Happy 2015! Try this Mocktail for All Ages

Cocktail or Mocktail?

Looking for a special way to ring in the New Year with the younger or non-drinking set?  Here’s a festive, tasty “mocktail” that everyone can enjoy.

Organic Juice Sparkler

This is a fun and healthy way for children to join in on a fancy toast with a sparkling drink of their own. This recipe is really simple and can be made with any kind of fresh, organic juice such as orange, pear, or apple. At holiday time I like pomegranate juice because of the bright and festive color. Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids. The juice can be found year round in the fresh refrigerated juice section of most supermarkets.

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup sparkling mineral water
¼ cup fresh pomegranate juice

Combine water and juice in a glass.


If serving a crowd, combine three parts sparkling mineral water with one part fresh pomegranate juice in a pitcher. Serve over ice cube cuties for older children and adults.

Kids Korner

For a really festive drink, add a few cranberry ice cubes (just add cranberries when freezing water in trays) and a straw. Or a simple piece or rosemary or mint on the top is fancy for all ages.  You’ll be surprised how much those touches will excite your child.


When Friends Give You Apples….Make Fall Desserts

My friend gave me a bag full of her beautiful apples right off her tree.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Except a week later she gave me another bag and I can’t believe these are even bigger and juicier.  The first bag I made this super easy apple crisp.  Crisps are so easy and with so few ingredients I just made it up as I went along. I went to a friends’ and shared with lots of moms and kids. It was a hit and I was asked for the recipe.  Oops!  My own kids didn’t have any crisp. And my daughter didn’t get to help.   So when the second bag of apples came around my daughter and I made another crisp to share with my kids and followed a real recipe so I could share with everyone.  Although I cooked according to directions for 40 minutes and the apples turned to sauce.  I think 25 – 30 minutes for firmer apples.

Another great option for fall apples is an Apple Gallett.  Easier than a pie as the crust is tasty but more rustic and doesn’t require all the fuss of a pie pan, fluting, etc.  I still have some apples left so I’ll make this next.

Apple Crisp

6 -8tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (such as Granny Smith)

2 -3 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup flour (can use whole wheat)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar, and spices; turn into an 8×8″ baking pan that has been lightly coated with no-stick cooking spray

Cut together flour, brown sugar, and butter until crumbly; sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes until apples are tender; serve warm with vanilla ice cream.






Apple Galette

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) plus 2 tablespoons cold butter

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1/2 cup walnuts

2 pounds tart apples (3 to 5), such as Pink Lady or Granny Smith

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water

In a food processor or large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Cut 1/2 cup butter into pieces and add to flour mixture; pulse motor, cut in with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. With motor running (or stirring with a fork after each addition), add egg yolk and 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; process or stir just until mixture comes together in a ball. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm but still pliable, about 1 hour

Meanwhile, spread walnuts in a baking pan and bake in a 375° oven until barely golden under skins, 6 to 8 minutes (leave oven on). Coarsely chop nuts.

Peel and core apples; cut each into eight wedges. In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When it’s foamy, add apples and stir often until slightly softened and brown at edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar and nutmeg over fruit and stir until liquid is syrupy and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Stir in walnuts. Remove from heat.

Unwrap dough. On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll into a round about 15 inches in diameter. Line a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet with cooking parchment and carefully transfer dough round to sheet (edges will hang over sheet)

Pour apple mixture onto center of pastry, mounding wedges in a circle about 8 inches wide and 2 inches high. Gently fold edges of dough over apples, pleating as you go, leaving an opening about 4 inches wide in the center. Brush pastry all over with beaten egg.

Bake in 375° oven until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced, 40 to 45 minutes (35 to 40 in a convection oven). Transfer galette (with parchment, if using) to a wire rack to cool. Transfer to a large plate, gently pulling parchment from under tart. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.


Six Part Plant Fest – Kids Eat Veggie “Burritos”

Did you know there are six parts to an edible plant and they all have different health benefits?  Neither did I.  I went to a great event at my kids’ elementary school where the garden teacher discussed the parts of the plant, their use, and how we eat all parts by having the kids make salad burritos.  I thought they looked more like lettuce cups, but hey I was there to prep, serve and learn.  In case you’re wondering the six parts and their uses are:

