You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘cooking with kids’ category.

Now that cold temps and snow have finally arrived, soups, stews, and chili call like sirens from the kitchen.  I’ve shared my turkey chili recipe before, and it’s one that we always enjoy. I typically make a double batch, freeze half for the future, and all’s well.  I came across a different recipe this week that looked delicious, and decided to try it.  My family was surprised when they heard what I was making, “Chicken chili?  Why chicken?”  Yet afterwards, we were all glad I tried something new.

Southwest Chicken Chili

Crockpot cooking offers a great opportunity for kids to help with meal preparation. Especially in a recipe as simple as this one, ingredients are measured, poured, and mixed. Kids can help with every step, and other than using a can opener, there’s nothing sharp or tricky involved.  As always, the beauty of slow cooking becomes evident when you return home from a busy day to find dinner waiting, without the mess of last minute prep.

Creamy Chicken Chili

The biggest difference between this recipe and the one I usually make (other than the chicken) was the addition of the ranch powder and cream cheese.  We make our own ranch powder and keep a jar of it in the refrigerator (using this great recipe), and it worked beautifully.  The only change I made to the chili was to use salsa in place of the diced tomatoes, and I omitted the chili powder as a result.  I used two frozen chicken breasts, and cooked it on low for eight hours.  We ate it with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and some crumbled tortilla chips, and it was delicious.  Really, really good. I will most definitely make this again.

Share your favorite crockpot recipe with our readers, especially ones suitable for kids in the kitchen.  Keep warm! Snow’s on its way.

If you’re frugal like I am, you’re always looking for ways to cut costs on household bills. We want to feed our families good, healthful meals, but organic food can be costly. Starting a garden is a great way to save money, but not everyone has the space. Fortunately, you can grow many vegetables indoors. Better yet, you can regrow them from organic veggies you already bought. Regrowing vegetables is incredibly easy and a wonderful project to undertake with your children.

In this video, I’ll show you some celery, scallions and romaine lettuce I’m regrowing. Here’s how:

  1. Slice off the vegetable base.
  2. Place the base in water in a transparent container where it will get sunlight. Don’t submerge it.
  3. Change the water at least every other day.
  4. After you see significant root growth in about 3-4 weeks, transfer to soil in a pot.

Good luck growing your indoor garden!

Somehow, we always end up with too many over-ripe bananas. In the summer, they’re easy to toss into smoothies, yet this time of year, they pile up. Eventually, I peel and store them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer, but who needs 100 bananas in the freezer?

I’m a recent Instagram convert (don’t ask what took me so long, but now I love it) and discovered the videos on there.  The time lapse videos, to be exact.  In one minute or less, you can learn how to glam up your eyeshadow, upcycle random household stuff into crafts, and cook.  I scrolled across a video that started with two bananas, and had to learn more. Forty-three seconds later, I was copying down the recipe and excited to try it out.

Banana Oat Muffins

Banana Oat Muffins

These muffins came together so quickly (my daughter did most of it herself) and we had fun deciding what toppings to try out.  We settled on blueberries, chocolate chips, and diced apple.  The recipe yielded 18 muffins rather than the dozen shown in the video, so we made six of each kind.  Since oats are used instead of flour, these muffins can easily be made gluten free by using gluten free oats.  With a short ingredient list and no need for even a butter knife, this recipe can be made entirely by kids.  Leftovers warmed up nicely in the toaster oven, making them perfect for a busy school morning.

Now that I’ve discovered the wonder that is time-lapse cooking, I’m excited to see what is out there.  It’s fascinating to watch new dishes come together right before your eyes, and copying down the ingredients as they flash across the screen offers a fun challenge.  What are your favorite video recipes?  Share with our readers, below.

top-5-fun-activities-of-2016-fromthe-whatever-mom

Happy 2017 Everybody!

As the new year begins I like to take a look back at what worked for us during the previous year. I always wonder if there are any traditions, or fun activities we’d do again. I like to look over the photos we took on our adventures through the year and relive the fun. I also take a look over my blog posts to see where in the Hudson Valley we’ve been and what activities we’ve enjoyed the most.

My kids and I have really enjoyed our travels in the Hudson Valley and beyond. There are so many great places to see and fun things to do in our gorgeous valley. But it can been a challenge to find fun things to do when the weather keeps us inside. Somehow we always find something fun! So I gathered up my top five posts for indoor activities we enjoyed in 2016.

