Let Them Eat (Cup) Cakes! – Part 1 (with Organic Cupcake Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

There’re lots of cakes around my house in July. My son, my daughter and I were all born in July. This year cake number one was for my daughter’s first birthday. They were lovely little mini bundt carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting. I love my mini bundt pan. You can’t go wrong. My audience is easy to please too. My daughter has never had cake. Actually she still hasn’t, since all she did like to eat was the cream cheese frosting off the top. My son was happy as he said “I get a whole cake”? The parents and grandparents enjoyed these as well. A success!

Here’s the recipe…

Carrot Cupcakes
Perfect for celebrating baby’s first year. These cupcakes have no nuts or raisins for potentially allergic little revelers. This versatile batter can be baked in mini cupcake/muffin tins, regular tins or mini bundt pans. Just remember to adjust cooking times – 10 – 12 minutes for mini, 15 – 20 minutes for regular, and 20 – 25 minutes for bundt.

Expeller pressed canola or sunflower oil, 1 1/4 cups

Brown sugar, 1 cup firmly packed

Large organic eggs, 4

Unbleached all-purpose flour, 2 cups

Whole-wheat pastry flour, 1 cup

Baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp

Ground cinnamon, 2 tsp

Nutmeg, 1/2 tsp freshly grated

Salt, 1/2 tsp

Orange zest, 2 tsp minced

Organic carrots, 12 ounces, grated (about 3 cups)

Frosting and Garnish

Organic Light cream cheese, 8 oz

Confectioners’ sugar, 2 cups

Fresh organic lime juice, 1 Tbsp

Orange zest, 2 tsp minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, beat oil and sugar together, then add eggs one at a time. Add flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and zest and beat until combined. Fold in grated carrots. Line two, 12-cup cupcake pan with paper cups. Spoon batter into cups, filling half full, and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 15–20 minutes. If using mini cupcake cups, bake for 10–12 minutes; for mini Bundt pans, 20–25 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool on rack while making frosting. The next cake was not so easy… (stay tuned for cake chronicles part 2).
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Oh Rats! A Fun Foodie Movie – (with Organic Ratatouille Pasta Recipe)


From Lisa Barnes

I rarely get to the movies, and when I do it’s now to take my almost 4 year old. His first trip to the cinema was to see Cars. He loved it as did my husband and I. Since we saw Cars, last year, I’ve been secretly waiting to see the next Pixar movie …”Ratatouille“.

I do not like rats. I don’t really like anything that scurries. That even includes squirrels. But a rat with taste, who wants to be a chef and lives in Paris? I thought it was a clever premise and wanted to give an animated rodent a chance. Although I didn’t want my son to like him too much and ask me for a pet rat.

As the movie’s opening became closer I read articles about the painstaking process of getting food to look appetizing in animation. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines our obsession (especially the Bay Area’s) with food and years of training the Pixar team went through. Not computer or graphics training, but culinary training. And not just by anyone – but Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry. To me this sounded like a great job perk. The team also traveled to France to see how a true Michelin star restaurant kitchen was set up. I really wanted to see the movie now.

I was so eager to see the movie, we went the first week it opened. My son hadn’t even heard of it, but when I said we could go to the “big movie theater”, he was ready. But it wasn’t just families with children in the audience. There was a large contingency of adults without children. And while these people may have been Pixar fans, I think they were mostly foodies. Even the teaser before the movie included a new movie entitled “No Reservations” (remake of Germany’s “Mostly Martha”) which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as chefs.

As far as I was concerned, all the animation and food training paid off. I loved the movie. I even loved Remy the rat. Any rodent who decides to walk upright because he doesn’t want his paws to get dirty so he can taste good food, is o.k. with me. The story was sometimes above my son’s head. But it was his second trip ever to the “really big screen” and he enjoyed it. Actually, he liked Collette, the motorcycle riding woman chef (played by Janeane Garofalo).

I wonder how many of us who were in the theater are now recipe testing ratatouille dishes that can compare to the way Thomas Keller created it to be animated for the movie. Those lovely, steaming stacks of well placed vegetables… I’m just afraid it won’t live up to the beauty and perfection of computer animation. Please share if you’ve discovered the great noveau ratatouille recipe. In the meantime, here’s a ratatouille pasta recipe from my book:

Organic Ratatouille Pasta

Traditional ratatouille is a French recipe of stewed eggplant and tomatoes. This version adds a few other vegetables and serves as a chunky sauce for kids’ favorite pasta.

1/2 medium organic eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 2 cups

1 medium organic zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 1 cup

1 cup (6 ounces) sliced organic mushrooms

1 medium organic red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound favorite pasta shape (penne, wagon wheels, rotelle)


½ cup Pomi chopped tomatoes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil. Toss vegetables, oil, salt and pepper in prepared baking pan, so vegetables are coated by oil. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender.

Combine sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vegetables and sauce to pasta and toss to combine.

*Ratatouille Pizza. What do children like better than pasta?…Pizza! This sauce works great on top of pizza too.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Apple vs. Apple


From Lisa Barnes

When did one of the most popular and perfect foods in the world become overshadowed by a computer company?