1. Seeds – essential for reproduction.  Makes new plants.

2. Stems – part that carries leaves.

3. Roots – underground structure to hold the plant and soaks up water.

4. Leaves – offshoot of the stem, here “food” is made for plant.

5. Flowers – colored and usually scented.  Attracts insects.

6. Fruit – product that follows the flower.  Holds and protects the seeds.

Makes sense.  But I never really realized how we eat different and multiple parts of produce.  It was a tasty visual to understand the plant parts.  And many of the offerings came right from the school garden.  All the plant parts were chopped and grouped together so kids knew wheat they were eating.  The leaves started the burrito wrapper with big leaves of romaine.  At the stems table there was celery and green onion.  At the flower table there were nasturtiums petals to eat as well as broccoli tops.  The seeds were popular with an array of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The fruit was a variety of berries and sugar snap peas.  For roots there were carrots and radishes.  There were even sauces to choose and flavor your creation.  Kids realized too that on the same plant we can sometimes eat multiple parts.  This is helpful in thinking how to serve, prep and cook these parts as well for a diet in a variety of color, taste and vitamins.

The kids (and a few of us helpers) had a great time.  The only downside was there was only one to a customer.  Feeding 600+ students doesn’t lend itself to second helpings as many of the kids were hoping.  We make a lot of burritos and lettuce cups at home and this just gives me more ideas for using all the plant for a variety of textures and flavors.


Here’s to New Mom’s! with Baby Puree Recipes


Approaching mother’s day I’ve been reflecting back on becoming a mother myself.  We all know how time flies and it seems like just yesterday I was feeding my kids their very first bites of food.  I’ve always loved being there for a first taste of something new.  Their first apple, strawberry, broccoli, fish, etc.  I still enjoy that.  But now it’s first escargot, starfruit, escarole, etc.  Sometimes I think being a new mom was easier than where I am today.  I’d take sloppy kisses and naps, any day over eye rolling and working school carline.  Although certainly while you are in the thick of it (diapers, no sleep, constant crying), you can’t imagine.  If only you had the sleep and awareness when they are babies, to appreciate every minute.

Right now I know lots of mom’s with babies.  Some are just starting motherhood while others have new babies to add to their families.  So here’s to new and experienced moms alike.  And to the new flavors and experiences we introduce them to.  Whether our kids are 6 months, 6 years, 26 years or 66 years.  We can always come up with firsts and new foodie adventures.  But be careful…it’s not always pretty.

Apple Puree (The Petit Appetit Cookbook, page 59)

Apples are a great first food because of their sweetness and versatility.  Besides being for baby, this puree can be used in all kinds of recipes.  Use it to sweeten baked goods, as a topping for pancakes, or even to dress up grilled meats.

Golden and Red Delicious as well as Fuji apples have the least amount of acid, and thus are the most tolerant for babies.  You may peel apples before or after cooking.  Cooking with skins on allows the apples to retain more nutrients.  Be sure to choose organic apples as they are number 1 on the Dirty Dozen list for pesticides.

6 medium (2-3 ounce) organic apples, washed, quartered and cored just before cooking

Steamer Method:

Place prepared apples in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1 – 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water.  Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 – 12 minutes or until apples are tender.  Apples should pierce easily with a toothpick.  Set apples and cooking liquid aside to cool.

Scrape apples for skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Makes 16 – 18, one ounce baby servings.

TIP:  An apple a day…When baby is ready for more texture, chunks on steamed apples are good finger foods.  Also for teething baby, put steamed apple slices in the freezer for a soothing treat.

First Fish (The Petit Appetit Cookbook, page 98)

This is an easy way to prepare fish for your baby or toddler.  Because of the mild and “non-fishy” taste, Tilapia is a good introduction to seafood for a little one.  Fish can be thinned with reserved cooking broth or mix with plain yogurt or cottage cheese for a more creamy texture.

1 cup organic vegetable broth

2, (4 ounce) white fillets

Heat broth in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until simmering.  Add fish fillets.  Broth should not cover fish, but come up about halfway.  Simmer fish 3 to 4 minutes per side or until opaque.  Fish should flake easily with a fork.  Remove fish from pan and mash to desired consistency, or puree with some of the cooking liquid in a food processor.

TIP: No bones about it.  Be sure to check fish carefully for small bones before feeding to baby.  Fillets have fewer bones than steaks.






Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries – I Heart Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook

Sometimes I heart Trader Joe’s and sometime I do not.  This week I was not happy as TJ’s discontinued my kids’ favorite spicy spinach pizzas.  These were pizza bread rounds with a spicy cooked spinach on top.  They were great to dress up with cheese or wrap around veggies or just toast and eat plain for a quick lunch or snack.  Well they’re gone and I’m bitter.

