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I was chatting with another mom at gymnastics class the other night and something she said stuck with me, “I just try to find things to keep her busy.” I thought, “Aren’t kids the busiest people we know?” They have their entire adult lives to be “busy,” but now is a truly wonderful time to help them engage in what’s happening around them. Of all the activities I do with my kids cooking is the one activity that engages all five senses, their minds and even their bodies.

My kids can’t make a four course meal just yet, but they do make pizza, mix together cookie dough, layer in parfaits and make their own sandwiches. When they were infants I pulled their high chairs into the kitchen with me while I made dinner, handed them each a wooden spoon and talked them through my cooking steps. Eventually, they out grew the high chair and sat on the floor next to me stirring their imaginary creations in bowls. As soon as they were stable enough to stand on a chair to reach the counter (around age 2) we started making food together.

The first thing I taught my girls to make is a parfait. You simply layer in your favorite fruit, berries, yogurt and cereal. That’s it! All the ingredients are pre-made and require zero cooking! Kids of nearly any age can easily spoon the ingredients into a bowl or cup and feel accomplished when it is complete! The best part is you can control the contents- whether you use all organic ingredients, low sugar, or even gluten free ingredients.

Here is our favorite parfait recipe:

1 Banana (sliced)

1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt

1 TBSP peanut butter (optional)

1 Apple (diced)

1 cup granola or crisp rice cereal

Honey to drizzle

  1. Mix peanut butter into the Greek yogurt and drizzle with honey.
  2. Add bananas to the bottom of cup, or bowl.
  3. Top with 2 TBSP yogurt mixture.
  4. Layer on diced apple.
  5. Top with 2 TBSP cereal.

Repeat the layers twice to create one serving.  (You can also drizzle a little honey on the top most layers). Eat right away and enjoy!

Other easy things you can make with your kids today (that require zero cooking): peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade trail mix, deli roll ups, pudding, even ice cream in a bag! Another one of our favorites, for another post! Cooking is not only a fun way to keep kids engaged, but it’s an important life skill every kid needs to have!

 

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.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy

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Well Spring has finally sprung and our gardens are all in full swing.  In our family we love to garden.  From tomatoes, flowers, cucumbers, herbs and everything in between.  In fact we have a rather large herb garden, even bigger than our veggie garden.  Some people think it is silly to “Waste” all that yard space, but I love the smells, the flavors and the amazing health benefits from the wide variety of herbs we have.

One of my all time favorite herbs that I use in nearly EVERY single meal is Parsley.

I know your thinking, “That green grassy garnish that use to be placed on every plate in every restaurant back in the 80’s?”  Yep that’s the one.   I can remember going out to dinner with my parents to The Ground Round and every time we would go I would get this big green piece of leafy “grass” on my plate, one time my dad said. “go ahead, eat it… I dare you”  So being the adventurous gal I have always been, I bit it.     I was surprised it didn’t have a ton of flavor.  Rather a fresh flavor, and yes almost grass like.  It wasn’t something we had in our garden growing up and it certainly wasn’t something we had on our dinner plates at home.   So to me it was that green leafy grass at The Ground Round.  Why in the world did it ever end up on my plate? I didn’t know, but I kinda enjoyed it.

As I grew older and took an interest in cooking and preparing meals I noticed that this herb was making it’s way back to the restaurant scene.   Only this time it was finely chopped and only in fancy fine dinning places.   So as I learned to cook and appreciate the fancy look of things, I purchased a container of dried parsley.  I added it to many things, not because it tasted like anything but it was “fancy”.006

As an adult I have come to realize I have a real passion for food and cooking.  I was instantly drawn to all the new cooking shows that were found on The Food Network.  Guess what I found them using, yes you guessed it…. Parsley.   Fresh, finely chopped parsley.  Guess what I started to add to all my dishes at home, yep again you guessed it fresh finely chopped parsley.

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I found that every time I purchased it, it would go bad before I could use it all.   Soon I decided to start growing my own.   It was a dangerous thing right at my finger tips.   I truly had no reason for liking it so much, other than the chefs all used it on TV.    One evening over dinner my husband  finally spoke up and said ” What is all this green stuff in my potatoes? “Why must you use so much?”    I didn’t want to sound silly and say, “Isn’t it fancy?”   So, I refrained and went to do some research for my case.

The case of  Husband vs The Use of  TOO Much Parsley…..

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I would have to say I was preparing a rather convincing case.  I found tons of information.

Parsley is actually a power house of an herb.

 

This is what I found ~

Parsley is highly nutritious and full of anti oxidants.

It also happens to be  the world’s most popular herb. ( I knew it – lol)

Parsley is high in Vitamin K,C & A.  It is also high in Iron & Folate.

