DIY playa bowls are a breakfast treat or fun snack that kids can assemble on their own!Read More
Back in 2012 when I first started teaching baby food cooking classes, a client of mine mentioned that her husband had been making chocolate avocado pudding, and that her baby was gobbling it right up. I put the idea on my imaginary list of recipes that I wanted to recreate, and then—-like every other item on my to-do list that I write in my head but never on paper—I completely forgot about it. Fast forward five years when that baby of hers is ready to graduate kindergarten, and here I am in my kitchen finally checking off this recipe. Do I regret not trying this sooner? Yes, but mostly because recently when I pay for avocados at checkout, I have to do a doubletake (2 for $5--seriously?!) and then you get home, cut it open, and it's all pit. Five years ago, if I can remember correctly, the world was a cheaper place for avocados, and hashtags like #avocadoproblems and #avocadofail and #willworkforavocados (okay fine I made that last one up), were not yet a thing.
But I digress.
In truth, this recipe was a real win for the kids, and I already am thinking ahead to tweaking the recipe for avocado-chocolate fudgsicles this summer (stay tuned!). The avocado creates a perfectly creamy texture and a blank slate that lets the chocolate from cacao powder and semi-sweet chocolate chips really shine through. It comes together in minutes after a whirl in a food processor or blender, and since it's made without refined sugar, it's a treat that I'm happy to serve my kids regularly. Also, unlike every other avocado recipe in the world, this can be made up to 24 hours in advanced and stored in the refrigerator. Because of the chocolate, there's no telling if the avocado turns brown.
Finally, another perk to this recipe is that it's allergy friendly--perfect for friends who are allergic to milk or eggs. But everyone will love it!
CHOCOLATE AVOCADO PUDDING makes 4 servings Ingredients: 2 medium ripe avocados 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips 1/4 cup cacao powder* 1 tsp pure vanilla extract 1/4 cup milk (cows, almond, coconut, or even water) pinch of salt 1/4 cup pure maple syrup Directions: In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to package directions. Cool for a few minutes, then add them to a food processor or blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until no lumps remain, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Transfer mousse to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 20 minutes (or up to 24 hours before serving.
*I use cacao powder instead of cocoa powder because it is much less processed than cocoa powder and it contains a crazy high amount of fiber, nutrients, antioxidants and magnesium. You can find it in the same location in the grocery store as traditional cocoa powder. Yes, it's more expensive, but we use it sparingly enough that it's worth it for us.
When parents tell me that their child is ahead in reading or sports, I like to brag that mine are at least 15 years past their age when it comes to food. By that, I mean that they've channeled their future frat boy diet and could live off of cereal at every meal.
In fact the single food truth I swear by, is that if you pour it out of a cereal box, they will eat it. There are a whole bunch of good-for-you cereals out there (more on that HERE), but cereals for breakfast can fall short on the protein they need to sustain them until snack time.
In fact, the best breakfasts for kids (and adults too!) have 3 components to keep you full and energized:
Protein (found in eggs, yogurt, lean deli cuts, cheese, and nut butters)
Whole grains (found in oatmeal, whole grain breads, multigrain waffles, and cereals)
Most kids don't have trouble eating the latter two as their morning meal, but protein at breakfast can be harder for them to swallow--especially since the morning rush leaves little time for frying up a few eggs. Enter your child's (and your!) next best option: homemade granola. This version is made with protein-packed oats, grains, and seeds. And unlike store versions, it's not full of crazy amounts of added sugar. It's also crunchy (a win with kids!), full of filling fiber, and made with and nuts and seeds for healthy fats to give the brain a big boost. But best of all, it is delicious.
Think of this recipe as a blank slate: If you don´t have all the ingredients, feel free to skip some or replace other nuts, dried fruits, or seeds. Best of all, this keeps well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and always have it on hand.
My kids and I eat it with wild blueberries, ½ banana and low fat yogurt. You could also pour it into an old cereal box (shhh!) if you really want them to love it.
Makes 4 cups (I usually double it since it goes fast in our house)
1 cup rolled oats ¼ cup wheat germ ¼ cup flax seed ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds ¼ cup chopped raw almonds ¼ cup chopped raw walnuts ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds ¼ cup dried unsweetened grated coconut 2-3 Tbsp. canola or olive oil 2-3 Tbsp. maple syrup or honey ¼ cup water ½ cup of mixed dried berries like raisins, apricots or cranberries
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, wheat germ, flax seed, coconut, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.
In a small bowl, mix together the oil, honey or maple syrup, and water in a small bowl. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture and stir until it is well incorporated.
Spread the mixture the mixture on the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and bake until crisp and golden, about 30 minutes, mixing occasionally so everything cooks evenly.
Let the mixture cool completely on the baking sheet, then return the mixture to the large bowl and stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (it'll last for at least a few weeks) or transfer to the freezer.
We're in a deep freeze of January when everyone seems to have the sniffles. I live firmly by the belief that one of the best ways to stay healthy (aside from hand washing!) is through food. Eating healthy foods truly can boost the immune system when you need it most--and perhaps there's no better food for health than kale. It contains cold-fighting vitamins A, C, K and zinc PLUS protein, calcium and omega 3s.
Before you roll your eyes when I tell you that we start most mornings with a green smoothie, I'll first make my case on how easy it is to do (seriously!). Baby kale and strawberries store right in the freezer, so there's no need to keep fresh produce around. Plus, I'll make a big blender full and use it for two days in a row (just give it a whirl, and you're good to go!).
