Tea for Toddlers: Chrysanthemum Tea

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Every afternoon Fig and I brew ourselves a cup of tea to share. We do this mostly because we both love tea but also to anchor the day and spend a few quiet moments together.  Fig is also pretty obsessed with playing “coffee shop”. In fact,  he’s recently taken to hijacking the play structures at our local playground, turning them into “Cafe Fig” and screaming to everybody and anybody that their macchiato is ready for pick up. Since he’s far too young for macchiatos we’ve been brewing all different kinds of herbal teas. Not only is it something we both look forward to but it’s such an easy way to involve toddlers in a simple and nourishing way in the kitchen. I always make sure the water is not too hot but just hot enough so he has an opportunity to work on his patience.

Today we decided that some dried Chrysanthemum  Flowers were the perfect fix for a day spent in the garden hauling……… hay ( What’s new. We’re currently spending our lives hauling hay. More regarding our horrible hay situation can be found here ). Chrysanthemum Flowers are not only beautiful but nourishing ( high in vitamin C, good for liver detoxification and digestion) and when you’re knee deep in hay and squirrel poo ( found that out the hard way) for hours on-end , these lovely little flowers bring us back to center.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Sage Crackers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sage Crackers:

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

Toddler Friendly Parts of this Recipe: 

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

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Cooking with Toddlers: Cranberry Apple Sauce

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One of the hardest parts about cooking with young children is the horrific, borderline apocalyptic mess that always ensues. There has been plenty of days where cleaning up after Fig took more time than making the dish itself. The mess is hardly even just contained within the confines of the kitchen. It’s the toddler ( try getting honey out of  a two year old’s hair) and sometimes even the dog. On horrible days, it might even be the carpet that falls victim.

Often times, I find myself questioning why I even do this in the first place. Surely and without doubt, it’s much easier to prepare meals without the “help” of a two year old and  cooking solo rarely requires me to bust out the mop, scrub the walls , bathe the dog, and do extra loads of laundry.

But this whole cooking with toddlers really wasn’t my own idea in the first place. It was little Fig’s. He was so interested in the going-on’s of the kitchen and eager to be involved in real work. And saying Yes! to little hands in the kitchen has been an incredible learning experience for both. Fig has taught me so much in his two years of life but one of his greatest teachings has been the art of keeping a good attitude while being so very patient and going with the flow.

Speaking of going with the flow, I recently embarked on a little cran-apple sauce adventure and was intending to make this by myself seeing as Fig was occupied trying to color the dog’s tail. However, once he got wind that I was doing doing something with apples he begged to help. This is a pretty simple recipe to make with a toddler and a great way to effortlessly introduce measurements. Fig also learned that raw cranberries are “no bueno” is his words ( can’t say I didn’t warn him!).

Apple Cranberry Sauce

  • 2 cups of fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups of chopped apples
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cardamom
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water

Directions:

  • Add all ingredients in a pot and bring to boil.
  • Turn down to low and let sauce simmer until apples are tender.
  • Cool and serve.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender Flower and Honey Bread

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The first time Fig and I ate this bread it was ,no joke, like eating a bar of soap. Needless to say, it took us a few attempts to get the proportions just right but once perfected I succumed to it’s deliciousness, devouring an entire loaf in one day. Since eating an entire loaf of bread is never good for one’s thighs, Fig and I have vowed to make this only for special occasions. Luckily we have Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve approaching. All legit holidays and thus a perfectly acceptable reason to make these loaves.

Despite this being insanely delicious and a perfect pairing with tea, the recipe was inspired by a not-so inspiring day of toddler shenanigans. A few weeks ago, Fig was having the worst day known to humanity. Everything was a major deal and cause for a complete breakdown. For example, forbidding him to clobber his baby brother with a wooden block? TEARS. Asking him to not paint on the wall with his watercolors. TEARS. Setting him down for lunch? TEARS. Taking away said lunch because nothing had been eaten? TEARS. No matter what I did or didn’t do that day resulted in, you guessed it, TEARS.