In searching for an image to go with my post about apple puree, I came up with 4 pages (over 120 website entries) that were for Apple Computers before finding any reference to apple the food. Since the beginning of time the apple has been a significant part of history, stories and folklore – Adam and Eve, Snow White and the poison apple, Johhny Appleseed, etc. Not to mention all the phrases concerning “apple” – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, “american as apple pie”, the “apple of my eye”, etc.

In 2004, per US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Reasearch Service, apple consumption reached an all time high of 50.4 pounds per person. That’s a lot of apples!

Yes, I know Apple computers sells many computers and is a huge corporation, but more important, relevant, mainstream, or popular than apple, the fruit? I prefer to indulge in a warm slice of apple pie on an autumn evening or bite into a just picked juicy apple on a sunny day, over typing away on a computer any day.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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You Be The Judge – (with Organic Trail Mix Treat Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

I am a mother and a children’s cookbook author. The latter does not always make me very popular at my son’s preschool functions, play dates at the park or birthday parties. There’s always a “look” when the children’s food comes out, then a barrage of excuses, explanations and apologies from other parents. Let me just say, I am not judging your child’s food or your cooking and eating habits. Really, I’m trying not to look. Although my son likes to point certain things out with questions like “Why is he eating that?” “Is that junk mom?” “Why don’t we have ____?”

At my son’s preschool open house, I overheard one mom ask another if she knew about my book. She said no and inquired about it. After that I got lots of comments and laughter about how I shouldn’t come to their houses because I wouldn’t approve of the food in the fridge.

And it’s not the majority of parents that laugh or make comments. I talk to plenty of moms and dads who are like minded in their desire to instill healthy eating habits for their children and choose organic foods. We often swap stories, recipes and advice. Some even come up to me to show off their child’s lunch bag or snack.

It’s not about approval. Of course I would like every child to be offered fresh, healthy organic foods. I think good food is every one’s right and parents have an obligation to teach their children about food (where it comes from, how it grows, how it’s made). But I would never offer unsolicited advice or recipes, nor do I have the time to inventory what’s in every child’s lunch at the park.

So if you see me during lunch or snack time, please smile and say hello – there’s no need to hide the lunch box. In case you ask for a healthy snack item, here’s an idea for a quick and easy treat.

Trail Mix Treat, from The Petit Appetit Cookbook

Trail mix is a great choice for on-the-go snacks, and packing in school lunch boxes. This is so easy – just choose your child’s favorites (cereal, dried fruits, seeds and nuts) and the entire mix will be eaten. If your child is allergic to nuts or attends a “nut free” school, feel free to substitute or double up on another favorite.

1 cup toasted O’s or favorite cereal

½ cup organic raisins

½ cup dried organic cranberries

½ cup chopped, organic raw almonds

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Yield 2 ½ cups.
(Always watch children when eating nuts and raisins, as they are potential choking hazards.)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Amazon.co.uk
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Want S’More? (with Graham Cracker Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

In an effort to overcome being considered the “healthy” mom (and not stigmatize my son), I made s’mores for my son’s preschool class. Kind of a large departure from my usual healthy treats, but let me explain. It wasn’t the Hershey milk chocolate, trans fat laden graham cracker, kind of s’mores. It was a semi sweet fair trade chocolate, homemade (heart shaped) graham cracker cookie treat. The childhood favorite with a gourmet, healthier twist. One of the teachers was surprised about not bringing milk chocolate, but I explained about the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate. I didn’t go all out with homemade marshmallows (just ran out of time), but I did find a trans fat free version and bought mini ones. Mini because kids like getting more of something (4 minis seem like more than 1 large).

I was a bit intimidated coming in to the classroom. I feel like this is the teacher’s turf, and I too have lots of learning to do. I’m used to teaching parents and they are not as honest with their thoughts or critiques (at least not to my face). Of course I teach my own children and sometimes their friends in the kitchen, but this was a group of 16 children.

They put together a great campfire (made of construction and tissue paper) and the children sat around putting marshmallows on sticks (recycled from a tree that went down in the neighborhood) and “roasting” them. Very cute. Then I helped them assemble the s’mores on cooking sheets for me to bake in the teacher’s oven. I worried some kids wouldn’t like them as some said “I don’t like the chocolate melted”, “I don’t like marshmallows” and “I eat the chocolate separately” (my own purist son). The teacher told me “it’s not about the end product, but the activity and the journey with children”. I did learn something. I know how much fun my own son has cooking with me, so being part of a group would be no different – whether they’re playing in a home kitchen or around a make believe campfire. I appreciated the reminder and look forward to going back.

Maybe I’ll try something healthier next time – hummus anyone?

Here’s a recipe for homemade graham crackers minus the trans fats of many of the processed, store bought varieties. Roll them thinner for crisp grahams or thicker for a cookie version.

Greatest Graham Crackers from The Petit Appetit Cookbook

1 cup organic graham or whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ cup honey

¼ cup organic milk, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine flours and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until consistency of cornmeal. Mix in honey; dough will still be lumpy. Mix in milk until a stiff dough comes together.

Roll out dough on a liberally floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Prick each cracker with a fork and brush with milk.

Bake crackers on ungreased baking sheets for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and let crackers cool about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes about 48 crackers.

Cut it out. Of course these can be cut to look like traditional store-bought graham crackers. However if you want something more fun (toddlers can help) use your cookie cutters to create desired shapes. Little hands love hearts, flowers and stars.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Lisa Barnes
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