense to go outside. Yesterday was one of those horrifically hot days and after naptime there was just no way we could venture outside without burning to a crisp.

So we stayed inside. And as expected, things went from cray to cray-cray in a hot second.

Fig just isn’t an indoor kid and after he decided to “plant” the mint bush from the balcony into our carpet I decided it was time I occupy his little hands with something useful. So we decided a crumble for us to share “daddy” was in order.

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When baking with little ones who already possess too much energy I generally try to find and prepare baked goods that are mostly plant based, use natural sugars, and have loads of fruit. So when I discovered a crumble from my new favorite cookbook The Vibrant TableI knew it would be the perfect toddler baking activity.

As is typically the case with impromptu baking sessions, we didn’t have half the ingredients the original recipe calls for. So, with the Vibrant’s Table Crumble as inspiration we embarked on our own version.

I like this recipe for several reasons. First, there are ample opportunities for little helping hands. Secondly, when Fig started double fisting berries and walnuts into his mouth my reaction was meh.  (I’ve seen him double fist cake batter into his mouth like his life depended on it, so walnuts and fruit are no big deal). Thirdly, despite an initial feeling to the contrary, the dish is quite simple to make and tastes deceptively sinful.

Berry Apple Crumble:

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 5 small apples
    • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
    • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 3 cups of berries ( we used a combo of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Ingredients for the crisp:

  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of ground flax
  • 1/4 cup of ground oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1/4 cup of carob chips
  • 1/4 cup of chia seeds
  • Coconut Oil for baking

To prepare the apples: ( I had prepared these the day before)

  • Cube the apples into small pieces.
  • In a pot combine apples, water, cinnamon, and brown sugar.
  • Cook on very low until tender and highly fragrant ( around 20-30 minutes).

To Prepare the Crisp and Berries:

1) Heat oven to 300 degrees F

2) Process the walnuts in a food processor until they are the size of breadcrumbs

3) Process the oatmeal finely.

4) In a bowl, mix the walnuts, oatmeal, flax, flour and honey together.

5) Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Once done, pop the mixture into the freezer until it’s room temperature.

6) In the meantime, combine apples, berries and sugar together in a bowl.

7) Once crumbles are cool increase the oven to 350 degrees.

7) Lightly oil a 9 inch baking pan. Combine the crisp, berry/apple mixture, chia seeds, and carob chips together in pan.

8) Bake for 25-30 minutes.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Baked Carrot Top and Spout Egg Rolls

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” I need plan B”. That’s what my 27 month old said to me upon tasting ( and hating) the Carrot Top and Sprout Egg Rolls we made together.

Firstly; You’re two and we don’t own a TV. How do you even know what a plan B is?

Secondly: There is no plan B because mama doesn’t do plan  B’s for dinner. We only have plan  A and plan  A is Carrot Top and Sprout Egg Rolls.

After desperately trying to coax my little one into eating the egg rolls I eventually did give in and fashioned together another little plate of odds and ends for him. I’m pretty much against Plan B’s when it comes to meals but both my husband and I agreed that the carrot tops and sprouts were a little much for a two year old’s palate. (Bonus: my husband and I didn’t have to share these delicious eggrolls and ate the entire batch of 15 ( yes, you read that right) between the two of us.)

And while Fig happily devoured his Plan B meal I certainly wasn’t concerned about his vegetable intake. Only 30 minutes before I saw him shovel in his veggies while he was helping me. That’s one of the added bonuses of cooking with little ones. Even if they don’t eat the actual meal, chances are they’ll do a healthy amount of sampling during the process.

Fig certainly wasn’t a fan of the finished product; but loved the helping me “make” them. Of course after witnessing him strange the life out of the egg roll wraps (see photographic evidence below) I decided it was best if I set him up with his own station. He was content to sample his veggie tray and mangle his egg roll wrappers, even deciding that the best methodology was to cleaver them with his toy meat cleaver.

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Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 a cup of julienned carrots
  • 1/2 a cup of carrot tops, diced
  • 1/2 a cup of sunflower sprouts
  • 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1/2 a cup of pea sprouts
  • 2 teaspoons of tamari
  • 1/2 teaspoon of toasted sesame seed oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Egg roll wrappers

Directions:

  • Simply saute the veggies on low with the tamari, salt and sesame oil until they are vibrant and tender
  • Lay out the egg roll wrapper so one of the corners is facing you. Place several spoonfuls ( or more depending on desired thickness) onto a wrapper and wrap up corners  Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Seal with a bit of water.
  • Every egg roll wrapper brand might have slightly different directions for baking. I brushed ours with sesame oil and baked them at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes until they were brown and then laid them out to drain the remaining oil on a paper towel before serving.

Notes:

  • I think frying the egg rolls would give them a slightly more authentic taste but for reasons having to do with health we chose to bake ours. I think it compromised the texture and taste of the egg roll wrapper. The inside however was delicious!

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Toddler Meals: On Our Table this Week

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Soba Noodles with Pan Seared Tofu, Kale and Carrots.

Manners were always a big deal at our house growing up. No elbows on the table, don’t start eating until everyone is seated, chew with your mouth closed, put your napkin on your lap etc. While I’m certainly no prim and proper lady, I do want my kids to have solid table manners and its something I’ve been thinking about and struggling with a bit.