However I do heart their vegetarian cookbook.  This is great for quick meals using their products.  Everything from breakfast items such as Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes (made quick by using their precut pineapple), to creating hearty dinners including a Classic Pot Pie (using their artisian puff pastry).  The recipes use Trader Joe’s products as short cuts however you can use your own ingredients just as well.  Not only are the ingredients bent towards a plant based vegetarian and vegan items but also are touted as budget conscious.  Who doesn’t heart that?

My family’s new favorite side dish is the Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries.  Next time I’ll try some different herbs such as sage and rosemary salt.  They were good in a quick aioli I whipped up using Veganaise, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil.  They could also be dipped in tomato sauce, pesto or catsup.


Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries

(page 46 from I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook)

1, 18 ounce log Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta (find near pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Prepare the polenta slices by cutting into 1/4 inch discs, then strips (about 3 – 4 strips per disc).  In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, garlic powder and oregano to combine.  *Gently toss the polenta with the olive oil mixture and spread in an even layer on the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake until slightly browned and crispy on the edges, 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Serve the fries warm with aioli.

Makes 4 servings.

*I found it easier to lay out polenta strips and use a brush to coat the oil and herbs.


Earth Week Wrap Up

There were so many fun events and activities during Earth Week last week.  And if you didn’t do anything special and green, no worries.  It’s one of those things you can and should do on a daily basis, not just once per year.  Here’s a few photos from last week’s activities with my children.  There was an adorable labybug release.  Where the kids released over 30,000 ladybugs to help the school garden.  There was also an adorable sing-a-long with nature inspired songs. The culmination of the garden celebration was a garden fair with games, prizes, eco friendly face painting, bake sale, apple bobbing and more.


We skipped meat for the week and I made a yummy, fresh Watercress, Edamame and Fennel Salad.    I found the recipe while grocery shopping.  It was right on the cover of Delicious Living  magazine (recipe).  I’ll share this one with my vegan sister too.  But you could also add grilled shrimp or chicken to make an easy summer meal.



( If you’re wondering about that last photo above, my son came home from digging in the school garden and found a burdock root. It could have been, but it was just too woody to eat.  He was hoping to add it to our salad but he wanted a photo with his prizes anyway.)




Hooray for Greens! with Chard and Kale Recipes

Red Quinoa with Swiss Chard and Poached Egg

One of my 2013 resolutions is to eat and introduce more dark greens with my family.  My kids already love dinosaur (aka lacinto) kale chips – recipe below.  And we like sauteed greens with garlic (a little bacon helps sometimes for my son).  But I want to embrace a bigger variety of types, recipes and flavors.   I was inspired by Sunset Magazine’s January Eat Clean article and I started the new year by making a lovely recipe from the issue – Quinoa Bowl with Chard and Poached Egg.


My daughter and sous chef was really funny when prepping the chard for this recipe.  I took a few photos and a silly video of her using the leaves as pom poms.  I haven’t tried posting a video here.  However another of my hopes for 2013 is to embrace technology and change a bit more.  So here’s a video of my daughter cheering for …..chard.

.chard cheerleader video


Kale Chips

These are a great was to get crunch and nutrition into a side dish or healthy snack for your family.  Feel free to try various spices to kick ‘em up.  Be sure to keep an eye on the kale during cooking time to be sure leaves do not burn and turn bitter.

Serving: 4

1 bunch lacinto kale, washed and dried

½ teaspoon sea salt, garlic salt, or other spice

olive oil


Prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil and cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Separate outer leaves from center ribs of each kale leaf.  Discard ribs.

Lay leaves on prepared sheets and spray or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt..  Bake in oven about 3 – 4 minutes.  Remove tray from oven and turn over each leaf.  Cook another 2 – 3 minutes or until crisp but not charred


Melon Madness!

Everyone loves and appreciates all variety and flavors of fruits in the summer months.  What’s not to like?  Plums, cherries, peaches, plots, nectarines, and on and on.  But what about melons?  My kids and I have been discovering all the various melons.  Each week we pick a new one to try. Noting the exterior texture and color and shape overall.  Before we cut each one we each take a guess at what color the flesh will be inside.  The best part is they’ve all been delicious.  To really make it interesting we could do a blind taste test to see if we can differentiate them.  Maybe I’ll save that as our fun and exciting days of summer turn more dull (we have a full 12 weeks this year)   Here’s what we’ve discovered and enjoyed so far.  Get your melon ballers ready!


Sherlynne Melon

Santa Claus Melon


Canary Melon

Funny thing is when we said what the melons tasted like it was mostly cantaloupes and cucumbers.  Cucumbers?  Well I explained to my kids that melons squashes and cucumbers are part of a larger family of gourds and referred to as “cucurbits”.  Melons are an excellent source of vitamin C.  Choose melons that are heavy for their size and grooves that have white or cream colored  grooves instead of green.