TOP 5 INDOOR ACTIVITIES

SENSORY PLAY– Sensory activities are always a hit for us. We discovered water beads in 2015, but have been playing with them ever since. We keep them stored in a mason jar and the kids have to wash their hands before use. We get quite a few uses out of them before we throw them away and start with a fresh set.
water-bead-scoops

COOKINGDIY Play Dough kind of counts as a cooking activity. There is no stove required, but there is measuring, mixing and pouring involved. All necessary skills for life and in the end the quiet time is so worth the mayhem of cooking with kids.play-dough-boxes2

 

BAKING– this can be stressful with kids because it can get messy and chaotic. Take a little help from the store and buy already made dough. Then the rest of the time the kids can play with the dough and make some fun DIY fossil cookiesdino-prints

 

FAMILY FUN– starting a weekly family game night is a fun way to connect with each other and unwind with some laughs. In February we decided to  Start A Family Game Night. It has been a great way to forget about the stress of the week and a makes a great kick off to the weekend!

family-game-night

 

CRAFTS– of course we always include craft projects. The biggest hit this year was our Paper Hand Puppets. It was such a creative, fun way for the kids to use their imagination. Not only did they create each puppet on their own, but those puppets became characters in their play time.

puppet-friends

These are just a handful of the fun activities we do each week at home. Now that my kids are a little older I am hoping to do some more art themed projects. I hope 2017 brings all of us some new creativity and inspiration.

If you are like me you might like to plan fun visits ahead of time. So, next week I am sharing a review of our top favorite things to do and places to go in the Hudson Valley.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

It’s no secret that I love a) my crockpot and b) soup.  Combine a + b and I’m one happy mama.  With the busy holiday season and cold days, coming home to a warm, healthy meal that was prepped in the morning is a gift in and of itself.  I was looking to make something different the other day, and had frozen chicken breasts and a bag of potatoes that I wanted to use.  I couldn’t think of anything offhand, so I did some Googling.  The search resulted in a plethora of options, so I read through them until I found one that looked good.  Hearty potatoes, chicken, carrots and celery, some turkey bacon to add flavor-depth… yum. Thanks to a well-stocked pantry, I was able to make a decent meal without a trip to the store.  This recipe also had a few steps that could easily be assisted by my kids, which is always a bonus.

20161215_091740

Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup

I followed the recipe almost exactly.  (Anyone who knows me just fell over in shock). There wasn’t anything I needed to omit or modify in order to make it gluten-free, which is awesome.  I used turkey bacon, which I had in the freezer but thawed really quickly by running the edge of the package under warm water in order to separate four slices. After these were crisped in a frying pan, I put the remaining ingredients into the crockpot.  I don’t always like crockpot recipes that require pre-cooking some ingredients as that kind of defeats the purpose, but for certain ingredients, like bacon, I get it. The chicken breasts were frozen (not shredded like shown in the recipe photo), but I knew that’d be fine since ultimately it would break up in the liquid.  Most soup recipes cook all day on low, so I was surprised to see this one call for cooking on high.  Since my crockpot is newer and cooks quickly, I was able to cook it for six hours rather than a whole day, and it was fully cooked.  My kids helped peel and slice the potatoes, carrots, and celery, so I count that as cooking with kids.

After about four hours of cooking on high,  I could tell the chicken breasts had softened up.  I gently shredded them with two meat forks, so that they would absorb the broth. After two more hours, the liquid was bubbly.  I tested the potatoes and carrots, which were fork-tender and ready to eat.  In order to give the soup some depth and creaminess, I ran the immersion blender through it just a little.  I made sure to break up the chunks of chicken and some of the vegetables, but left it very chunky. The soup was extremely hot due to being cooked on high, so it required scooping into bowls for a good cooling period before it was ready to serve.  The recipe photo showed shredded cheese on top, but it didn’t appear to need it, so I skipped it.  I could put cheese on most anything, so that says a lot about the flavor of the soup.  With the diced turkey bacon, it had a richness that seemed complete on its own.

This was a big hit.  My husband can be really picky about soup (he prefers dinner on a plate, not in a bowl) but the turkey bacon seemed to sway him into concluding that the soup was enough to be “dinner.”  My kids loved it, as it wasn’t too spicy and contained nothing that needed to be eaten around (like zucchini, whose presence always offends them when it’s in soup).  It made a wonderful amount- plenty for dinner with enough left over for another night.  That’s always a huge bonus, as another dinner that can just be heated and eaten makes me really happy.  I guess it doesn’t take much to win me over.