By 3 PM my patience was out and I was near tears myself when I decided we might as well bake some bread. Seeing as we both needed to unwind, lavender ( way too much of it in fact) was thrown into the dough last minute and upon trying it ( and consequently gagging), decided that it certainly had potential if we could make it less soapy and more bready.

Now, after many attempts, and a few extra pounds, Fig and I give you our perfected Lavender Flower and Honey Bread; the perfect antidote for a stressed out mama and a cranky toddler. Making it soothing and so is eating it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of finely crushed lavender flowers
  • 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 package of dry active yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 3/4 cups of warm water, possibly a bit more depending on how the kneading the dough goes.

Directions:

  • Crush lavender flowers finely ( I used a mortar and pestle to do this)
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, honey, sea salt, lavender, yeast, and warm water.
  • Knead very well ( 5 minutes or more) and form into a rounded ball.
  • Place bread in floured bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm place for about 2 hours.
  • After two hours, divide dough in half. On a floured work surface, form each piece of dough into a rounded loaf shape.
  • Bake at 400 for about 30-35 minutes, checking frequently to ensure the bread doesn’t over-brown.
  • Let cool before serving.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Cucumbers with Minty Labne

 

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There are few dishes that don’t need a major intervention after Fig’s had his way with them. For Fig, making a salad  involves squishing the life out of a few tomatoes, throwing a half head of lettuce in the bowl (that has first been mercilessly stabbed to death by a blunt kids knife) and if he can get to it quick enough before I catch him, a good half a cup of salt.

Cucumbers with Minty Labne is the perfect side dish that requires minimal parental post-processing intervention. The dressing hides what can only be described as hideously chopped cucumbers compliments of a superbly blunt knife and an over-eager two year old. And peeling the cucumbers? Aside from intense supervision on my part to ensure no accident flailings took place, it is officially Fig’s new favorite kitchen activity.

We love this dish for it’s taste and ease but also because it reminds us of abuela. Fig’s grandmother is the most amazing cook. Every one of her dishes nearly brings tears of joy to my eyes; it’s that good! I only recently realized that probably 60% of everything I cook in a given week is either completely one of her dishes or at least inspired by it. Both Fig and I are so lucky to have her!

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Ingredients:

  • Two large cucumbers
  • A large handful of fresh mint, chopped finley
  • Juice from 1/2 a large lime or lemon
  • 1 cup of labne
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, mashed into a paste
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Chop cucumbers in small pieces
  • In a large bowl combine cucumbers, chopped mint, lime juice, labne, olive oil, garlic paste and salt.
  • Mix well and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

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Minty Potato and Quinoa Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

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My mother-in-law, who incidentally is the best cook in the world ( for real!),  makes these absurdly delicious potato cakes. They are light, fluffy, and amazingly delectable. In fact, she recently made some for Fig and I’m pretty sure he consumed at least a pound of potatoes in the process.

When Fig likes something, I tend to over-milk it, making six thousand versions of whatever he originally liked. Adding all kinds of different vegetables and herbs, I try to sell it as the “exact same thing!”. Sometimes he goes for it; most of the time not.

So it’s no surprise that upon discovering his love of abuela’s potato cakes I decided to recreate them with a few more vegetables hoping they’d be a huge hit as well.

But we ran into a few problems. Namely, the recipe was given to me in spanish and I don’t speak spanish. Turns out, understanding 75% of a recipe is kinda a big deal when it comes to cooking ( who knew??). When I had a gooey mess on my hands, I dialed up my husband, completely potatoifying my iphone in the process and explained the situation. Namely that the cakes were going to shit and I now had a two year old on my hands with potatoes so gooey I might as well poured super glue all over him.

But don’t you remember he said, she told you this dish requires a lot of patience. No, no I do not remember that.

