Posts tagged ‘cooking with kids’

February 3, 2012

Bright orange soup gets “Sam I Am” approval from 3yo

It’s another installment of The Family That Eats Together Fridays!

Here’s the way I usually make a new dish: I look up a bunch of recipes online and get the general idea of the process. Am I sautéing, roasting, or boiling? (Side note: if there is any debate, I always choose to sauté or roast over boil as it’s way more flavorful.) Is there a general order in which people put ingredients? Is there a general trend to flavors–do a lot of the recipes have similar herbs and spices? And then I usually make it up with a combination of what I like and what I have on hand.

Last week I had a five-pound bag of carrots to use up. I also had a jar of my favorite ginger, which I always keep in the fridge because I love to cook with ginger, but not so much that it makes sense to keep the fresh stuff on hand. Plus, this stuff is delicious and really easy to use. So after looking up a bunch of carrot-ginger soup recipes, here’s what I did.

1. Chop a large onion and sauté in coconut oil. (It’s unlikely to be a good soup if it doesn’t start with sautéing onion. You could use any other oil or butter here, but I’m on a coconut oil kick right now. Plus, coconut-ginger is a great combo of flavors.)

2. Squeeze in some garlic paste. (I would have normally put in fresh garlic here, but I was out. Oftentimes, I will put in both.)

3. Put in two heaping tablespoons of ginger.

4. Put in about 2 pounds of chopped carrots and sauté a little first.

5. Add in a bunch of vegetable broth, a little less than a quart.

6. Cook for a while, at least until carrots are really soft, but soup is always better the longer it cooks–I love to make soup early and then let it simmer for hours. Yum! Or even cook it in the morning and reheat it at night. Also yum!

7. I used my favorite kitchen tool, the blender on a stick, and made it nice and creamy and bright orange. You could also put it in a regular blender, but BE VERY CAREFUL. Don’t fill it up very full, and hold the lid on TIGHT. Trust me, I have exploded hot soup all over the kitchen before, and it is not fun. (It’s even less fun when you do it at your dad’s house, just FYI.)

8. Add some milk at the end to make it creamy. Coconut milk would have been perfect, but I didn’t have any. I also didn’t have any cow or goat milk, so I used rice milk, which was just fine.

The soup was incredibly delicious! My husband raved, I raved. My 3-year-old didn’t eat a lot, but he ate some, and after trying it, he said, with the same emphasis I use when reading Green Eggs and Ham, “Say! I DO like it!” And then we went through the whole routine of eating carrot soup on a boat and on a train…

January 27, 2012

When the bananas are screaming

Welcome to the first edition of The Family that EATS Together Fridays, which will focus on recipes you can make and eat with the kids.

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like banana bread. It’s even harder to find someone who doesn’t like banana bread with chocolate in it. And it’s almost impossible to find a family that doesn’t, at least occasionally, forget to eat all the bananas before they turn that wonderful color of brownish black that screams “time to make the muffins!”

Here’s what my 3yo and I did a few days ago, when the baby was asleep and we heard the bananas screaming.

First, we printed out my absolute favoritest banana bread recipe. It is SO banana-y. (And to my mother-in-law, who accounts for about 2% of my subscribers, I love yours, too.) 🙂 You can find it by searching for Tyler Florence and banana bread.

Then we got out the muffin pan, because no matter how many recipes I have tried, I have NEVER made a loaf of banana bread that was perfect. It is SO hard to get the inside cooked before the outside is too brown. I solve that problem by making muffins, which are cuter anyway.

Then we followed Tyler’s directions, with a few exceptions. One, I used whole wheat pastry flour. Whole wheat pastry flour is my new true love. I use it almost exclusively now, and find that, with the exception of really delicate recipes like crepes (which I think it makes too bland), it is completely interchangeable for white flour. Two, I used coconut oil instead of butter. Why? Well, I thought banana-coconut was a good combo, although the coconut flavor didn’t come through too much. But also because I’ve started cooking a lot more with coconut oil. True, it’s a saturated fat, but it is made up of medium chain fatty acids, which people are realizing might help in certain areas like heart disease, and might also help raise the good kind of cholesterol. There are also claims that it helps with a myriad other things, including weight loss. It’s also a great moisturizer for skin and hair (and one of the only things I use on my own skin and hair–I just keep a jar in the bathroom!). Three, I used half sugar and half honey. If your bananas are really sweet, you can cut down on the sugar, but while mine were definitely overripe, they didn’t smell ubersweet, so I used a half cup of sugar and about a third a cup of honey. (He says to use a cup of sugar, but that’s crazy talk.)

