Cooking with Todders: Easy Peasy

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I haven’t been able to pull Fig out of the garden lately. Not even the lure of a cheesy quesadilla will do it. He’s having too much fun romping around. Between trying to make friends with a few feral cats ( with limited success), patrolling for squirrels ( with great success) and fishing in the grass for twout (trout), he’s too busy to be bothered with the going-ons of the kitchen.

So in light of the delicious spring weather and his complete resistance to being indoors, I’ve resorted to bringing his lunch and snacks outside. This has also saved me quite a bit of time cleaning the explosion of food scraps that are left under Fig’s chair post-meal time.

Fig has always loved peas and shelling them to uncover the sweet rounds of goodness pretty much rocks his world. As with most two year olds, he’s constantly in-motion. It always takes me by surprise when he focuses so intently on a task and shelling peas, with their promise of sweet succulence, requires all his energies.

But Fig is not the only one who loves a good batch of fresh peas…….

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IMG_5917Oh yes, Mafalda the Dachshund, whose love of peas was documented here, will give her right paw for a mouthful of peas. The dog will stick her nose up at sweet fruit but will nearly rip your finger off trying to snag a pea. Fig is happy to share his beloved peas with her and I’m quite happy to see that both my kids got their greens in.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Homemade Greek Yogurt

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One of the most precious moment’s from Fig’s babyhood is a sweet video we took of him shoveling yogurt into his face so ferociously and screaming “mo mo mo!” (baby talk for more) with each bite. I re-watch this video like 4 times a week I love it so much.

Some things have yet to change with Fig and his love of yogurt is one of them. Every time we go to the store he begs/pleads/squeals for yogurt but most of the brands have so much sugar in them I might as well just hand him a Snickers. So after a little research we decided to venture into the world of yogurt making.

Surprisingly easy and toddler-friendly, yogurt making is the perfect activity for a slow day at home. It’s really quite easy and mostly requires a lot of waiting. Every once and a while Fig would appear from the garden, covered in mud, and inquire as to whether or not his yogurt was ready. We’d take a quick peek at our cultured creation and let it sleep just a bit longer. Finally, after much waiting, checking and hoping our yogurt had set and cooled and we were ready to test it. Judging by the last picture below, I’d say it was a major success.

*In order to make yogurt you’ll need a starter. We used Culture’s for Health Greek Yogurt starter which can be found here. There are a lot of different companies that make a variety of starters but I’ve always had good success with their cultures. Most starters will come with specific directions on how to make a batch of yogurt.

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Zucchini Noodles in a Minty Pea Sauce

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Looking for a green St. Patrick’s day dish? Check out my recipe for Zucchini Noodles in a Minty Pea Sauce over at Growing Up Herbal. It’s my favorite resource for all things herbs and has excellent information on herbal medicine for young ones!

Cooking with Toddlers: Naan

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Every friday night I plan out the next week’s meals and accompanying grocery list. This may seem about the dullest way to spend a Friday night ( don’t worry, I jazz the night up with not one, not two, but three cups of chamomile tea) but I look forward to it every week. Spreading out dozens of cookbooks, I read, think and plan what we’ll eat all in a wondrous silence that only mothers of young children can appreciate. I usually have too many ideas and slowly widdle my list down until I have a reasonable compilation of meals that won’t bankrupt us and and are feasible on a weekday.

But this past Friday I couldn’t think of a single thing. Nothing sounded good, everything seemed far too complicated and little boxes of macaroni and cheese started to float inside my brain availing themselves as legitimate dinner options.

So instead of flipping through page after page of fancy cookbooks I thumbed through my old meal planning entries hoping to find some easy inspiration. It was there I discovered the not so ugly truth; We have a clear Indian food addiction and didn’t even know about it. Curries, Daal, Tikka Masala; the list went on. At the height of our Indian obsession we were eating Indian food 2 or 3 times a week. And who could blame us? Is there anything better than piping hot vegetable tikka masala poured over a bed of rice with a huge delicious and buttery hunk of naan? I dare say not.

Speaking of naan, it never occurred to me to actually make naan despite making the accompanying dish from scratch. While I’d never actually seen a recipe for naan I assumed it would be laborious and difficult.  Let me tell you something; once you go homemade naan, you never go back. Store bought naan is like cardboard and homemade naan is like manna from heaven.

Making naan involves dough balls and rolling pins and thus lends itself to tiny helping hands. Seeing all those tiny little dough balls rolled up elicited a high pitched squeal and a ” wow ..how cool!” from Fig who promptly got to work rolling out the dough balls and handing them over to me.

So as you might have guessed, Indian food is gracing our table several times this week. We made a batch of 20 and freezed most of it but not before eating a few warm slices just ensure it was palatable and safe for consumption ( the sacrifices we make as home cooks I tell you!).

Bonus: I showed Fig how to use his naan as a vehicle for getting Tikka Masala into his mouth and he was totally into it. I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner since Fig is a sucker for all things bread. Getting him to eat heavily spiced foods with complex flavors usually comes with quite a bit of coaxing and sometimes even bribery but I think we’ve solved that with naan!

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Ingredients

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼-oz. package active dry yeast ( standard one package)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plain, full-fat yogurt ( if you don’t have yogurt I’ve used coconut milk cream with amazing results as well).
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt

Directions:

  • Combine water, honey and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  • Add the flour and yogurt. Combine well and knead. Let rise in a warm place for one hour.
  • After dough has risen, divide into 10 equal tiny balls.
  • Roll out to to about a 1/4 inch thick.
  • Oil a pan and heat on medium.
  • Cook naan on each side. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when tiny bubbles appear over the surface.
  • Serve warm!

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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!