Parsley has been known to~

Lower Cancer Risks

Freshen Bad Breath ( that was why it was used as a plate garnish )

Enhance Immune Systems & Promote Optimal Health

It is a known Natural Anti Inflammatory & Can prevent inflammation such as inflammation associated with arthritis

It is Heart Healthy

Has been used to treat urinary tract infections and many other bacterial issues as it has antibacterial properties.

So can you guess who won that case?  All I can say is:  We still grow our own parsley and not only is it still on all of our dishes as a garnish I now add it to smoothies, salads, marinades as much more…..  It truly is a power house herb!

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I’ve decided that eating fresh pesto is like eating summer.  If you grow your own basil, then what’s the difference between basil and summer, really?  To me, they’re fairly synonymous.  Cooking with home-grown fresh herbs is one of the treats of the season, and I look forward to it all winter long.

 Making Pesto

My basil plants were overflowing with great-sized leaves the other night, and I decided it was time for some pesto.  Every year at the end of the season I make a few batches of pesto, and freeze them to use throughout the winter.  This batch, though, did not last past dinner.  In a food processor, combine 2 c. well-packed basil leaves and 1/4 c. chopped nuts (pine nuts or walnuts).  Pulse till shredded, then add 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. ground pepper, and pulse again.  Add 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, and pulse until smooth, pushing down as needed.  If you’d like to freeze this in a jar for later use, don’t add the cheese until it’s been thawed and you’re ready to serve it.

A Pesto Pasta Salad

Once the pesto was ready, I poured it over a lb. of cooked pasta, then stirred in 8 oz. of cubed fresh mozzarella and a handful of grape tomatoes.  Served with some fresh fruit, it was the perfect savory, gooey dinner that satisfied the whole family.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Something about the sound of “zucchini fritters” makes me feel like I’m at a carnival, about to taste a magical creation, and perhaps win one of those ridiculously giant stuffed animals to boot.  I came across this recipe last week, and knew it was just the thing to do with those glorious shiny green zucchini I’d picked up last weekend.  I cook with zucchini just about every chance I get, and was excited that fritters were about to be my next endeavor.

Crunchy zucchini fritters

With this recipe for zucchini fritters being the main inspiration for dinner, I looked for something that would complete the meal.  Bunless turkey burgers worked perfectly, along with a handful of fresh strawberries.  The fritters were incredible- moist, slightly crispy, and full of flavor- and we were sad when they were all gone.  I pan-fried the burgers since I was already at the stove, and within 20 minutes we had a complete and really delicious dinner.  Abundant zucchini this time of year is a blessing!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Chicken is a kitchen stand-by, but it can get boring if the preparation isn’t varied.  Especially when feeding a family, you’ve got to keep things interesting, and have your repertoire varied for picky eaters.  As I’ve said before, I constantly keep an eye out for new recipes, and collect my findings in a giant binder.  Flipping through a Rachel Ray magazine, I came across not only a chicken dish, but an entire dinner.  I was excited to try it and add it to my collection, and wasn’t disappointed when I did.

Crunchy chicken with green beans and rice

I followed this recipe closely, making only a few changes.  Rather than mayo in the recipe, I used light sour cream, and I found a crusty ciabatta roll to be perfect in the place of a baguette.  Finally, I steamed the green beans rather than boiling them, as I hate to lose veggie’s nutrients to water, and added 1/2 cup of pureed cauliflower to the rice.  Everyone enjoyed the chicken, and it was a nice change from a regular bread-crumbed breast.  It came together quickly, and paired with some strawberries, it was a great dinner.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Everyone knows how to make salad. A salad as a main course, though, is much trickier, especially if you are feeding it to children.  It must then be filling, supply adequate protein, and most importantly, be interesting. There are a few restaurants at which I look forward to ordering a big salad.  Like anything else, I analyzed what made the meal so special, and recreated it at home. What makes a salad enticing enough to serve as dinner? For me, it must be super fresh, offer plenty of variety, and contain items that challenge my expectations. It’s not the basics, like lettuce or carrots, which make the salad, but the extras that transform the dish from a side plate to a main attraction.

The Big Salad

Here are three salads-for-dinner I’ve made recently.  As you can see, there are some basic tenets, like romaine lettuce, baby spinach, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs.  Then there are the toss-ins that make each salad a little different– beans, crunchy noodles, homemade croutons, different fruits, etc., so that each salad is unique.   I use salad night as an opportunity for a vegetarian meal, letting the eggs and beans serve as the primary protein, but grilled chicken or steak could be a nice addition.  Finally, I always arrange each item on the plate individually, rather than a big messy pile, and then it’s fun for my kids to dip and eat.

