More Kids in the Kitchen (with Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

When engaging kids in kitchen and cooking activities you may want to serve them something special like a festive hot drink or a snack of granola or trail mix.  It’s one more reason to stay and help, and also won’t tempt them to eat or “sample” too much of what you’re making.  The drink recipe below is great for all ages and takes the chill out of a cold and rainy afternoon.

Of course there’s the usual helping decorate cookies (see last week’s Little Helpers in the Holiday Kitchen) which kids are always up for.  But there are also other tasks that don’t involve desserts.  Below is a recipe for a unique way to prepare and enjoy brussels sprouts that my kids love to make and eat.

Organic Calientito
Calientito means little hot one and this drink is a spiced cider made with spices and fruit. You can use just about any fruit and fruit juice combination here. This is good for the kids at a party when serving adults mulled wine. The name sounds appropriate for my feisty daughter.

Makes 5 cups; 5 servings

2 cups organic unfiltered apple juice
2 cups organic pomegranate juice
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup orange segments
½ cup chopped pear
1 tablespoon organic raisins
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick, Serve hot or wait to cool for younger, sensitive mouths. If serving to younger children, strain before serving to prevent choking.

Leaf Us Alone Brussels Sprouts
Although they are one of my favorites, I realize Brussels sprouts are not welcome by many. I think they get a bad rap because they are usually boiled, bland, and still rock hard in the center. Peeling the leaves and discarding the center core, makes for an entirely different taste and texture. And yes, you and your kids may even have a new green favorite. Note this takes time and patience, but little hands make great peelers.

Makes 6 servings

1 pound organic Brussels sprouts
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Cut off bottom stem or core of each sprout. Carefully peel away the leaves until it becomes too hard to peel. Cut off bottom core again and peel more layers. Continue cutting and peeling until it is too difficult to peel apart.

Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and stir until all leaves are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again.

Spread leaves onto prepared baking pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until leaves are cooked and start to crisp with golden edges.

Kids Korner
I brought these to the table to peel while my children were having a snack. It must have looked interesting as both my four year old and 18 month old starting peeling, too. I told them they were Brussels Buddies. My son just kept telling his dad “We’re only eating the skins.”
See also Lisa’s Why Organic For Kids?
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Reno12 | |

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Little Helpers in the Holiday Kitchen

From Lisa Barnes

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to allow your children to help with the meal preparation and offers quality time together as a family. This is a way to keep your children occupied, but is also a fun, educational activity that incorporates a range of skills and senses, such as counting, measuring, reading, touching, listening, planning, smelling, tasting, and creativity. Baking teaches children useful skills and also makes them aware of potential hazards in the kitchen.  Helping in the kitchen can increase confidence, as well as encourage children to try a broader range of foods. Children are more likely to try a new recipe if they have helped in the preparation of the meal.

First decide what you will be making and determine how you want the children to participate.  Ask your child what he would like to make and his favorite holiday foods when menu planning, so he wants to participate and feel included.  If following a recipe be sure to read it thoroughly and have all necessary ingredients on hand before starting.

Take your child to the store or farmer’s market to purchase ingredients.

Once in the kitchen task allocation depends largely on the age and dexterity of the child, but there are some basic rules and tips that will make the process as safe and hassle-free as possible, remembering that children learn by observing and imitating adults.

Basic Rules and Tips

·Teach children the basics of hygiene (e.g., washing hands) before beginning food preparation, and also between stages, to avoid cross-contamination.

·Always explain the potential dangers in the kitchen and the protocol for safety. Such dangers include sharp knives, hot stoves and ovens, pans of boiling liquids and invisible germs.

·To save time and small children’s frustration, be sure to cut and measure ingredients before the child begins to assist. Small children have short attention spans and may become impatient waiting to “dump” ingredients in a bowl.

·Give children quick, simple instructions, one at a time, and be prepared to repeat them if they do not understand or forget what they have been told.

·Older children can be encouraged to read the recipe and help to measure out or weigh the ingredients.

·Younger children can be involved in the mixing process by placing the ingredients in a jar with a secure lid and letting them shake the contents. This works particularly well with batters and salad dressings.  Also a large oversized deep bowl can be handy when children are helping.

·All ages can help with frosting and decorating holiday cookies or cupcakes.  Decoration ideas include: colored sugars, cookie cutters, frosting, icing, edible flowers, dried fruits, nuts, etc…

·Younger children who are not yet able to help with the real food preparation can still participate in the kitchen by watching you and imitating through play with plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and rubber spatulas.

·Encourage children to be involved in the cleaning-up process during and after the cooking session is completed.

·For children interested in meal creativity with decoration, let them create interesting centerpieces, name cards or placemats.  Provide children with paper, and crayons or paints to create personalized place mats for each family member and dinner guest.  Take kids on a walk to gather the makings of a “green” centerpiece of pinecones, leaves, pods, and acorns.

Adults make a mess when they are creating in the kitchen, so expect children to have even more mishaps and build in enough time for mistakes and clean-up.