Overall, A+.  Easy to make without any fussy ingredients, unique soup (no beans or pasta, as so many tend to have), healthy, gluten-free without any substitutions, and one simple enough for the kids to help prep.  I’m looking forward to eating it again tonight.  My husband would like to add that “pork bacon would bring out a whole different flavor.” I don’t eat or cook with pork, though, so he’ll have to make it himself if he’d like to test that out. Share your favorite soup recipes with our readers below, or your feedback on this one. Happy (almost) Holidays!

Another busy time of year is here again.  That hectic time leading up to the holidays that can overwhelm even the most organized, Zen parent.  School parties, work parties, family parties.  Shopping, decorating, wrapping.  Helping the less fortunate by participating in clothing, gift, or food drives.  All of this, on top of the regular daily responsibilities of being a parent and an adult.  About now, I find myself craving ease in the kitchen, as well as something comforting, but healthy.  I have a love affair with my crockpot, as do so many busy parents.  This baby allows me to make dinner in the morning when I’m cozy in my pajamas, and feed my family at night when I’m frazzled and tired from a busy day.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Chicken and Rice ranks among my favorite soups.  My family loves it, it tastes pure and simple, and it’s super-duper easy to make. In fact, it offers yet another opportunity for kids to help with chopping and measuring.  This recipe from crockpot goddess Stephanie O’Dea is an oldie but a goodie, and customizable as your own.  She encourages any vegetable combination that tickles your fancy.  I typically stick to the very traditional chicken soup veggies (carrots and celery) but this time I also had three zucchinis needing to be used, so in they went.  My kids aren’t zucchini fans (unless it’s inside of bread) so they ate around it, but gobbled up the rest.  It made enough for dinner and two days of lunches, which rocked!

20161117_105105

I make a few changes to the recipe.  I skip pureeing the vegetables, leaving them in chunks since we enjoy them as they are.  I cook the rice separately, scoop it into individual bowls before serving, and store leftovers separately, so that the rice doesn’t get mushy.  Rather than cooked chicken, I put in two raw chicken breasts (often frozen) and shred them before serving.  After 8-10 hours of cooking, the chicken is perfectly tender and shreds easily, as I find that precooked chicken gets rubbery.

No matter how you make this simple soup, I can almost promise your family will enjoy it. Naturally gluten-free, filled with your favorite veggies, warm and relaxing, delicious… the list goes on and on!  Give it a go, share your results with our readers, below, and keep warm.  Chicken and rice soup is perfect for a chilly Fall day.  Before you know it, you’ll be baking holiday cookies!

how-to-make-apple-pops-with-kids

I really love making candied apples in the fall. But that hard shell coating can be difficult for little ones to bite through. Chocolate, or caramel dipped apples can be so much easier for little ones to eat. Except that my kids never finish an entire apple by themselves. I usually cut it into slices so they can enjoy a portioned sized amount of sweets. It never occurred to me to slice the apples before dipping!

Saturday’s weather was all day dreary. All our fun activities for the day were cancelled so that left us home. We baked and cleaned because what else do you do for long stretches of time with no plans? Just as we were finishing up chores and the kids were begging for something fun to do I remembered I have everything we need to make chocolate dipped apple pops. My kids were in heaven!

Here is what you need:

3 Large apples- any variety

Wooden craft sticks, or skewers- without stain or finish

Chocolate chips

Decorative candies or sprinkles

Begin by washing and drying your apples. Next, slice apples on each side of the core so you have circles. Then you can cut the remaining sides into wedges and secure with a skewer before you dip. (You can remove the skewer before serving the dipped wedges to kids). You can use a small, sharp knife to make a slit in the edge of the apple just deep enough to add your wooden Popsicle stick.

apple-pops-1

Next, melt your favorite chocolate chips in the microwave, or by using the double boiler method. Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot, and place chips in the bowl. Set the the bowl on top of the boiling water and continue stirring until melted. An important thing to remember is you do not need a lot of water, it shouldn’t even touch the bowl. And use a bowl that fits just a bit bigger than the opening of the pot.

apple-pops-3

Then line a baking tray, or cutting board with wax paper. Insert the Popsicle stick or wooden dowel into each apple.