One of my most successful strategies with my kids has been to start easy on the kale and work your way up. Since kale has a stronger flavor profile than spinach, go light on the kale on your first batch, and gradually increase it as your kids get used to the taste. I hope your kids like this version as much as mine do!
Kid-approved kale smoothie
(makes 2 8-ounce smoothies) Ingredients: a handful of kale leaves, stems removed or baby kale 3 frozen strawberries 1 banana 1 cup almond milk (sub regular milk) (optional) 1 teaspoon honey* Directions: Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth, add some water if it is too thick. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days (reblend before serving since ingredients will separate).
*Do not use honey for babies under age 1
With a newsfeed that's overflowing with pictures of Christmas cookies and holiday goodies, this chicken soup is begging you: STOP AND LOOK AT ME! If your kids are like mine, they're living on the Buddy The Elf diet of cookies and candy canes. Everywhere we go--school, holiday parties, stores--someone is serving them some sort of sweet treat. Rather than fighting it (hello, meltdowns), I use this month to stay balanced at home, making sure that their regular meals are ones that will keep them healthy despite the month-long sugar rush.
For me, soup is always the answer. I can make a big batch of it that they'll eat for the week (I freeze leftovers), and my kids happily slurp up the veggies. Plus, there's nothing more comforting during an arctic chill (brrrr!).
In this version, I omit pasta and rice (though you can add a cup of either--just be sure to increase the amount of stock by 2 cups), and I flavor it with fresh herbs that I tie in a bundle to season the soup while it's cooking and then remove it before serving (read: lots of flavor without complaints about "the green things"). I also use bone and skin on chicken thighs, which add tons of nutrients and flavor.
Your Perfect Chicken Soup makes 10 cups Ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and diced 1 1/2 cups celery, diced 1 yellow onion, diced 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced 2 pounds organic chicken thighs fresh parsley, thyme and dill (or any combination of herbs that sound good to you) 8 cups organic low sodium chicken stock **(See note below) salt and pepper Directions: In a large stock pot over medium heat, add carrots, celery, onion and sweet potato. Cook, stirring occasionally, until veggies are fork tender around 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather herbs in a pile and use a piece of kitchen twine to tie into a bundle. Set aside. Add chicken, stock and herb bundle to the pot. Increase the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through (around 20-30 minutes). Using tongs, carefully remove chicken from the pot and place onto a cutting board. Let cool for 5 minute before handling, then discard skin and bones. Roughly chop chicken and return to the pot. Remove herb bundle and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crust bread or grilled cheese (my kids' favorite).
**Chicken broth/stock is one of those foods that's sneakily high in sodium. I buy low sodium varieties and then season the soup to taste with salt and pepper at the end
One thing is for sure at this time of year: You're going to be eating a lot of apples. Here in November, apples are the only fresh fruits left at the farm stand, and that fruit (along with pears and bananas), will be what my kids survive on until citrus season begins this winter. Happily, my kids LOVE apples--our family goes through at least a dozen a week!--but it's also nice to change things up a bit.
This recipe for baked apple chips is so simple, and it's the perfect project for a rainy homebound weekend day. All you have to do is slice the apples nice and thin, let the kids sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon, and then set them in the oven on low for an hour. Your home will smell wonderful all day, and you'll end up with sweet and crispy chips that are perfect for snacking by the handful or packing into lunch boxes.
Cinnamon Apple Chips
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sugar
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Core the apples. With sharp knife, slice off 1/2-inch from top and bottom of apples and discard. Saw gently crosswise into very thin (1/8-inch) rings
Arrange apples on the baking sheet in a single layer. Place the sheet on the middle shelf in oven, and bake for 45min-1 hr until apple slices are lightly browned and almost dry to touch.
Let chips cool on racks completely before storing in airtight container.
If you dislike cooking, you are going to love this. If you're outside roasting on this sticky 90 degree day, you are going to love this.
If you like recipes that can be prepped and on the table in less than five minutes, you are going to love this.
If you like the idea of your child eating vegetables and if you like vegetables in their purest, most-refreshing form, then you are going to really really love this.
Because unlike many gazpacho recipes that require blanching tomatoes, peeling cucumbers, and straining the finished product, this is the no-fuss (read: no work) version. All we do is blend up veggies with little else, and the result is something so refreshing, so delicious, and so impossible to screw up (I'm looking at you, so-called non-cooks).
Best of all, my kids eat this up AND love helping with the prep. My 5-year-old washes the veggies, my 2-year-old transfers the veggies I chop to the blender, and then they both fight over who presses the on button while I wipe tears of unfairness and mop up the food they've dropped and squished all over the floor. It really is quite fun.
But back to the soup. I love this served with an add-your-own-toppings bar with bowls of chopped peppers, cucumbers, hardboiled eggs, and croutons that can be spooned over the top. So good!
No-Fuss Gazpacho Soup
Ingredients: 3 slices bread 2 pounds of tomatoes, cut into quarters and seeds squeezed out and discarded 1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Directions: Place bread in a medium bowl and cover with water until saturated. Squeeze water from bread and place bread in a blender. Discard soaking water.
In the same blender, add tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, garlic and vinegar. Blend until well combined, about 1 minute. With motor running, add oil in steady stream until well blended. Stir in vinegar; season with salt and pepper.T
Transfer to refrigerator to chill before serving up to 48 hours.