Petit Appetit Guest Blogs on Ginger Garner

Latley I’ve been helping some other sites with blogs and content.  I was very pleased to be part of a three week blog series with feeding babies on Ginger Garner’s site.  Ginger is  founder of Professional Yoga Therapy (PYT), the first education program for Complementary and Alternative Medicine practice in medical therapeutic yoga in the United States. Ginger has traveled across the US teaching yoga and Pilates as Complementary and Alternative Medicine, while also raising awareness about mothers’ rights and improving women’s health.  She also is a mother of three.  Her youngest James, is eating my apple puree above.


Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my daily life with school age kids, I forget about new babes coming into the world.  Then I see a cute photo or read a kind email or post about a mom feeding their baby for the first time, and I wish I was right back there.  If you’re looking for tips for feeding babies and a recipe for apple puree – a perfect first solid food, please see my guest posts here.




The Apple Feast

Because of all the apples we’d harvested at the u-pick, I was inspired.  And admittedly a little over the top with my obsession with making an apple meal.  By this I mean, using apple as an ingredient in each food.  Also I also must admit, it was tasty and fun, and we now have only about a dozen apples left.


Note: I suggest if you have an abundance of apples – make applesauce of course.   This was great for my son who can’t enjoy raw apples easily with his new mouth hardware.  It can be swirled into yogurt, oatmeal and ice cream.  And also is a great way to create moist and nutritious baked goods.  This week I made apple banana bran muffins for my kids’ school snack.


Anyways… we invited our friends over for dinner, who we picked apples with.  Luckily they weren’t too burned out on apples (or just too polite) to go with my theme.  Over the course of a few days of planning and prepping we were ready for our apple feast.  Our guests were creative and brought two wonderful sides that went perfectly.  (No really.  I can’t say how much I appreciate it when someone offers and actually brings something that goes with the meal, rather than just bringing something because they think they should.  Your host doesn’t want extra food for that meal, unless you’re assigned.  O.K. so yes, that it a pet peeve of mine.).

Here was the menu…

Butternut-Apple Soup

Mini Grilled Cheese and Sliced Apple Sandwiches on Raisin Toast

Corriander Spiced Pork Chops (Sunset mag Oct. 2011) with Applesauce (very Brady Bunch)

Apple Slaw with yogurt dressing – thanks Anne

Mixed Greens with apple slices, candied peacans and blue cheese – thanks again Anne

Apple Pie with caramel drizzle and vanilla ice cream

We started the evening with apple bobbing.  This was a great activity to use those little tiny apples we picked.  The kids had fun coming up with ways to get the apple (nope, the stem is cheating) and finally dunking in head first (my son had seen this in a contest at school last year).

As far as the kids were concerned they were most excited about the first course (soup and sand) and dessert course.  No surprises there.  I was quite happy with the pork chops (thanks Sunet and Lee for grilling) and ate more than my share.  I can’t remember the last time we made them at home.  But I will again. (Note: the recipe has the chops with plum chutney, which I skipped due to the applesaue)

soup and sand
pork, apple sauce and salads

Here’s the soup recipe because it is so easy and perfect on a chilly autumn night.  I like to roast a halved butternut squash in the oven a day or two ahead, then scrape out flesh to make this soup even quicker.

Butternut-Apple Soup

(adapted from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry)

This is a simple, sweet and aromatic soup that only requires a few ingredients.  It can be enjoyed with a salad and bread for a nutritious lunch or dinner, or as a comforting autumn snack on a chilly day after playing outdoors.

Makes 7 cups; 7 servings

1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil or other vegetable oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 pound peeled, cut cooked squash (can buy prepackaged in produce section) or 2 pounds whole butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 medium organic Fuji apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

1 (14-ounce) can organic low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup organic milk

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in squash, apples, broth, water, thyme, salt, and pepper. Heat over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring often until squash and apples are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. (If not using precooked
squash, you’ll need to increase cooking time by 15 to 20 minutes.)

Spoon one-third of squash mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Be careful: Mixture is hot and steam can burn when processing. Pour puree into bowl and continue processing remainder of squash mixture. Soup can be made
ahead at this point.

When ready to eat, return puree to saucepan and stir in milk. Heat through over medium heat until hot.

(Babes and Soup. Just remember many children do not like foods too
warm, so serve at room temperature for the youngest. Because this recipe has
cow’s milk, it should not be served to those under one year.)