For a while, we were asking little Fig to stay seated until dinner. That idea lasted about a week when our semi-peaceful dinners  turned into a total sob-fest complete with food throwing, drastic escape attempts, and high pitched howling. Turns out that two year olds can’t sit still for very long ( duh) and asking him to do so seemed a little unfair.

Now Fig will eat a few bites, run around and play and then come back for more. He’ll probably come back to the table three or more times in a single meal; nibbling here or there before its back to his favorite game; trying to run the dog over with his mini-wheelbarrow (too bad for him she’s too fast and too smart to become toddler roadkill).

There are some things that Fig is great with; like using his utensils and drinking excellently out of open cups. He’s also a little bit of a clean freak and hates when he spills food on his shirt or his area asking me to “clean!”.  But I still struggle with the whole running around like a wild banshee at dinner situation and his constant want to sit on our laps and pick from our plates. I’m hoping that my motherly intuition will guide me on this one but I guess only time will tell.

In the meantime; here is what my little gus has been eating as of late:

Green Thai Curry with Peppers and Tofu

Green Thai Curry with Peppers and Tofu

Black Lentil Bowl with Tomatoes and Avocados

Black Lentil Bowl with Tomatoes and Avocados

Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Burger with Guacamole

Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Burger with Guacamole

Buckwheat Soba Noddles with Kale. Sweet Potatoes and Seaweed.

Buckwheat Soba Noddles with Kale. Sweet Potatoes and Seaweed.

 

Coho Salmon , Fennel and Tomatoes

Coho Salmon , Fennel and Tomatoes

Eating the bread first; typical!

Eating the bread first; typical!

Lemon Cream Orecchiette Pasta with Parsley

Lemon Cream Orecchiette Pasta with Parsley

Sweet Potato Wedges and Eggplant, Chickpea, and Tomato Mix

Sweet Potato Wedges and Eggplant, Chickpea, and Tomato Mix

One of the few non-oatmeal breakfasts we have. Buckwheat Waffles with Strawberries, Greek Yogurt and Chia Seeds

One of the few non-oatmeal breakfasts we have. Buckwheat Waffles with Strawberries, Greek Yogurt and Chia Seeds

Yum Bowls

Yum Bowls

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Sage Aioli

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Sage Aioli

Carrot and Carrot Top Salad with a Lime Ginger Vinaigrette ( was spit out by Fig!)

Carrot and Carrot Top Salad with a Lime Ginger Vinaigrette ( was spit out by Fig!)

Cooking with Toddlers: Building a Yum Bowl

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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.

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Yum Bowls:

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

Directions: 

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

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Baking with Toddlers: Raw Vegan Baking

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Raw vegan baking and toddlers might just be a match made in cooking heaven. While we don’t really subscribe to a particular way of eating ( raw, vegan, vegetarian, paleo etc. ect. ) I’m certainly a fan of raw and vegan when it comes to working with a toddler in the kitchen. Here’s why:

1) Raw baking is well..raw! This means no hot oven to worry about. Not only does this rock during summer time and save energy but it also eliminates some of the inevitable danger of using a hot oven for both kid and parent. I’m happy to report I’ve been very successful in keeping my two year old safe in the kitchen but I can’t say the same for myself.  Just in the last two weeks I’ve managed to julienne my finger AND hand ( on two different occasions) and cut myself with a bread knife. Clearly I need to minimize kitchen danger for my own sake.

2) Most of the raw vegan recipes I’ve seen use really healthy ingredients and natural sweeteners like dates instead of refined sugars. This is good if you have a little kid who just can’t resist shoveling batter into their mouths. This is good for moms and dads who also can’t help shoveling batter into their mouths ( maybe its genetic?). Either way, the reason we don’t bake a lot is mostly due to the fact that I have no self control when it comes to sweets and will pretty much consume whatever was made within a 24 hour period. I feel much less guilty with recipes like this one from raw chef Emily von Euw in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times.

3) Back to the batter: since there are no raw eggs used in vegan baking I don’t have to be quite as vigilant about Fig taking a mouthful of raw eggy batter. He once ate a huge spoonful of raw egg batter and I spent a week thinking he would contract some kind of brain eating bacteria (totally a 1st time mom reaction) . Needless to say, I’ll take a baking recipe sans eggs if possible.

4) Raw baking takes less time than regular baking. Fig and I whipped up our latest raw baking dish in around 20 minutes total. Believe me, there is nothing worse than being knee deep in a 40 minute baking session,  batter everywhere, only to have a toddler decide he’s had enough, throw a tantrum, and then conveniently need a diaper change ( typically the mail lady will arrive at this time, the dog will flip out and try to kill said mail lady and that super important telephone call you’re waiting for will ring). 20 minutes or less is where its at!

If you’re considering bringing a little person into the kitchen with you for some baking sessions, both Fig and I would highly suggest testing out some raw vegan recipes even if you’ve never eaten raw or vegan before….it might just be the easiest and most delicious thing you’ve ever baked!

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What baking with a two year old looks like!

What baking with a two year old really looks like!

Our raw cashew cookies with fig and strawberry jam

Our raw cashew cookies with fig and strawberry jam