Then we mixed. It’s a great recipe for a 3yo: he loved mashing the bananas with a potato masher. He always loves a recipe that involves turning on the mixer. (This one has you wisk two bananas with sugar and mash two others, so you get a nice combo of taste and texture running through the muffins.) We poured in the flour (this is much less messy at almost-four than it was at almost-three, I’m happy to say). And we added chocolate chips, even though these were not, strictly speaking, in the recipe. But I add chocolate chips to almost anything I’m making.
My husband likes these best plain. My son likes them best with chocolate chips. I like them best with chocolate chips and nuts. So sometimes I separate the batter at the end and make three different ones before baking. I like to use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin pans–it’s easy and almost mess-free. (Nothing is completely mess-free with a 3yo is doing it, but that’s kind of the point.)

P.S. Since these are muffins, not a loaf, you will need to shorten the baking time considerably. I set the timer for 30 minutes the first time around and that worked great. You might want to try 25 minutes and check them, then put them in for another 5 or 10 depending on how you like them. You can stick a fork in the middle to see if the inside is done.

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you try it, let me know what you think. Do you have a favorite recipe you like to make with your kids?

December 8, 2011


If the holidays aren’t a time for cooking, I don’t know what they are for! And my 3-year-old seems to have sensed the vibe, because he’s been spending an average of 30 minutes a day in his play kitchen recently.

He loves to cook, and I love cooking in my own kitchen while he putters away in his mini-version right next to me. As I simmer away the tomatoes and onions, he chops his velcro and wood fruit, mixes them in his mini pans and sticks them in the oven. Then he brings it over to me for a taste or insists that I sit down for a more formal meal.

And it’s even more fun when he gets up on his “learning tower” to cook along with me. So when we got this cookbook to review from OwlKids, we were both really excited. My son was very proud to show his dad that he has his very own cookbook, and it’s provided us with fun, great times together, and some really good food.

Title: Eat it Up!
Author: Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Genre: Nonfiction, Cookbook
Age: 3 and up!

What to do with the kids:

These are simple, easy, and yummy recipes. Let your kid pick one out: the pictures will allow even kids who are too young to read to choose for themselves. Then take them to the store (or a farmer’s market if it’s summertime!) and let them help buy the ingredients.

The first recipe my son chose, much to my surprise, was the meat pie. I don’t eat red meat, and I don’t usually cook with it at home, so we used Field Roast Apple Sage sausages (which are meat-free, soy-free, and dairy-free and absolutely great). It was delicious! It was even better smothered with some Apple Butter. Hey, it’s the holidays, right?

May 20, 2011

A book you’ll read in the kitchen: TANGERINE AND KIWI VISIT THE BREAD BAKER

If I could choose to pass only one thing down to my child, it would be good food.  After all, we are what we eat. Our bodies are our temples, and so on and so forth.  Modern science is finally catching on to what ancient traditions have always known—most of our problems will go away (or never appear!) if we eat well.

Eating with my 3-year-old has been a constant source of concern for me.  When he eats his veggies, I am so excited I have a hard time not showing it.  Same thing when he doesn’t–I work hard not to show my disappointment.  Like in a lot of areas of parenting, I spend a lot of internal energy making sure that my exterior is as cool as a cucumber.  Based on what I read on the parenting websites and in the magazines, I try not to make meal time a power struggle or emotional fight.  I don’t want to tell my kid he HAS to eat something because I don’t want him to refuse just to spite me.  I don’t want to tell him he will get dessert if he eats something because I don’t want sugar to become the reward and vitamins the hard work you have to do to get the reward.  Really, I just want to put the food in front of him and have him magically eat it up.

Well, that happens sometimes.  But there are also the times when he doesn’t eat it and I smile anyway and take his plate away.  Or the times when I can’t help myself and I do tell him he has to have three more bites.  Or the times when I persuade, argue and coerce him to try just one more thing.  Or the times when I hold dessert out as the carrot, irony intended.  So through a combination of tactics that parenting experts would both applaud and deride, I continue, as we all continue, as a mother of necessity.