Remember to remain calm and have a sense of adventure and humor!  It doesn’t all need to be perfect – just have fun with your kids.
See also Crunchy Frozen Organic Bananas For Kids Recipe
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Hallgerd | |

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Fruity Puree Cookies (Organic Recipe For Kids)

From Lisa Barnes

This is Petit Appetit’s (my culinary service devoted to the palates and health of infants and toddlers) most popular cookie. You can make these treats at home. Make extra Apple Puree or get baby to share, so you can make these anytime. Pear puree works well, too.

Makes about 100 cookies

¾ cup organic brown sugar
¾ cup expeller pressed canola oil
1 cup Apple Puree or unsweetened organic applesauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup organic oat bran
½ cup organic toasted wheat germ
1½ cup organic whole wheat flour
½ cup organic soy flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar and oil in a medium bowl until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Roll 1 tablespoon-pieces of dough into balls and place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies with a fork that has been dipped in flour. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown underneath. Remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks.

Tip: Wheat germ comes in raw and toasted versions. You can find them both in the bulk food section of specialty grocery stores or in glass containers in the cereal aisle. Toasted germ has a bit more crunch and a nuttier flavor. Either can be used here.
See also Lisa’s Mom to Mom – Six Tips on How to Shop Wisely and Save Money Buying Organic
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Lindsay Noechel | |

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“The Feast” – Petit Holiday Food For Kids (with Organic Gingerbread recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

Every year my children’s preschool puts up a sign-up sheet for the annual “feast” in each classroom.  When we started the school my son was 3 years old and the feast was a traditional Thanksgiving feast – turkey and all the trimmings. I was in charge of bread and I made breadsticks. Last year the teachers let the students in my (then 4 year old) son’s class choose what they wanted to eat for their feast. The kids picked pizza and I was horrified. It wasn’t homemade pizza either. How could a thanksgiving feast be pizza delivery? The pilgrims and Native Americans didn’t have take-out. I gave up on the “feast” and brought a fruit salad – whether they wanted it or not.

‘Tis the season for the feast again and I saw the sign-up on my son’s class door. Instead of turkey with the trimmings or pizza, it read “chicken nuggets”, “macaroni and cheese”, “pigs in a blanket” and “ice cream sundaes”. I could feel my blood boil as some of the kids saw me looking at the sheet and said “we picked it all out ourselves!” I can’t believe I was thinking the year before’s pizza wasn’t so bad. The only saving grace was that my son wasn’t at school the day they voted. So I could think he didn’t want those processed foods.  I wasn’t going to sign-up for those on the sheet. Yes, I’m a rogue pot luck participant at times. I brought organic lemonade and mini organic green apples.

Happily my daughter’s 2-year-old class didn’t have a say in the feast – it would be traditional. I was very excited and even volunteered to coordinate. I got the sign-up sheet ready with a column for turkey, potatoes, veggies, bread, cranberry, etc… and I was told “most of the food gets thrown away every year so we just do something small”. The suggestion was sandwiches and fruit salad, with a mention that many kids weren’t going to be there or parents would pack lunch since they might not like the feast foods. It already sounded like a defeat. I said forget the sign up sheet and I would do the feast food myself. (I didn’t control it all, as other parents did tableware, napkins, decorations and crafts.)  I felt like I had to redeem the “traditional” food and get the kids to eat and like it. Here was my simple menu, which I suggest for any type of preschooler gathering for the holidays or otherwise.

Mini Turkey and Cheddar Sandwiches – this was whole wheat bread with the crusts cut off and cut into triangles. I could have also used shape cookie cutters. The bread was spread with butter only. I also made cranberry sauce to spread on sandwiches, but that never happened (thought the teachers may not like the mess of cranberry by the 2-year-old crowd).

*Note: When cutting out or trimming sandwiches, I always save the left-over pieces in the freezer. They come in handy for making breadcrumbs and feeding ducks.

Petit Crudité Platter – steamed carrots and grean beans and cherry tomatoes with hummus for dipping.

Fruit Salad – a variation of the minty fruit salad (without the mint) and adding grapes. Everything cut to bite-size for a 2-year-old.

Gingerbread – this is my new holiday favorite, and great for gatherings because it’s nut free (see recipe below).

So it wasn’t a traditional feast like the pilgrims. I did the menu as suggested and I had a good time with the 2-year-olds as they ate and some even asked for more, especially my own daughter. She’s pictured above with her plate of seconds. I went in a bit late to pick up my son from his processed food feast (I was hoping not to see it). They were just finishing their ice cream and here’s a picture of my son showing off his.

Organic Gingerbread (from the upcoming Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry cookbook)

The smell of gingerbread in a house full of decorations means the season is in full swing. This is a simple make-ahead recipe that will feed a crowd of tree trimmers or New Year’s guests during the holidays. Besides being delicious, this is a good way to get iron into some children’s diets with the addition of molasses.

Makes 16 servings

1½ cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup mild or light molasses
¼ cup expeller-pressed canola oil
1 large cage-free organic egg
½ cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour an 8-inch-square glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda. Add the molasses, oil, egg, and water and beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or pumpkin butter.

Gift Green! Why not double the recipe and give to neighbors and friends packaged in pretty recycled tins or a glass plate? Children will love helping with wrap and special delivery.
See also Lisa’s Easy, Creative Organic Dips For Kids Recipes
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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