Once the chocolate is fully melted you can dip your apples into the chocolate. You can use a spoon or spatula to help coat the apples evenly. Place the dipped apples onto the wax paper and let your kids have fun decorating! You can go as simple, or as fancy as you’d like. We used what we have on hand- some M&Ms and Halloween themed sprinkles. You could also use crumbled cookies, crushed pretzels, a drizzle of caramel. Or you can get really fancy and use edible candy eyes found in the candy section of most craft stores.

apple-pops-4

Pop these into the freezer for about 10 minutes or a little longer. Once the chocolate is solid you are ready to eat! We had so much fun making them on our rainy day, but this could really make a fun Halloween activity, or after school treat.

apple-pops5

What toppings would add to these apple pops?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

avoid-after-school-meltdown-through-art

Just as I was sending my kids off to Kindergarten some seasoned friends told me about the after school meltdown. I didn’t think it would be an issue since my kids already spent 5 half days a week in pre-K. They also meltdown about so many things how would I know it was just an end of the day meltdown? Well, turns out after school meltdown is a very real thing.

It takes a lot of energy for kids to process all the busy work expected of their little minds and bodies. On top of academic expectations, there is a lot of emotional interaction and learning that can be exhausting. To help my girls cope we created a calm down basket to help each of them transition from school to home routines.

calm-down-basket-e1

Each basket includes basic art supplies of markers and paper. The girls both picked out a spiral bound note book they can use to draw, doodle, or scribble in.

calm-down-basket-e2

We also included some soothing things like a squishy ball and a “magic” glitter wand. Each night I set the baskets out on the kitchen table so they can use after school. It turns out they enjoy using them before school too. My girls find coloring and doodling soothing, and it brings a nice quiet to our morning.

calm-down-basket-e4

Here are some other ways you can use art to avoid the after school meltdown:

  1. Provide your kids with a sketch book or journal. It becomes a safe space for them to dump their emotions and stress from the school day. There are no rules for this book and it isn’t something they need to show off for critique or feedback. It’s just their own.
  2. Put out some play dough for little hands. This helps kids let go of stress and switch gears. It has the same effect as a stress ball and warms up little fingers for writing and drawing.
  3. Leave art supplies out within reach for a self-guided experience. Whether your child enjoys painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., make sure all their tools are in a place where they can access without help. Using water based and washable supplies will make this a lot less worrisome for parents.
  4. Turn on soothing music to help set the tone for relaxation. It triggers the mind that something different is happening.Maybe bring out some musical instruments and allow for some unstructured play time.
  5. Art isn’t just with paint and paper. Help your kids make a healthy snack to refuel after a demanding day. Make funny faces with cheese and crackers, or craft ants on a log. Follow your kids lead in what they enjoy.

Engaging in something less restrictive and creative allows kids to feel like they have some control in their day. They get to follow the demands of their imagination for awhile before having to plug into the demands of chores, homework and the evening routine. So far my girls really like this part of our day. After a short walk back from the bus, we enjoy a simple snack and get to the work of relaxing.

How do you help your kids wind down after a full day of school?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

I’m a firm believer in allowing your kids the chance to serve as an apprentice.  Long ago, it was how kids became adults, whereas now, kids are often disconnected from this process. Whether your sous chef in the kitchen or your tool holder while you do repairs, there is so much to be learned when kids work alongside adults.

Around the House

Everything from changing batteries to actual home upgrades are worthwhile for kids.  My little one has known how to get out the correct screwdriver and replace batteries in remotes, toys, and electronics since she was in preschool.  Not only is this actually helpful, but her confidence in identifying AAA vs. AA and knowing how to use a tool correctly leaves her beaming.  This summer, we tackled a bunch of projects around the house- putting in a new floor, ripping up carpets and staples, hanging shelves.  With each task, one of my kids was the helper.  This is a great opportunity to teach safety- when to wear goggles, closed-toed shoes, long sleeves or pants, how to property circulate air if working with paint.  As is so often true, the child starts out as the helper, but quickly becomes an equal counterpart in the completion of the task.  Not only are you getting actual assistance, but you’re building your child’s confidence and future abilities.