When I saw this book in the Owl Kids book catalog, I was really excited and requested it immediately.  They sent me a review copy and I’m excited to spread the word.  Yes, this book is about bread, and I’m sure you could debate the health factors of bread.  But to me, this book touches on something much more important, something we have lost complete touch with: where our food comes from and how we make it.  Because at the end of the day, if you are eating something you made with your own hands, instead of something out of a plastic package, then you’re a step ahead.

And with childhood obesity hitting our country like an epidemic, it’s high time we all took those small steps with all of our children.

Title: Tangerine and Kiwi Visit the Bread Baker
Author: Laïla Héloua
Illustrator: Nathalie Lapierre
Translator: Sarah Cummins
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

Tangerine and Kiwi stay at their grandparents house and learn to make bread.  They learn about the flour and water, the yeast and the salt.  They hear stories about their Mom wh used to help make bread in the family bakery.  They do the work themselves, bake the bread over a wood fire, and, best of all, eat it up.  The illustrations are done in warm oranges and browns, which helps you visualize and almost smell the aroma of a warm loaf of bread.  There is a recipe at the end of the book.

The story is simple but the message is powerful.  The more children understand what food is and where it comes from, they more they will be able to make their own healthy choices as they grow up.

Follow-up with the kids:

There’s only one thing to do: bake bread!  The book even includes a recipe and directions.

This is an activity that kids will love!  Lots of mixing, kneading, and hands-on gooeyness.  They will be really excited to see the dough after it’s risen—I can remember being so excited myself when my mom made her special rolls for Thanksgiving.  And to this day, I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing that swollen mound in the bowl, just waiting for me to bake it and eat it.

Thank you, Owl Kids, for the review copy!  I really enjoyed the book!

And if you like this one, here are some others I can’t wait to read to my son:

January 5, 2011


My son likes to cook with me.  At least, if I have to cook, which is not necessarily what he’d prefer to something such as playing baseball, he wants to be right by my side.  He stands in his little “present”, which is what we still call his Learning Tower, an absolutely ingenious invention by someone whose kid must have liked cooking as much as mine and must have fallen off of kitchen chairs as much as mine.  If you are interested, you can look at them here.  They are expensive, but sturdy, and without a doubt the best thing we’ve ever bought for my son.  The easel has taken quite a beating, as he kicks it often or leans on it or climbs on it, but it’s still ticking.  And the tower itself looks like the day we bought it–and trust me, it’s been through a LOT.

But I digress.  Back to cooking with mom.  He loves it.  When I let him, which is too often judging my the amount of time I’ve spent cleaning up the consequent messes (but really, that’s what it’s about, right?) he participates with me–stirs the bowls (not too messy), pours the flour (really messy), or breaks the eggs (not as messy as you’d think).

And my husband LOVES rice pudding.  So those are the reasons I bought this book.  Oh, and I saw it mentioned on the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2010 book list.

Title: Arroz con leche or Rice Pudding
Author: Jose Argueta
Fernando Vilela
: Picture Book, Poem
Age: 0 – Infinity

Summary and Review:

This book is so much fun to read.  You can almost smell the rice pudding as it dances and jumps off the pages.  It really is a poem, but within the poem is a recipe itself.  It’s beautiful and fun and the pictures are wonderful and unique.

I read some online reviews before I bought the book, and my favorite was a woman who said that it would be nice if there was a recipe in the back of the book.  Ha!  I almost fell off my chair laughing when I thought about that after having read the book.  It IS a recipe!  It even has measurements within the poem!  Are we modern Americans really so far removed from our own food that we can’t recognize a recipe for yumminess when we read it from start to finish?  And THAT, I believe, is another reason to buy that book.  So your child doesn’t say the same thing.

Oh, and it’s bilingual.  So you can read it in English, Spanish, or both.  Way cool.

Follow-up with kids:

Make some rice pudding!  You can experiment with different flavors, too.  The one in the book is flavored with cinnamon, but you could add some nutmeg, too.  Or do coconut.  Or whatever the kids can think of!

You can also do some foreign language practice, as the book is bilingual.  Merely reading it will introduce your kids to the sounds of Spanish, but you can do exercises where you pick a word in English and try to find its Spanish counterpart.  Or look through the Spanish text for words that you can recognize–or that look similar to the English words.