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So, after realizing I was plum out of patience (or should I say, never had any to begin with), I quickly nixed the original recipe and decided to improvise a bit. The cakes were pretty delicious nonetheless and Fig had a smashing time ( pun intended) mashing the potatoes. For a two year old who pretty much lives for total destruction, mashing the potatoes is as good as it gets.

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Minty Potato and Quinoa Patties with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Ingredients for Patties:

  • 2 cups of mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of mint, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of garbanzo flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Oil for frying

Ingredients for Lemon Tahini Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1 clove of garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 a lemon’s juice
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • salt to taste

Directions for Patties:

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Form mixture into patties
  • Fry on medium until patties are golden brown on each side
  • Serve warm with Tahini Sauce

Directions for Lemon Tahini Sauce

  • Mix everything in a food processor and serve on top of patties.

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Cooking with Toddlers: Lavender and Wildflower Honey Lollipops

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This post could also be titled How I Nearly Burnt Down Our House…Twice….In The Span of 15 Minutes. One may think, how could you possibly burn down your house making lollipops? I shall explain.

In all honesty making lollipops is pretty easy but it takes a bit of vigilance. The honey must reach 300 degrees F in order to properly harden. In theory, all you need to do is watch the temperature. Once the honey hits 300 degrees you simply take it off the heat, stir in the spices and pour it into a mold. Easy peasy right?

When the temp reached 260 degrees F things took a turn for the worst . My 6 week old started crying due to ” extreme starvation” ( his words not mine). Right about that time, Fig entered the scene, pantless, strumming on his guitar and singing/squealing/screaming so loud I feared the windows may shatter. To add a bit more to the chaos, the dog decided that now was as good a time as any to start furiously barking at, let’s see, nothing. Because that’s how Mafalda the Dachshund rolls.

I checked the temperature of the honey right before rescuing the baby from near starvation. It was at 270 degrees Fahrenheit. In my sleep and caffeine deprived mind, I’m thinking I have a good 2 or 3 minutes before that baby reaches 300 degrees. Nope. Honey can, I learned the very hard way, go from 270 to 300 degrees in mere seconds.

A few minutes later, a nursing baby still in my arms, I start to smell something sinister and then the thick smoke came wafting into the living room. Upon reaching the kitchen I discovered a pot full to the brim with what appeared to be thick black tar straight from the depths of hell . “MOTHER F…Mother of Fudge” . Fig was staring right up at me as I nearly dropped the F bomb  and proceeded to repeat for the next four days ” Fudge …I need fudge”. Yeah Fig, I need fudge too. And wine, lots of wine.

To make a very, very, very long story short I nearly burnt down the house for the second time when I attempted to clean the “tar pot”. Turning on the wrong burner on the highest setting only to discover, 10 minutes later, that an empty and dry cast iron pot was near combustion. Strike two.

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I almost gave into these demon lollipops but decided I could not let evil win. I promptly decided that lavender was a must given my shot nerves.  Regaining composure, I let Fig crush up the lavender while I started a new batch of honey ( now we’re nearly in debt due to the amount of honey lost in the lollipop making process..demon pops I tell you!).

The final product; delicious. Fig is obsessed with them so I’ll call it a win despite the fight it took to make them.  I realize that you may never want to make lollipops given this story but trust me, they are delicious and totally worth it if you’ve had enough coffee and slept well the night before. You must watch the pot though! They say a watched pot never boils. Total B.S. It will boil, ruin your pot, and nearly burn down your abode!

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Wildflower and Lavender Lollipops:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of honey
  •  1 teaspoon of crushed lavender
  • Candy thermometer
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Lollipop mold ( not totally necessary, you can make your lollipops free form)

Directions:

  • Bring cup of honey to a boil on medium heat.
  • Once it reaches 300 degrees F, take it off the heat and stir in the lavender.
  • Place sticks in mold and pour honey into the mold.
  • Leave for an hour or so until the honey hardens and sets.

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