Big Salad, one way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, steamed carrots, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, strawberries, chow mein noodles, and cucumbers.

Big salad, another way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, diced apples, grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots, zucchini sticks, cantaloupe, and hard-boiled eggs.

Big salad, a third way: Romaine lettuce, baby spinach, zucchini sticks, steamed carrot sticks, red peppers, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, fresh berries, homemade parmesan garlic croutons.

Most importantly, include family favorites in your salad, and always keep one or two of the ingredients changing.  It’ll never be the same old, and with the opportunity to raid the garden or the farm stand for fresh fruits and veggies, salad for dinner is a treat, not a punishment.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

One thing I really like to make for my kids are healthy snacks.  Especially since I have a grade-schooler who needs daily packed snacks, I’ve had fun getting creative.  Mini granola bars, roasted chickpeas, and trail-mix blends are fun to make, and my kids enjoy the little treats they find in their bags.  The best part about these snacks is that you can assemble them in bulk, and store extras in the pantry or freezer.  With an adequate stash on hand, they’re ready to toss into a lunch cooler or backpack on the fly.

Power sticks

This recipe is a Weight Watchers recipe that a friend had given me almost ten years ago.  My daughter says they taste like cookie dough, so I take that as a very good sign.  It requires no cooking, is incredibly quick to assemble, and is very portable.  I always make this in a triple batch, wrap the extras individually in wax paper, and keep them in the freezer.  On a morning when we need a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack, a power stick accompanied with a banana is the way to do it.  To make a single batch, combine 1/2 cup of all-natural (sugar and oil-free) peanut butter, 3 Tbsp. of honey, 2/3 cup of whole grain flakes, and 1/3 cup of instant fat-free powdered milk.  Mix ingredients in a bowl until well-blended.  Form six sticks, and wrap individually in wax paper.  Store in an airtight container.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

This dinner’s content wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but putting it together resulted in something cute.  Breakfast for dinner, which I’ve featured before, is a weeknight favorite in our house.  Minimal mess, fairly quick, and easy to include all the food groups- now you’re talking.  A while back, I made this meal and was struck with creativity as I made my daughters’ plates.  Just a little ingenuity leads to variety in what you can serve, and the more you can spice it up, the better for your health.  If you’re looking for something fast on a busy eve, give this a try.

Here’s looking at you

My husband, who is responsible for all of the egg-cooking in our house, whipped up some omelets (eggs along with egg whites) with low-fat cheddar and baby spinach.  This looked like a mouth for some reason, and my idea was born.  Turkey sausage and whole grain sandwich thins served as eyes, and fruit salad, of course, was hair.  Depending on the likes and dislikes of your family, you can customize this using different veggies, fruits, bread, etc.  My kids thought this was cute, and rearranging their “breakfast faces” lead to some laughs.  This was a great reminder to play with your food, especially when it leads to family conversation and nutrition.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

I haven’t made this recipe in a while, but it’s part of one of my favorite fun family dinners.  One of the most creative chefs I’ve found, Annabel Karmel, has myriad of cookbooks, ranging from baby foods to kids’ cooking to family meals.  This dinner is so cute, it’s impossible not to love it.

This teddy bear burger begins with ground chicken breast, and has chunks of apple blended within.  The recipe instructs you to grind your own chicken, but you can purchase it ground and skip that step if you’d like.  Accompanying the Sneaky Chef’s whole grain mac and cheese (with pureed cauliflower), and served alongside steamed veggies and fresh fruit, somewhere on this plate is bound to be something healthy your family will eat.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

I was grinning like the Cheshire cat as my family ate dinner the other night.  Why?  I was watching them eat a meal filled with foods that normally might have required some cajoling, but instead it was being gobbled bite after bite.  We had tacos, which doesn’t sound spectacular, I know.  What was done with the tacos, however, was what led to my happy smile.  Rather than plain old greasy meat in a shell, this tiny wonder boasted four vegetables, a lean protein, fiber-rich beans, and low-fat dairy.

Happy Tacos

Rather than a fatty ground beef, I used a 99% fat-free ground chicken, seasoning it as usual.  (Even if you stop at this step, you’ve already improved your meal tremendously).  Next I added ½ cup of pureed butternut squash, a trick learned from Deceptively Delicious, followed by a medium-sized zucchini, shredded into the mix.  A can of black beans and two finely diced tomatoes (canned would work fine) went in last, and then I mixed well.  Neither of my daughters would normally eat tomatoes, and zucchini is always a wild card, but tonight there was no discussion.  Spooned into taco shells and garnished with baby spinach, low-fat sour cream, and shredded cheddar, no one was the wiser.  Only the healthier.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

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