20160716_104830.jpg

In the Kitchen

I’ve talked about this plenty before, but it is worth repeating.  Letting your kids help in the kitchen is always worth it.  Yes, it’s going to take longer. Yes, they’re going to make a mess.  Yes, they might even make a mistake and alter or even ruin what you’re making.  Once, our finished product was so salty, it was inedible (then again, no one ever confused a tablespoon with a teaspoon).  Once, my little one was helping me put ingredients into the crockpot and she banged the glass measuring cup too hard.  It shattered, and we had to throw out all of the ingredients and start over.  Did it suck, sure.  Here’s your opportunity to demonstrate patience, understanding, dealing with frustration, and overcoming mistakes with grace.  Furthermore, you and your child will both be delighted when he can suddenly make part (or all) of a meal.  These are skills that will be used forever.  Teach about knife and food safety, as well as ensure that your child will be able to survive on her own one day!

In the Yard

Planting vegetables and flowers, wedding the garden, watering and caring for things as they grow- all wonderful experiences for children.  Older kids can be taught to safely use gardening tools and the lawnmower. Not only will they experience pride at the sight of their own flowers or vegetable harvest, but they may discover a passion and appreciation for nature that wouldn’t have been realized otherwise.

20160716_104857

Cleaning Up

In our home, we believe in the Buddhist philosophy, “Leave No Trace.”  In other words, don’t leave a mess behind.  I tell my kids (husband!) that if they’ve cleaned up properly, I shouldn’t know they were there.  Nothing like walking into a just-cleaned kitchen and finding the remnants of someone’s last snack!  As your kids (undoubtedly) follow you around the house, teach them to clean as they go.  I try to make it an automatic part of whatever we’re doing.  Sure, have fun! Make a fort, spread peanut butter on apple slices, put fresh batteries in the remote, throw your dolls a parade!  But when you’re done… put it all away.  What’s more, as you do household chores, let your child watch and help.  How exactly do you properly sweep, wash the front door, dust the piano keys?  Before expecting kids to pitch in, show them the way you want it done.

With any luck, you’ll enjoy having your kids home for the summer, and miss their sweet smiles (and helpful hands!) as August draws to a close.  Until then, apprentice them!

It’s a really simple step, but making your own spice mixtures instead of using packets is something you can do to improve the taste and health benefits of your foods.  When we became gluten and dairy free, I began seeking out recipes so that we could avoid the allergens, preservatives, food dyes, and other additives that didn’t need to be in our food.

Taco seasoning and ranch mix are two of our favorites to make.   It’s easy to make them ahead of time and keep in a glass container, labeling contents and how much to use to replicate those convenient packets sold in the store.  Also nice is the ability to control the heat, which is especially important for taco seasoning!  We like ours mild, so I always cut back on the chili powder when mixing it.  The last time we were making Mexican food, my younger daughter was nearby and tickled at the idea of making a new batch “all by herself.”  I can safely say that this is easy for a child to make, all the while teaching about healthy alternatives to processed foods, and hey, being frugal in the kitchen.  It must cost less to make your own, right?

Making your own seasoning mixes

20160421_160757

This taco seasoning recipe is the one we’ve landed on after trying a few.  You can lessen or omit the sugar, and as I mentioned, I use much less of the chili powder (practically just a sprinkle).  An even greater time saver is not only making the mix in advance, but browning a few pounds of taco meat at a time and freezing extra in one-pound freezer-safe baggies.  It’s barely an exaggeration to say it’s a life-saver on a busy night when you haven’t had time to make a decent meal, and remember there’s cooked, seasoned meat in the freezer for tacos, taco salad, or burritos.  Score!

I also really, really like making our own ranch mix.  Have you ever read the label on a bottle or packet of salad dressing?  I can’t pronounce most of what’s in it.  That can’t be good for you.  Making your own allows you to use fresh herbs and spices, skip the preservatives, and even omit dairy if you’d like.  When we needed to be fully dairy free, I used this recipe, but now that we can have it in moderation, I love this recipe.  To keep the buttermilk powder fresh, I store it in the refrigerator, and I swear, it makes me smile every time I see it (and crave ranch).

Making your own doesn’t have to add stress onto your onto your evening meal.  Assembling it in bulk when you have a little time allows you to scoop and go on a busy night, just like you would with those packets.  Yet, it’s more affordable, healthier, and you can pronounce everything in it. Win win.

Share your healthy, time-saving recipe tricks with our readers.   To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bo

About Me!

This blog is where we comment on the issues and topics Hudson Valley parents deal with every day. We invite you to join us! Please leave us your comments.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 57 other followers

Categories