Cooking with Toddlers: Smashed Potatoes

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I have yet to come across a toddler who doesn’t enjoy mashing, smashing, banging or otherwise attempting to destroy things. Unfortunately for me, Fig has a tendency to deconstruct items of value. Furthermore, I usually make it to the crime scene after the damage has been done and there’s no possibility of thwarting the the tiny act of vandalism.

So making smashed potatoes with a toddler is multifunctional; they can smash and mash to their little hearts desire and make a tasty side dish at the same time. There is one drawback to this dish; every time Fig now sees a potato he tries to smash the crap out of it. A recent side dish of whole roasted rosemary potatoes was destroyed in under 30 seconds the other day while we were not looking. You’ve been warned!

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Potatoes with a side of plane please!

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Also note to add a few extra potatoes to the batch as several will most likely get eaten during the smashing process.

Ingredients:

  • Baby Red Potatoes ( we cooked about 10 for three people)
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Bring potatoes to boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to low and let simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
  • Let potatoes completely cool.
  • Once cool, invite an eager toddler to smash them onto a baking sheet.
  • Preheat oven to 415 fahrenheit.
  • Drizzle smashed potatoes with olive oil and salt; bake for 20-25 minutes or until crispy and brown.
  • We serve our potatoes with Sage Aioli but they are just as delicious with a bit of butter.
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Having a toddler do the smashing makes for some interesting shaped potatoes but the taste is still amazing!

 

 

Cooking with Toddlers: Apple Rings and Apple Cider Vinegar

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I’m not a very crafty or festive person but I’m working on it. Planning and doing seasonal crafts and activities are akin to torture for me, but I realize the importance of creating a rhythm to the year through holidays and the celebration of seasons for young children.

That being said, Fall is my favorite season and there seems to be no shortage of food related projects my little ones can do. Our newest and latest obsession is the apple peeler. Something about cranking machine is super exciting for my little Fig and since we bought the machine (a week ago) we’ve probably gone through $40.00 of apples.

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And while I generally try to keep my kitchen uncluttered with unnecessary kitchen appliances I consider this apple peeler a necessity! If you love dried fruit as much as we do it’s a worthwhile purchase and can provide hours of fun for little hands. It is an activity, however, you must be hyper vigilant in supervising  since the peeler and corer are very sharp.

After peeling and removing the cores; simply bake at 175-200 degrees fahrenheit in the oven for several hours; checking frequently to ensure the apple rings do not over crisp. The apples should have the chewiness of store bought dried apple rings when done.

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And of course, don’t waste those precious apple cores and peels! We decided to make apple cider vinegar ( we used this recipe) which I’ll later turn into an herbed apple cider vinegar disinfecting  kitchen cleaner.

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Baking with Toddlers: Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chia Seed Cookies

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Getting out of the house with a newborn and a toddler is like trying to herd a pack of cats. So far, our attempts to leave the house have gone like this:

1) Start packing the 900 items we need 2 hours in advance of departure.

2) 30 minutes before departure, sit two year old on potty. He ” no have go”.

3) Change baby’s diaper and nurse him.

4) Put baby in carseat.

5) Baby has an explosion in his diaper; change baby.

6) Toddler now pees on carpet while saying “I had an accident; no biggie!”

7) Clean up carpet, change toddler’s clothes.

8) Toddler proclaims ” I’m pooing” which is code for ” I need to go use the potty”.

9) Set toddler on potty; wait for 10 minutes while he does his business. Congratulate him profusely for letting us know he had to go.

10) Clean up potty and toddler.

11) Baby now cries due to hunger.

12) Nurse baby.

13) Baby has another explosion in diaper.

14) Toddler now cries due to hunger

15) Repeat process until by some stroke of luck, the stars align and we are able to make it out the door only two hours behind schedule.

Needless to say, we’ve tried to stick as close to home as possible since having our second baby. While my husband and I have attempted to remain as zen as possible during this transition, we’re both ready for a stiff drink by the time 8 PM rolls around.

So, in our time spent at home,  Fig and I have been up to lots of cooking projects, our most recent being Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chia Seed Cookies! While these certainly have a lot of sugar they are not totally an empty calorie food due the beans, pumpkin and chia seeds. I feel a little bit better about giving them to Fig as a sweet treat. After all, having a new baby brother is hard work and sometimes a cookie is just what the doctor ordered.

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups of black beans
  • 1 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree ( our puree was homemade from our recent pumpkin patch trip but canned would probably work just as well).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate or carob chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips, sugar, flour and chia seeds in a food processor until smooth
  •  Pour mixture into a bowl, mix in chia seeds,flour, sugar, and chocolate chips
  • Spoon out batter  (about two tablespoons per cookie) on a cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  • Recipe makes about 15 good sized cookies

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Cooking with Toddlers: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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We’re back after a little baby break. Now we are a family of four! Having a 2 year old and a newborn is way easier and way harder than I expected. Easier because I know what to expect with our new arrival. Fig is a different story however. Having a new brother has been a bit rough on him and he’s had no problem letting us know!

I think I laid in bed for nearly two weeks after Fig was born. This time I think I laid in bed for two hours after coming home before I decided that my postpartum r&r probably wasn’t going to happen with little Fig. So despite having a baby just day’s old, we headed out to a local farm to let Fig run off his energy while we harvested some awesome pumpkins and gourds for a few cooking projects we’ve been meaning to get our hands on.

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Once home we decided that roasted pumpkin seeds were in order. As with all things super messy, Fig loved the activity. Full of scooping, sorting, washing, drying, and organizing. Really a toddler’s sensory playground. The activity was made sweeter by the fact that this was Fig’s pumpkin; the one he had helped picked out at the farm. Connecting the land to our food is something I believe to be highly important and a connection I hope to continue to make throughout his childhood.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Cut pumpkin open and remove seeds.
  • Wash seeds under warm water; remove all pumpkin fiber strings.
  • Put seeds in a pot of water with salt; bring to boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. ( For every 1/2 cup of seeds use two cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt).
  • After seeds have boiled, toss lightly in olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet making sure there is ample space between seeds.
  • Roast for around 6-7 minutes at 350 degrees F. Check frequently to ensure they don’t over-toast. Ideally the seeds should be lightly browned.
    • Baking time will vary depending on pumpkin variety you use. My advice; check the seeds often!

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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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